A female friend of mine, one who is not familiar with my late friend Bruce, felt quite alienated by the story of his what I posted the other day. She thought it was quite sexist.
At first I was concerned that she thought the entire concept of talking about the semi-prostitution of massage girls was not appropriate, unless it was made perfectly clear within the story that this is a morally reprehensible state of affairs, otherwise any male character seen availing himself of their services would automatically be characterized as unsympathetic.
But no, she was mainly concerned that the initial paragraph showed a demeaning objectification of the massage girls, categorizing them merely by external attributes and scoffing at jobs that require genuine skill and talent, and are often all the employment opportunities that are open to young women of Thailand from the country with minimal education who come to the city areas and wish to make something of themselves quickly in the tough conditions of a third world economy, without becoming hookers outright.
I explained that the paragraph was no doubt a fictionalized account of Bruce's actual visit to the massage parlor, and that perhaps he had dumbed it down to appeal to the jaded tastes of a jaded male readership (myself primarily). I agreed that it in its current crude form, the first paragraph stank of caricature and stereotyping. I know that elsewhere in his writing, Bruce is not necessarily so insensitive.
When I heard Bruce tell this story a few years ago, well before he passed away and passed on the digital version to me, I recall that he had an addendum. While the point of the story is Bruce's final uncertainty of the true sex of his masseuse and hairdresser, he mentioned to us that several days later he passed along Beach Rd at the entrance to Soi where he had ventured previously. On the street, holding a sign promoting the massage parlor was the person who had given him the massage. Bruce was of course recognized immediately - you could hardly miss him - approached and given a genuine hug of real delight. Bruce said that in the cold light of day, sober and straight, he was 100% convinced that the person was female, and had always been so. It must have been an overactive imagination that set him to worrying that earlier time.
That's his story and I'm sticking to it.
OTHER MONKEYS SAID
I read the offending passage. Your female friend may well have a point...from a female perspective anyway. But so does Bruce....massage girls, on the smaller less well frequented sois, are not generally speaking the 'cream of the crop'. Perhaps Bruce could have expressed the sentiment more delicately. Perhaps not. We will never know.
Well yes, obviously I am not the only jaded male reader in the world...
Yes we will never know. If only Bruce had given me the right to rewrite his stuff...
Oh hang on, what's this obscure little document tucked away in the corner of his CD?... "Do as you wish E@L, to make these pieces of mine presentable and publishable."
Carte blanche, wouldn't you say?