Whenever dealing with people from another culture that you know nothing about, it's very difficult to tease out what is cultural difference and what is the idiosyncratic behavior of that individual. Take my sister-in-law Kamonwan (Nok for short), for example. Born and raised in Thailand, she came to America with my brother after they got married and now considers herself quite the American, having lived here for roughly 8 months.
But despite her proclamations of American-nes, she often makes social faux-pas' that I simply cannot tell if they're because Thai people do things differently or if she's just insane, though I'm leaning strongly toward the latter.
Anyway, to give some background to the story, Nok has a big problem with me being single, for apparently I should be settling down and getting married at the ripe old age of 24. As such, she is constantly asking me why I don't have a girlfriend or assuming any woman I talk to is my girlfriend.
Well, things came to a head a few nights ago when I took a young lady on a date to the restaurant where Nok works. While I was thinking I could use this as a devious ploy to make myself look cosmopolitan by showing off my ability to order dinner and make painfully truncated conversation in Thai, I should have thought about how Nok would react when I brought a girl with me, something I realized only much too late.
As a matter of background, this was only my second date with the girl, and while I think she's a pretty keen young lady, we're a fair distance from what you would call a couple. But of course, this did not matter at all to Nok, as she was overtaken by the sheer thrill of seeing me with a girl. The first thing out of her mouth was asking me to introduce her to my "girlfriend" to which I awkwardly stammered "Um...this is Amy...but she's not...well, I mean we're kinda..." and then trailed off and vaguely attempted to change the subject and do anything to divert attention from my strong desire to simply flee the scene.
(Incidentally, how does one answer that question? Saying that she's not my girlfriend gives her the incorrect impression that I'm not interested, while saying that she is makes me pretty creepy, given that it was only our second date. It's a regular rock and hard place situation, my children.)
But of course, all was not over then. For after this date, I got an excited phone call from my mother (who also has fairly strong feelings that I should have companionship) asking me about my new girlfriend, because Nok, apparently unable to contain her excitement, had called my mother from the restaurant while she was working to announce the non-existent big news.
So as I gave a protracted explanation to my mother that I wasn't dating her, but was interested, but it was really soon to make such proclamations, but things looked like they could be heading that way, but you never can tell, and so on, I couldn't help but begin to be amused by the situation. Not amused enough to get over how annoyed I was, but amused none-the-less.
I guess there's really no point to this story, other than to share one of many stories of how my family constantly seeks to put me in the most awkward and/or embarrassing situations possible. But at least I know now that the problem is not with Thai people, just my insane family.