The Care and Feeding Of Mamasans
Like unicorns, sasquatch, and the Loch Ness Monster, in a Bangkok gay gogo bar the rumor of a helpful mamasan is generally considered a myth. I have met one though. Once. In over twenty years of visits to Thailand’s bar world. You should not expect to be as lucky. At best, you can hope to run across one who is indifferent. She’ll still demand a tip, but for the most part will leave you alone. More likely, you’ll meet the typical mamasan, pushy, aggressive, rude, and imperious. She can suck the fun out of a visit to a gogo bar quicker than a Hoover on steroids.
As a newbie to Bangkok’s gay gogo bar world, you probably are wondering what a mamasan is, how to spot one, and more importantly how to avoid one. This portion of The First Timer’s Guide To Bangkok Gay Go Go Bars will help you with the former. Good luck on the latter. Your karma just ain’t the good.
Mamasans, or Captains – a disguise they frequently adopt to fool the unsuspecting – are almost always male these days. Even in the good old days when they weren’t, they still were. Whether mamasans today are dressed like a diva or in a suit to fool you into thinking they are a fine upstanding citizen and not devil spawn, we still call them a mamasan. It’s more polite than blood sucking scum of the earth. In most cases, when you first enter a bar it will be a mamasan who taxes her mental capabilities in finding you a seat. Yes, there are only four other customers in a bar built to seat over a hundred, but don’t scoff. This still requires a highly developed skill set, and eight times out of ten she’ll manage to pull it off.
The bar is usually dark when you enter, a bone thrown to you by management because you really don’t want to see what you are getting yourself into. If the mamasan can remember how, she’ll turn on a small penlight as she guides you to your seat. The light is not so you can see trip hazards. It’s so she can spot any stray satang that slipped out of a customer’s pocket. Once seated an employee who actually has value, the waiter, will take your drink order leaving the mamasan free to begin
abusing assisting you.
Now that you are officially a customer and the bar has begun to make money out of you, the mamasan will honor your new-found status by giving you a warm Thai greeting, using one of the country’s standard phrases of welcome, “You want boy?”
You may think this is a stupid question. It’s not. It’s a stupid person asking it. You may have wandered in to order a Big Mac, pick up one of those cute same same but different T shirts, or book a flight on Air Asia for all she knows. That you’d come to the bar to actually off a boy may be a complete surprise to her. Or to you. Regardless, you need to reply with a firm, : No!” Don’t worry, you won’t blow your chance at offing a boy, the mamasan will be back like clockwork to ask you again and again until she’s worn you down to the point you have no choice in the matter. In the meantime, you can enjoy the show and check out the half-naked guys on stage.
The mamasan position traditionally has been one to assist customers in selecting a mate for the night. Once you’ve had your fill of eye candy and are ready to move on to the purchase part of your evening, it’s time to signal the mamasan. The mamasan is Thai, so now that you need something she will employ the national pastime employed by all service personnel in Thailand of gazing everywhere in the room except in your direction. Your best bet is to pick up your check bin and start rifling through the papers. Nothing garners a mamasan’s attention quicker than a customer paying attention to the fanciful figures she’s been jotting down on his drink tab.
You may be shy about telling the mamasan exactly what type of boy you want and what disgusting sexual acts you want him to perform. Don’t be. She’s heard it all before. It’s her job to listen to your request. You don’t want to be disappointed in your selection, so let the mamasan know exactly what you want: thin or muscular; top, bottom, or in-between; young or old; how big of dick, and the aforementioned disgusting sex acts you foolishly think you’ll find a Thai willing to engage in. The mamasan knows her boys and will listen carefully to your order before calling the perfect boy over for you.
You may notice that though you asked for a young, muscular, stud with a humongous cock, the mamasan called over an old, thin fem whose basket looks as empty as Greece’s national treasury. It’s not that she didn’t understand you (though she didn’t because she actually knows very little English) but rather this is one of the boys she has abused to the point he is willing to give her a portion of his tip money. You may have mistakenly thought that as a customer your needs would be the priority. They aren’t. It’s not about you, it’s about her. And her bank account.
Satisfied that she now will be making money off of someone, the mamasan will probably flash her award winning smile at you. Yes, it looks more like a painful grimace, but the mamasan job is not an easy one and after spending an evening inflicting obnoxious pain on everyone within eyesight, all of that negativity builds up inside of you too. In most cases, a healthy belch will rid her of the problem and unclear her mind enough that she can tally up your check bin.
Most mamasans are longtime employees because even the bar manager is afraid of dealing with her. So she has been adding the cost of two drinks and an off for over five years. Multiple times each night. She has not got the total right in all that time, so don’t expect her to add those nice round numbers correctly for you either. Besides, how much your bill totals is not important. How much you tip her is.
Mamasans have an ingrained sense about customers and can recognize cheap bastards. Thrifty minded bar patrons do not like to tip mamasans. Since no customers like to tip mamasans, in her mind all patrons are cheap and need to be taught how to show proper respect and reverence to the staff. You may think that means being polite and not diddling the boys. Ha. The mamasan doesn’t care what you do to the boys as long as you cough up cash. She’ll help by insisting you buy every worthless boy she summons on your behalf a drink. Seldom will she ask a customer to buy her a drink. Often she will just order one and charge you for it.
You may decide the steady succession of drinks you’ve been purchasing for the mamasan and her crew is tip enough. But not tipping the mamasan means confrontation. And all Thais avoid direct confrontation at all costs. Especially when that cost comes out of your pocket. If the mamasan senses you will be a difficult customer, she’ll pick out a boy for you who will make up for it on the back-end. He’ll be the one who demands an extra 500 baht for a taxi after you’ve tipped him for your night of fun. If she called it wrong and actually selected a winner for you, back at your hotel just about when you see an orgasm in sight, she’ll call the boy on his cell phone and demand he return immediately to the bar. You can avoid the latter, but probably not the former, by topping the bitch 100 baht when you leave the bar.
Yes, this is not a tip. It is extortion. But then Thais do not believe in tipping. They believe in tea money. Consider your hundred baht as money well spent on a cultural experience while holidaying in Thailand.
Now that you realize that dealing with a mamasan is a less enjoyable experience than a root canal, and possibly just as costly, it’s time to learn some payback. If you are not the kind of person who gets enjoyment out of causing discomfort to others, you will be by the time you are done dealing with a mamasan. So read on.
Here are a few of my favorite tricks to get value out of the money the mamasan extorts from you:
1. The absolute worst insult to a Thai (other than not tipping when asked to) is to point the bottom of your feet at them. This is a major cultural no-no. It stems from historical times (like last week) when Thais were all involved in rural activities like farming. Shoeless, they plowed their fields walking slowly behind their beast of burden. Which would either be their eldest daughter or if the family was rich – meaning they have a child working the gogo bars in Bangkok or Pattaya – the family’s water buffalo. In either case, by the end of the day they’ve been walking in shit and their feet are covered in the stuff. Today, even to a non-rural Thai that memory is fresh. So is the smell of dung. It’s a nasty memory and having someone point the sole of their feet at them is the same as spitting in their face.
So anytime the mamasan approaches you, lean back, cross one leg over the other, and show her the bottom of one of your feet. Though it is a major insult, she will assume you don’t know this and will force herself not to react. Try not to giggle, it’ll give your game away. Try not to have an open bottle anywhere near you either because the mamasan will retaliate by pouring herself yet another drink off your dime. The insult is not as satisfying when it costs you cash.
2. Embrace the mamasan within you and empty your mind. Put an oblivious look on your face and go hit the restroom. You will not want to actually enter the restroom, the last customer who did died in there and their body has been rotting away for the last three years. That or someone who’d been eating durian all day just dropped a bomb. When you are done with your fake business, go grab a seat on the other side of the bar.
When the mamasan realizes you have vanished, she’ll panic. The mamasan will start scanning the room for you, but her gaze will pass you by. All farang look and smell the same to Thais. The mamasan will only recognize you by your wallet. So keep it hidden.
The cheap bastards who successfully manage this ploy may think they can then skip out without paying the check-bin. Your win was causing the mamasan to experience human emotion. Quit while you are ahead. By now she will have alerted the entire staff and half of the local police force of her missing customer. If you head for the door, you will be spotted. And your happy ending will not be so happy. Though it may be your final ending. Just sit in your new spot, within ten minutes a different mamasan will smell the fresh meat in her section and you’ll get to play with a new contestant.
3. Mamasans make money off the bar, the farang, and the boys. While every employee in a gay gogo bar is technically offable, mamasans do not want to be offed. Doing so puts a crimp in their income stream. One of the best ways to get a pushy mamasan to leave you alone is to tell her how much you want to off her. If she doesn’t run away screaming in terror immediately, explain in great detail every disgusting thing you want to do with her. Don’t use your own sexual fantasies. Describe what your father used to do to your mother instead.
4. Mamasans have to be proficient in English to land their position at the bar. That means they have learned at least one more additional phrase of English than the typical bar boy. That phrase is usually, “Tip me!” But like many Thais who have failed to master the English language, mamasans have mastered the look that says she understands what you are saying. You may even run across a mamasan who understands as much as 10% of what you utter. Regardless of their proficiency, when it comes to comprehension, all mamasans face the same stumbling block: numbers.
Because it is rude to point in Thailand, the bar has each boy wear a numbered badge on his skimpy underwear. Many use their badge to hide the fact that in the meat department they are lacking. Others use it to make it easy to identify where they have stuffed the cell phone last night’s customer bought them. The mamasan is supposed to use the numbered badge to identify the boy that you want her to bring to your table.
This trick is not a good one to use if there is a boy you actually want to off. But then since 90% of the bar’s stable is composed of ugly little street urchins, no problemo. Pick out a boy whose badge has double digits on it. Mamasans can only add to 10. In English or Thai. Larger numbers stump them. If you ask for boy #84, she will not be able to identify which boy that is. And panic will once again set in.
The mamasan will try and foist off one of her twinks on you anyway, but be firm and keep repeating, “84.” Your heart will be warmed by the consternation you are causing her. After you have repeated 84 a few dozen times, switch to 48. It’s possible she was coming close to having a brain synapse and might have hit on the right two number combination soon. If she does miraculously hit on the right boy, quickly hand her your check bin. Having to deal with additional number will throw her off her game and you may be able to slip away during the ensuing melee, allowing you to return and do battle with a mamasan again in the future.
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