Noom, my bar boy friend and current love of my life, makes his living as a gogo boy. A quasi-stripper who doesn’t actually strip, by definition his job should involve dancing. But these days gogo boys in Bangkok at best shuffle; the days when they actually danced on stage are long gone. And that’s a good thing. Showing his muscular body off Noom does well. Dancing is not one of his talents. Not that he doesn’t try when he has to. It’s just that he can only get as close to the beat of the music as his genes allow.
They say that white guys can’t dance, which isn’t exactly correct. Some can. Usually the gay ones. That saying really should be a warning that white guys shouldn’t dance in public. Though you have to admit their doing so is always good for a laugh. Sometimes I think the gods put straight men on the earth to amuse the rest of us. Whether that is from watching them attempt to move to music that never reaches their soul, or teaching them about the joys of gay sex. Straight Thai guys should just stick to the gay sex thingy.
Bar boys dancing, or even moving during their rotation, is a thing of the distant past. During the show you still occasionally see them do the ‘snake’ dance, though not as often as once was the case. I was never sure what to call that strange gyration until I saw someone call it the snake dance on one of the forums. It’s a weird serpentine-like movement that reminds me of someone getting ready to hurl. Not erotic in the least bit to me, but it does have many fans. But then so do ladyboys. Ladyboys, I’ve noticed, have the good sense to never do the snake dance.
Fortunately most bar boys don’t attempt dancing on stage much these days either. Which is fine by me. It really isn’t necessary. And it can ruin the fantasy when a hottie starts moving about performing moves he saw some straight white guy doing at the club the night before. Shucking their underwear is a much easier move. If they feel the need to do something other than standing there and looking hot. And it’s a lot more appreciated by the crowd too.
I’ve never seen Noom do the snake dance. Once, it was close. We must have been talking about it or something close one night at our hotel and he started the move. I immediately stopped him. Before I had that visual to contend with for years to come. I love Noom. And love all of his faults. But the double whammy of being both straight and Thai means when the beat is upon him and his feet begin to move, it’s best to just look away. Not that dancing has been completely excluded from our relationship. Slow dancing, a good excuse for body contact even in public, is too enjoyable to completely prohibit. Besides, if I take the lead it keeps him from trying to move both his arms and legs at the same time.
Much like with kissing, the Thai traditional version of dancing is basic, simple, and fails to properly lay the groundwork for an attempt to emulate the Westerner version. Though at least with kissing, practice makes perfect and lots of practice can be a perfect way to spend an evening. As difficult as it is for a straight Thai boy to master the non-straight white boy’s skill at moving on a dance floor, gay farang have no problem picking up the moves of traditional Thai dancing. Restraint is the key. Not allowing the music to reach inside of you is important too. If a Thai is singing along with the music, it helps. Much of your attention then is on trying to not wince when the locals are watching you.
Noom, who like most Thais believes there are things Farang are allowed to know about Thais and things they are not supposed to understand, is always taken back when I slip up and prove differently. Usually that invokes a, “How you know dat?” response out of him. Occasionally he lets his Thai-ness take a backseat and instead shows a bit of pride in his strange farang’s abilities in things Thai. Sometimes it makes him suspicious. On those few occasions when I manage to out-Thai even him, it ruins his whole day. I try to remember to act appropriately farang, ‘cuz Noom’s happiness is part of my happiness, but on the rare occasion when gayness and Thai-ness meet I have no choice. I’m already not-gay-acting, it’s too much effort to be not-Thai-acting too.
World-wide, there is nothing a group of locals enjoys more than the amusement of forcing a white guy to get up on the dance floor and take a stab at their version of dancing. I learned enough basic hula moves when I lived in Hawaii to avoid embarrassing myself when that happened. And have to admit as much as the crowd enjoys laughing at a haole’s attempt at swinging his hips, they are just as appreciative when you get it right. I hadn’t planned on that experience when Noom and I visited Laos. I blame the results on being gay and not bothering to be not-Thai-acting too, even if it was the Laotian version of Thai-ness.
Out touring wats one afternoon, we stumbled on a wedding party being held under a few massive canopies streetside as large family celebrations often are in SE Asia. It was hot, we were both tired, and since the canopies offered some shade we stopped, grabbed a pair of chairs (ubiquitous plastic stools, just for the record) and settled in to rest a bit and watch the locals party. The dancing soon began. I could tell because there was music playing and several different couples had taken turns standing in an open area and attempting to walk in time with the music. Not that they were too successful at it. Their attempts got better when they moved to the local version of line dancing, which if you’ve ever watched Asians attempt to form a line needs no further explanation. But they were having fun. Until one old crone decided to ratchet up the gathering’s amusement factor by grabbing my hand and pulling me into their circle.
Had we been wearing our matching ‘I’m Not Gay But My Boyfriend Is’ T-shirts, she would probably have not made that mistake. Noom squirmed in anticipation of the embarrassment I was about to inflict on him; the seated crowd waited in breathless anticipation for the wild gyrations the old white guy was about to make that would bring them much mirth. I restrained myself, stilled the urge to throw a few tap dance shuffles into the mix for effect, reminded myself that I’d winced at the singing enough already and that people were watching, and plodded out the two beat move that everyone else confused with dancing.
What was supposed to be laughter instead turned into applause. Noom beamed proudly. I ended up dancing with a progression of women, ending with the bride who had either already tired of her new husband, assumed dancing with a farang at her wedding might be a form of merit making, or was just relieved a gay guy had shown up at her wedding so that at least one of the men was capable of moving his feet to the same beat as the music. Never one to take a crowd’s amusement lightly, and since what’s good for the gander is good for the gander (it’s important to keep your fowl genders straight even if you are using a cliche) I grabbed Noom’s hand and pulled him onto the dance floor.
I never considered that two guys dancing together at a local wedding in Luang Prabang might not be appropriate. That there were two guys dancing together wasn’t really noticed by anyone in the crowd. The muscle stud Thai boy with two left feet got all the attention. And the crowd finally got their chance to laugh. Maybe Noom should have just started doing his snake dance thingy instead.
The local form of dancing I’ve seen in Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia is all the same. It’s a three step dance ‘cuz just two steps would be too easy and rather silly. Noom was still working on his one step. Meanwhile I’d progressed to an impressive display of the second part of the dance, the arms. It’s a Zorba The Greek type of posture with arms, slightly bent at the elbow, held out perpendicular to the body. Except unlike Anthony Quinn’s version, there is no finger snapping (some tricks are best left to the professionals. Or at least to Europeans). Instead, with hands held not unlike a symphony conductor ready to begin a flourish, on every third step you rotate your hands in a circular movement from the wrist. Expert-mode is a quickly reached goal for even a not-gay-acting gay guy. The not-gay-acting straight guy was still trying to master what came after step #1.
Normally when one song ends and before the next begins you can politely quit dancing even when it is questionable of just who it is you are dancing with. All the music at a Lao wedding feast sounds the same, where one songs begins and the other ends is a crap shoot. While Noom had one foot raised and was deeply contemplating when it would be best to put it back down again, I turned him toward where we had been sitting and managed our escape from the dance floor. Now part of the festivities instead of just rude intruders, we hung out for several more hours before heading back to our hotel.
Noom hadn’t mastered dancing Lao, but from previous experience with me had gotten proficient at slow dancing to pop songs from the west. Still in the mood to dance, back in our room I planted an iPod earbud into one of each of our ears and holding him close began swaying to the music. The good part of slow dancing with Noom is when he rests his head against my chest. The bad part is when we are dancing to a song he thinks he knows and begins singing in the wrong key, injecting lyrics he’s misinterpreted since the first time he’d heard the song.
I suppose it’s too much to expect a Thai to dance and sing well at the same time. That he’s translating English lyrics into the Thai version of English lyrics while simultaneously slightly moving his feet is enough of a challenge. But that’s cool. It’s a good reminder that straight Thai guys are not very skilled at kissing either. And a good excuse to immediately start practicing that act.
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