Despite having come from the tropical climate of Thailand to the cold climate of America, I soon grew accustomed to the latter. I became very used to wearing layers of clothes in
winter, and a jacket in fall.
I remember my visits to Thailand every summer. The minute the door of the plane was swung open, the whiff of heat and humidity would hit me. I would typically visit in mid-June –when Thailand was in the middle of its rainy season- and this would make the humidity especially unbearable. Along with the heat rose all kinds of smells, and I would wrinkle my nose all the way to the car. Only after I got into it could I breathe again.
"A/C, a/c, a/c!!!" I would exclaim.
Air conditioning is a must for people in Thailand. Since it's so hot outside -as though the sun could burn through my skin- I was conditioned to be indoors. From the car to a building, back to the car, and to another building, I could go a long time without sweating -which is very bad for you, but I didn't know that when I was fifteen.
If my flight landed during the day, my parents wouldn't let me waste away the day. They would tell me to freshen up and get dressed for a late lunch in the city.
As soon as a maid would empty my suitcase and put away my clothes, I'd realize that I didn't have anything suitable for Bangkok day-to-day wear. My wardrobe at 15 was full of jeans, shorts, and simple T-shirts, but I didn't own any dresses or proper wear for the city. Most definitely, nothing I owned would be proper enough for me to be seen in public places with my parents.
Thais have a thing with place in society. "Face" and "respect" are important. One is judged not only through her actions and speech, but also though her choice of clothing and accessories.
Being my parents' daughter, I couldn't embarrass them by not wearing appropriate clothing. So, I would put on my best-looking pair of jeans and my whitest of whites T-shirt, a pair of socks, along with a pair of nice-looking walking shoes in my hand.
"At least they won't see me in sneakers," I said to myself.
One look at me and my mom shook her head.
"Mother, I don't have anything else."
Again, she shook her head, "Why didn't Lucille buy you nice proper clothes?"
"Dow, Dow," she called to her head maid, "Get something nice from my closet for khun Faae to wear."
Dow and I walked upstairs together. As soon as we were out of my mother's earshot, she turned to me. "Pi Faae!" -she referred to me as my little sister would- "Why didn't you bring nice clothes? You don't fit well in your mom's clothes! Her waist is bigger and her hips are smaller. Plus, you are at least 10 centimeters taller!"
While my mom was petite and delicate, by the age of fifteen I was already five-foot-seven; and although I was still lanky, my body had started to take shape.
The thought of Dow pinning in the waist came to mind. I dreaded wearing my mom's clothes: they didn't fit me properly, and they made me look so old. I explained to Dow that none of the stores in the town in America in which I lived had nice clothes suitable for Bangkok (a fact that is still true 35 years later).
Along with a grown-up, nice-looking dress, my mom thought I also needed jewelry, so we took some time for her to pick out some earrings and a ring (and sometimes a necklace) for meto wear -Something that wouldn't be too big and out of place, but enough to make me look like "somebody's daughter."
When I say, "jewelry," I don't meanthe kind worn by teens, or the kind one buys over the counter in a department store. I mean instead very serious, very real, very seriously real grade A jewelry. The kind that is seen among socialites -the elites. The kind that mom had her first class jeweler design for her.
"Plus," she added, "We'll probably run into someone who knows us. We don't want them to think badly."
This translates to, "It's important for you to look good so you won't ruin our good social standing."
In her clothes and in her jewelry I was uneasy and embarrassed. I felt as if I had become my mother. I lost my "self." I disappeared.
Although my parents would take me shopping for my own proper clothes later on, it was still an experience that I really think no fifteen-year-old should have to go through, but I did. Indeed, I did.