31 July 2009

My whole evening's mental puzzle

I spent the last hour in what would have otherwise been a good foot massage session trying to figure out the gender of my masseuse.

Nick and Baby Bro came up with the term "shim" while they were traveling throughout Asia earlier this year. They use it for people whose gender they truly cannot determine. Not because of the prevalence of sex change operations in Thailand but because of the tendency for a lot of young women in Asian countries to dress boyishly. Oddly, to an American frame of mind, the clothing choice has nothing to do with sexual orientation.

I had a shim for a masseuse tonight. Dressed in a loose striped buttoned shirt and cargo shorts, the individual struck me as male at the first glance. But when a couple other customers were leaving, my masseuse spoke up, thanking them for their business. The high tones of the speaker surprised me and got me puzzling for the remainder of the session.

I kept peeking out of my drooping lids when my masseuse's head was down, focused on massaging my feet. Small boned, definitely thinner than me, but that's not unusual for Thai men (not so great for my body image). Smooth smaller hands than normally expected from a man, Thai or otherwise. Yet definitely has more strength than a majority of the women who have given me massages.

It wasn't until after we were done and I watched the masseuse move around the shop to prepare my post-massage tea that the light bulb went on in my head. He had the jerky and energetic motions of a teenager. Yep, a teenager whose voice either hasn't fully changed.

I always knew it was only a matter of time before I might receive a massage from a katoey- I may already have and didn't know it. But I never ever expected to get one from a child.

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