As Jane and Jack sat side by side on the hot traffic-stalled Bangkok bus, Jack stared out the window. Though there was plenty of city action before his eyes, Jack wasn’t paying any attention. He was thinking about his ‘gik’.A familiar beeping sound knocked Jack out of his daydream and he immediately turned to his girlfriend of two years, who had let go of his hand to retrieve her cell phone and turn away from him as she read an SMS from her own ‘gik.’
If you’ve spent any qualitative amount of time in or involved with Thailand in recent years, you’ve most certainly have heard folks talking about getting or having a ‘Gig.’ Never mind the flawed transliterated spelling that Thais insist on using, for it certainly doesn’t sound anything like the word meaning an opportunity or job as the English word Gig, but falls somewhere in between the spellings Gik and Geek (short vowel with high tone and softened-nearly silenced ending), though don’t be surprised if you see it written ‘kik’ (as Thais have been trained to write G sounding words with a K).
As not to digress about how to properly spell the word in English (as a consistent standard for Thai-English transliteration-romanization simply doesn’t exist), in this article, we’ll use the ‘Gik’ spelling (as not to confuse it with other English words).
For those with Thai language and script knowledge and understanding, the word กิ๊ก, currently not in most formal dictionaries, comes from the expression กุ๊กกิ๊กจู๋จี๋ guke-gik-joo-jee, which refers to the (mutual) intimate level of flirtation between two lovers–from the soft giggling, pecking, and tickling, to the act of making out and foreplay.
Yet some will even tell you that the word was likely adapted from the word Gigolo, and thus the gig spelling was more appropriate. While Gigolo, referring to a (male) slut, offers a relevant connotation for the word (just as the word giggle might be relevant), the spelling of the two words is only coincidental, as Gigolo is pronounced with a ‘J’ and is male specific, while the Thai word is gender friendly.
From understanding its origins and connotations, putting meaning to the word, ‘gik’ shouldn’t be difficult task at all–one would think–yet in practice, the masses seem to have come up with varying definitions of the flaring fad that has swept over the pop culture of modern Siam.
So what does it mean to have a gik, or to be a gik with someone, for that matter? If you turn to the mass media for answers, you’ll find powder softened definitions. As the gik idea and trend boomed in recent years, Thai film makers were quick to cash in with the release of The Gig Movie, and even followed through with The Gig sequel last year.
From such films, we basically learned that a gik is more than a friend, yet less than an official boyfriend or girlfriend. While such a simple description may be sufficient for sexually inactive teeny boppers, and conservative prudes alike, ‘gik’ takes on a stronger, more specific meaning for others.
If you ask some, it is impossible to have a ‘gik’ unless you already have a regular boyfriend or girlfriend. Thus, the ‘gik’ becomes the extra, part time lover or companion one sneaks around with on the side. Though some take on a gik specifically for the sexual benefits, particularly when sex and intimacy dries up in their prime relationship, others may restrict intercourse with their gik in fear of getting hurt or hurting their main partner.
As one female University student puts it
Holding hands, having dates, and making out are acceptable activities for my gik, but sex is something that only my boyfriend can have…
This outlook and guidline is quite common, but certainly not universal. Here’s what a male University student had to say
If I just want to have dinner or watch a movie, than my girlfriend will do. But when I need to get laid, than it’s essential to have a few giks on standby, for I can’t eat salad every night, sometimes I need a spicy steak…
Perhaps, the biggest confusion is the difference between a gik and a mistress, or other types of extra marital affairs. For Gik’s the attraction and exchange is of similar mutual needs, i.e. companionship, sex, etc. while having a mia noy (minor wife or mistress) may be a more complex exchange. For example, the mistress may be in it primarily for the financial benefit, etc.
Also, a gik is meant to be more casual affair, where both parties understand the limits or dynamics of the relationship clearly, as to not expect too much from the other as is common in a full blown affair, where the likely outcome for ending can be serious if not formal and dramatic. Ideally, giks can fade in and out of ones life as soon as one party is no longer satisfied.
That’s not to say that gik relationships always end in separation, for some may start a connection with a gik like nature, yet ultimately upgrade to a full-on relationship, where one no longer needs to play low key.
From one angle, Gik culture and fad is healthy for society. Aside from the masses being able to alleviate their suppressed animal-polygamous urges, experiencing their raw human nature, young lovers can more affectively explore themselves and potential partner without all the pressure and expectations that come along with a blind commitment. When they are ready to make a long term commitment to any one individual, they will know first hand, what makes one stray and what to do to avoid such pattern, if it’s what they truly want.
Yet on the flip side, they could find themselves trapped in a whole new pattern of jumping around from lover to lover, unsure of what they want or need, other than to keep jumping around for the sake of routine and familiarity. While this by itself is not bad, the repercussions it can have on both the personal and societal level is.
Is it no coincidence that the HIV-AIDS rate is growing fastest among students, who seem to have embraced the gik philosophy the most? Even though the casualness of the Gik fad is quite appealing, the masses must never take life for granted. Not to say that one ought to abstain from exploring the vast dynamics of themselves and the world around them, specifically if the reasoning is based on fear. However, one must strive always to make conscious and cognitive decisions..
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