dressing up like a cowgirl or answering the front door in “black mesh stockings, and an apron—that’s all,” a la Marabel Morgan’s 1973 classic, “Total Woman.” But if it feels silly, it won’t work. Rosemary Breslin, 45, a writer and filmmaker in New York, says she still has a great relationship with her husband, Tony Dunne. “But one of the things I ask him is, ‘Are we going to have sex in 2003 or are we shelving it to 2004?’ I asked him what he would do if I put on a black negligee, and he said he would laugh.” Maybe she should persuade him to help out a little more around the house. After all, we know there’s nothing sexier these days than a man who takes out the trash without being asked.
Asia: heaven for men, hell for women
It's a dream job - a high-level position in Bangkok with an interesting company and an expatriate's salary. A beautiful, company-subsidised apartment that takes up one floor of a luxury building. A maid, a car and a driver on call 24 hours a day.
But for Julie Sleva, a Canadian citizen who is an executive with French cosmetics firm L'Oreal, the dream becomes hollow when she leaves her office. Although young and attractive, Sleva lives the often lonely life of a Western female expat professional in a culture where men rule - a life with no serious relationships and few dates. "Outside of the office, it's tough," thirtysomething Sleva says.
For single Western men, Asia can be a paradise of exotic, beautiful women more than willing to pamper them and inflate their egos. The perks of an expat life - cheap maids, company-paid drivers and members-only clubs - relieve married couples of many of life's daily hassles, including the chores of child-rearing.
But for single Western caucasian women like Sleva, it's a different story. Accomplishments in the office are often overshadowed by solitary private lives, and even the most casual Saturday night date with a man is a distant memory. Many such women feel their chances of having relationships are negligible while they are in Asia.
For Sleva, whose marriage to a Canadian man ended seven years ago, it is a constant frustration. Although she's happy to date both Thai men and foreigners, she says "you never see Thai men with expat women, and expat men are either married, gay or have a young Thai girl hanging on to their arm. You sit in a car near Soi Nana [a popular night-time entertainment district] and you can't believe what walks out of that place - the ugliest, grossest men with beautiful Thai women. It's so easy for the Western man."
Sleva's experience is far from unusual. Many other expatriate women I meet agree with her.
Yet the subject is taboo. Beyond the fact that it is a deeply personal, often painful element of life for women such as Sleva, discussing it opens up a minefield of sexual and racial stereotypes.
In many cases, the stereotypes are accurate, but not always. Some Western men in Asia meet and marry smart or high-powered Asian women - or overseas-born Asian women who are far more interested in succeeding in their careers than in indulging their husband's every whim.
Some Western women are happy to be out of the dating game and in a world where they - like their workaholic male counterparts - can devote themselves to climbing the corporate ladder with more visibility than they might enjoy in the United States or Europe.
The difficulties of many single white women in Asia are so widespread that counsellors are dealing with it every day.
"It takes a toll," says Melanie Bryan, a psychologist in Hong Kong. Bryan's client base is telling: half of them are are single Western women.