Modern Classic Lao Woman

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I think there is certain expectation of Lao woman, an expectation for her to be traditional regardless of how far we’ve come in civilization, there is still that tradition that bonds her and makes her somewhat of a traditional classic in my opinion. One of my male friends once said, “I once heard, ‘a good woman is like a diamond in the rough, she just needs a little polishing to shine.’” When I first heard this, I disagree and I though it was just me, so I asked two of my American co-workers, and as soon as they heard the statement, they both made a face. I guess we all thought that it was an inappropriate statement to be used with woman. I think if she is going to shine, she doesn’t need any polish because she shines from within.

The phrase is clearly a metaphor for the original unpolished state of diamond gemstones, especially those that have the potential to become high quality jewels. It is more commonly expressed in the form ‘rough diamond’. The first recorded use in print is in John Fletcher’s A Wife for a Month, 1624: “She is very honest, and will be as hard to cut as a rough diamond.”

However, the term ‘a diamond in the rough’ has a somewhat of a different meaning, it is referred to someone who is basically good hearted but lacking social graces and respect for the law. In this case, it should not be used, and referred to a woman as ‘a diamond in the rough.’ I know I wouldn’t like it if someone were to call me this. I’m wondering how other females feel about this?

When I translated an article, Sayo Laos Magazine, I realized that the owner, Ardina Mahavong is somewhat of a modern classic Lao woman, with high self-confident that is living in the digital world. She is a working “Laos” woman that’s juggling between import and export, magazine and television. She was born and raised in Vientiane, Laos, and is of mixed Lao-Pakistan descent, growing up in the modern society of Lao Muslim. You can read more about her career here.

A question was asked if she would use her median of magazine and television to improve the livelihood of Lao women, her humble replied,

“I would not dare use the word ‘improve’ but I would like to use the term ‘introduce’ instead because I want the world to know of what is a Lao woman. I am still very young, lacking experiences, and would not dare to improve anyone, if anything, I need to improve myself first, but I do like to introduce new ways of doing things to Lao women.

Of course, a typical Lao woman living in Laos (in a figure of ‘Lao’ speaking) has to feed her husband, she has to raise her children till they’re grown, she has to keep her house in order, she has to be obedient, she has to have good memory, and she has to be thrifty…this is a Lao woman. When you visit the morning (super) market, most of the times you would see female merchants, or sales lady, once she is done with her work at the end of the day, she then comes home to prepare evening meal for the family, she has to purchase clothes for her husband, and her children…this is a Lao woman.”

Then the Lao men must be the luckiest men in the world, according to Ardina, it depends on how you look at it, do you want a woman as a lifepartnership, or do you just want her as your punching bag and a baby-making machine? Interesting question, something for all men to think about, I believe a wise man would choose the first one, “a woman as a life-partnership.”

6 comments

  1. I am going to predict that this topic will become another one for more rounds of endless discussions. So once again, I shall play the antagonist. To begin, I believe what your friend(s) simply meant is that we possess this inner beauty within all of us—beyond the scaly, opaque covering—and that sometimes (or, most of the time) a little help from a family, friend, or the significant other is all we need to shine forth this inner beauty. And yes! This little help can be looked at as a form of ‘polishing.’

    Now, this brings to mind the famous play by George Bernard Shaw, “Pygmalion” or as many of us simply know it as “My Fair lady.” Remember the flower girl, poor Eliza Doolittle who nobody paid any attention to because of her accents & looks, but after months of training under Professor Higgins, she was able to pass off as ‘a refined society lady.’ Her father hardly recognized her after she became this ‘proper lady.’ Can I say that Professor Higgins did ‘polished’ her up a bit? (Seiji would have added the line ‘between the sheets’ for laughter). Professor Higgins knew Eliza was ‘a diamond in the rough,’ a beauty that the world has yet to discover because majority of them cannot see beyond that opaque covering.

    Also, in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, Katherine’s ability to shine in the end came through because of the ‘taming or polishing’ put forth by Petruchio. It was through that awkward relationship, both argumentative and conciliatory which lead to the understanding of the love that they have for one another all along. In short, most inner beauty & brilliance come forth from within each of us through the helps of others.

    Another familiar phrase I hear once in awhile is “how hard it is to see the faults we all carry within ourselves.” This phrase can be taken in two ways: we are in denial of the faults within ourselves, or we just do not see them. Regardless, it is through the helps of others (once again) that we recognized them—and through their guidance, we can release this brilliance to the world.

    In a sense, we are all diamonds in the rough and we are in desperate need of helps from one another to shine.

    Moreover, in your article, you made two statements that seem to not coincide as well: “I think if she is going to shine, she doesn’t need any polish because she shines from within…” and “I believe a wise man would choose the first one, a woman as a life-partnership.” In the first statement, there is a cry for individualism and independent, but the second one brings forth the idea of corporation, togetherness & ‘partnership.’ I am a strong believer and supporter of that last statement—we need each other! No man is an island on his own. Our reflection is best seen in the eyes of others—and what they see in us is the thing that becomes the burning desire for us to want to make that change, to shine. Thus, to some degree, we are all in need of each other so that our brilliance may shine forth beyond just a simple sparkle.

    Lastly, a diamond does not shine on its own accord—it is through the constant polishing and grinding away the dirt & clay, and most importantly, the dance of an incoming light within its many chambers that help to bring forth its inner beauty.

    Bob:))) Enjoy

  2. Hi Bob, when I first heard that comment from my male friend, it appears to me that she needs ‘a man’ to shine her, and it might be the statement that he made after this as well that lead me to believe this, and the image that came to mind was a Lao man that dresses his wife that lives not too far from me. He would put on make up for her, buy her clothes, and I can’t say that he does a good job nor that she looks happy, she looks somewhat like a badly dressed manikin most of the time, in the sense he was polishing her but regardless, I still feel that she lacks the social grace that she would have learned and acquired if the polishing was done by her, and not him.

    Another thought that came to mind was how many females put on a lot of make up, but once it has taken off, you barely see the beauty nor recognize her, to me she is polishing her outer appearances, but what is the point if she is lacking the inner beauty that goes a long with it. For some men they might not mind putting up with the bitchy personality because it appears that they have the trophy. We are told from a very young age that beauty is only skin deep, and what really counts is inner beauty, and I totally agree with this, I rather hang around with someone with the true inner beauty than one with the superficial outer beauty, plus I think that inner beauty contributes to outer beauty.

    >>>Another familiar phrase I hear once in awhile is “how hard it is to see the faults we all carry within ourselves.” This phrase can be taken in two ways: we are in denial of the faults within ourselves, or we just do not see them.

    Partly true, but any change has to be willingly by the individual for it to be a lasting one. This made me think of parenting, how our parents want us to be just like them, and what ever we do is not good enough. We are not perfect being, and I learned to accept others and myself as is and I think that’s what make each of us unique individual. Sometimes just because we see someone as having that fault, but that’s our personal opinion of that person and others might not feel the same way, I guess it’s all how you look at it, there is no right or wrong. If anyone point out my faults, then I’ll pay close attention and see if there is any need for improvement and most of the time the answer is probably ‘Yes.’

    >>>In a sense, we are all diamonds in the rough and we are in desperate need of helps from one another to shine.

    This is more general; in the sense, we are indeed a diamond…in the rough or not are how we perceive ourselves and others.

    >>>“I believe a wise man would choose the first one, a woman as a life-partnership.”

    This statement doesn’t mean that 2 people should join as one. I believe that they should still be 2 individual because if you look at pillars of a house or front porch, you don’t see them close together but more like standing on each end to hold up the house and that’s what a marriage of 2 individual people should be like. If 2 become one, there is not much room for growth IMO, there needs to be individualism for each to be happy. I think many marriages fail because one person wants the other person to be a certain way, to me it appears as controlling the other, accepting each other as they are is a way to show respect and allowing them the freedom to grow. I believe this can be applied to any relationship.

  3. Hi Nye Ginger,

    “I believe a wise man would choose the first one, “a woman as a life-partnership.””

    I guess I must be a “wise man”, huh?

    I was the “diamond” in my situation. I was dumped by really pretty girl. The type that you see in Import Tuner magazine. I didn’t care what happened to me after that. It was pathetic really when I look back.
    Lost my job, car got repo, kicked out of college, party and drink all the time. Other girls didn’t want anything to do with me. I think I asked just about every Lao girls in DM at legal age for date but I wasn’t having any luck. So I pretty much gave up and continue on downward spiral.
    Thanks for Mrs Dallas (she is Vietnamese btw) she really helped me get out of the mess and most of all for her asking me out on a date. The rest is history. 🙂

  4. Dallas wrote: Thanks for Mrs Dallas (she is Vietnamese btw) she really helped me get out of the mess and most of all for her asking me out on a date. The rest is history.

    Dallas thanks for sharing your story, sometimes things happen for a reason and in your case, it did for better things to come, and I saw that you have 2 lovely children as well. Apparent Ms. Dallas saw something that other ladies didn’t see and you’re a good example of ‘a diamond in the rough’.

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