Chadil "Deffy" Yuenying was probably the most talked about man in the country last week. But as much I as love any kind of attention, I'm not jealous of him. Not even one little bit.
If you pay even the slightest heed to what's in the news, you'll have heard of Chadil, for details of his "bizarre love story" were given prominent coverage over the past week in all types of media. To recap: Chadil's star quickly rose after he posted four photos of himself and his bride on his personal Facebook account. Nothing out of ordinary there, right? Except that his bride had already passed on, and their "wedding" actually coincided with her funeral.
Chadil's Facebook album was labelled "Corpse Bride" and it had been "liked" and shared by more than 100,000 users the last time I checked.
The images were of Chadil all decked out in a turn-of-the-century tuxedo and top hat while his breathless bride lay next to him decked out in a rather short wedding gown. The most notorious pic was the one in which Chadil had placed a ring on her finger. Chadil wrote matter-of-factly online _ and would later give interviews in the same vein _ explaining that the motivation for this display was guilt, pure and simple: He felt he hadn't done enough for his girlfriend of 10 years while she was alive. Before her sudden death in a road accident, she had suggested that he marry her. But he had demurred, putting the idea on hold.
The "wedding" was his attempt to right a wrong, however belated the gesture might have been.
As expected, the initial public reaction was an outpouring of sympathy for the "groom" and a wave of sentimental remarks. The romantically inclined were moved by this expression of "true love", however unconventional. It seemed to hit a nerve with many people. The offline media picked up on the buzz, too, and went to town with the story. Chadil found himself under a spotlight, experiencing an unexpected 15 minutes of fame.
Also as expected, within days, the backlash began _ and it wasn't at all kind. In a heartbeat, Chadil went from being viewed as a hopeless romantic to being vilified as a publicity-hungry opportunist. It was also oh-so-predictable that members of the online society would start questioning the legitimacy of Chadil's claims to have had a relationship with the "bride" and his real intentions in uploading those photos. There have been accusations that he didn't have any liaison with her at all and that the whole thing was staged as a publicity stunt. Some felt he had taken advantage of a grim situation, the death of a loved one, and organised the "wedding" to generate publicity for himself. His behaviour was criticised variously as inappropriate, in bad taste and as a warped manifestation of love.
I don't know what you've chosen to believe about the affair, but here's my take on things.
I know Chadil personally. He's a younger friend of mine who works with another of my friends. We're not particularly close, but I've been seeing him around town for years. I'd like to think that I know what kind of a person he is. I believe his story, emotions and intentions to be true and pure. He did have a decade-old relationship with that woman. His heart really was broken when she was killed. He wasn't thinking about the possibility of fame when he decided to put a ring on her cold finger. He merely wanted to make things right, however small or inadequate the gesture might seem. And, yes, Deffy has always been a little eccentric. I've seen him in a full tuxedo, complete with bow-tie and top hat, on numerous occasions. He even affects a monocle on occasion. So his attire wasn't an issue for me at all _ and it certainly shouldn't be interpreted as a cry for attention.
I can explain all this and debunk all the conspiracy theories because I know him as a friend, as a nong, as a quirky, life-of-the-party type. I also know him to be a person whose heart is currently in shreds.
But what if I hadn't known Chadil? If he were a complete stranger I wouldn't, of course, have had a clue why things happened the way they did. And that would have left me gasping for hard information and a clear perspective for weeks afterwards. I'd probably have been tempted to jump on the backlash bandwagon as _ let's admit it! _ it's often more fun to go against the grain and be really negative about everything.
I'll be the first to admit that I, too, often get carried away by all these social-media virals. I can be quick to judge sensational news items and offbeat happenings around Thailand. I also find it hard to hold my tongue and to stifle the impulse to make caustic remarks. But when something like this happened to someone I knew, I was initially angered to read so many negative comments about Chadil and his decision to "wed" his dead girlfriend. I couldn't understand how people could be so mean as to speculate on his motives in the absence of solid proof. I couldn't handle some of the nasty online posts on the matter.
I think we sometimes forget that behind every story in the news, no matter how odd or unfathomable it may seem, there are always real people involved.
Real people with real emotions, real vulnerabilities and real hearts. Chadil didn't teach me about True Love (that ship has long sailed), but he certainly taught me to not blurt out hastily formed opinions and to consider the feelings of strangers who get caught up in all the bizarre events of this world.
They are all human beings, after all, and they bleed just like you or I do _ with or without a ring on their finger.
Onsiri Pravattiyagul is Life's resident music weirdo who also writes about popular culture.