Through a quirk of Korean socialization in which young people go to school 6 days a week throughout their entire young lives, most men (women too probably, although they are not my primary concern in this message...) manage to reach the ripe old age of 27 or so completely devoid of the ability to relate to members of the opposite sex. Meaning I am surrounded by a whole generation of men who appear on the outside to be attractive and thoughtful and mature and yet who are prone to thinking and acting rather like the 13 year olds I remember being so frustrated with in my junior high days as soon as they are around a woman. Aargh!! I don't have the foggiest idea what to do about them, and it seems that they are equally baffled about me. Friendship it seems, is not going to be as easy as I had hoped. At least not with the Korean men in my life.
Take for example, the case of a young man at church. He has a cool job, relatively interesting personality - we share enough in common to maintain conversation (at least when there is no one else more entertaining around to talk to). Roughly zero natural chemistry between us, which (combined with his penchant for random exits from rooms which I am in) led me to the conclusion that although he tolerates my presence in the world well enough he probably wouldn't notice too quickly if I disappeared from it. Fine. Whatever. I feel about the same way towards him - he's a good guy, but my world is not overly affected one way or the other by him. I think we are even. So imagine my shock and dismay to learn that the reason he acts around me the way that he does is that he thinks I am interested in him (must have been the whole ignoring him thing - a sure sign of deep devotion...) and is not sure what to do about it! His solution - act
sullen, angry, friendly, teasing or just damn annoyed by turns. And to do this all as publicly as possible.
How does this make me feel (despite the urgings of my saner friends - Korean all - to not worry about the whole thing)? Like a tornado that got plopped down in the middle of the city and is busy whirling through more or less oblivious to the dammage it is doing. Except I am not oblivious. I am acutely aware of the shock waves I am emmanating just by my very presence here.
Because this is not the first time (and I have only been here 2 months, people!). See, there was THE GUY (oh yes, there is always a HIM, isn't there....). We met my very first weekend, talked for hours. He was handsome, charming, intelligent, passionate. I was captivated. I swear all I was thinking about was the friend potential - at least at first. At least until all those happy little signals declaring for all the world that he was actually interested too. Then the thinking became more like, friends with potential. Unlike in the case above, I fell for this one hook, line and sinker, and he appeared to be doing something similar with me.
But wait! Stop the presses!! What language was I reading those signals in? Right. Enlglish. And what language were those signals sent in? Oh, right. Korean. Damn. Damn. I knew it was all too quick and easy. I knew it. And now he has (related to me or not) turned tail and pulled a dissapearing act of the finest calibre - I mean, NO ONE knows where this boy has gone. Actually, everyone is very worried about him (and they don't even have the added guilt of wondering if the vanishing act was caused by them...). DAMN!
Now, I did not come to Korea looking for a husband (don't you remember that post? all I was after was the money...), or even for a boyfriend. That would have been silly. Disclaimer duly noted however, imagine being a young and single woman who has spent the last several years in places virtually devoid of eligible dating prospects suddenly thrust into a culture where a majority of the population is of both a similar age and marital status to yourself - that is, young, sexy as hell and, for the most part, actually single too. Come on people - rational I may be, but I am also human. And lonely, dammit. I have no intention whatsoever of spending my days in solitary-whatever-they-call-it-these-days. Surely among these masses somewhere is someone I could get close to?
Maybe all of that would not have been on my mind so quickly if it were not for HIM. But I can't turn back the clock, or stop the effects already so very present. So here I am, wondering what is happening, still just looking for friends but also suddenly acutely aware that I really, really, really want something more as well. Not from church-boy, who should really just take a pill and relax already, but from someone. Is that really so much to hope for?
A foreign friend of mine here at the school recently got involved with a Korean guy. She was shocked when it happened - says she looked around at all these lovely, tiny Korean women who strongly resemble porcelain dolls and wondered what he could possibly see in her. Both of us have been told on more than one occasion that the typical Korean beauty ideal is small, demure, long haired, smooth complexioned. At least my friend has the long hair going for her - I'm large, opinionated, short-haired and freckled. Uh oh.
Despite that, sitting around the table with our drinks last weekend, a (male) Korean friend of mine commented that he thinks my hair is beautiful. It was 3 am and I looked like death warmed over, but I could have kissed him (now THAT would have given him the wrong idea for sure!). Then later, over coffee at starbucks, another (male) Korean friend told me that he finds me charming. And straight forward. That he is perfectly comfortable just sitting around talking and not getting any wrong ideas when we spend time together. Of course, both of them have girlfriends (perhaps that is the difference?), but still it gives me hope. Just maybe there is a chance that I will be able to develop friendships with Korean men afterall. And maybe, just maybe, given time, one of them will decide I am irresistable and, well, enough dreaming for one day...