Tag Archives: Women

Cool-ass Korean women

A lot of people out here say it can be difficult to get behind the veil of Korean culture–if you’re not “우리” (pronunced “oo-ri”, meaning us/our) then in general you just don’t get to see behind the public facade.

I’ve met a few Korean people (and quite a few non-Korean people) who have been pretty conservative, or who haven’t let their guards down.

But I’ve also met some mind-blowingly cool, honest, down-to-earth Korean women and this post is about two of them.

I didn’t really have an easy time of working in Korea my first year here, but there are two women who made my experience downright bearable. One is Mrs. L, the school nurse at my high school. There were days when I would walk into school nearly in tears from the anger/frustration/depression of being isolated (the only foreigner; the only non-Korean speaker; boss/person I share an office with generally refusing to acknowledge my presence) at that school. “Literally no one in this school cares about me,” I would think. I would hear teachers talking and laughing in the other rooms and see them sharing treats, and I would sit in my office cold and alone (I’m thinking about winter here because Christmastime abroad is particularly lonely).

But over the course of that year, Mrs. L and I developed a true friendship. She is about 40 or 45, and she married young, but she is a free spirit at heart and quite honest. During the course of our year-long teacher class, we talked about beauty, health, plastic surgery, women’s rights, bullying, and a range of other topics, and she always surprised me with her candor and thoughtfulness.

More than that, though, it was to her that I would turn when I dragged myself into the office feeling like shit. In Korea, you don’t call out, so I would come to school feeling terrible and longing for my home country, where people would rather you come home than bring your cold to the office. 

I would go into her office and she’d comfort me, give me medicine, and let me lay in one of the clinic beds. It meant the world to me to be taken care of–to be shown care toward.

And it was her who, once my contract was over, organized a goodbye luncheon for a few cool beyotches (my word) where they told me that they didn’t like my boss either; that she is a strange sort and quite difficult to work with–I was blown away first by being assured that I’m not crazy and second by the level of trust we established for a Korean to somewhat-badmouth another Korean to a foreigner.

The other cool-ass Korean woman I want to tell you all about is my belly-dancing teacher, Ms. K. 

I want to ask her about herself; how did she end up having a career in bellydancing? And she’s really good–she can shimmy, wiggle, drop, bounce, and sway with the best of them. Plus, her splits are to die for. I find this fascinating, but we have a serious language barrier we’re slowly bringing down (we’re about the same level in each others’ respective languages–which is more than we’d originally assumed, because it’s easy to be more than none, but we still can’t have in-depth conversations).

Although we can’t really talk about anything, she cemented herself in my mind as a cool-ass woman today when I showed up to class with a bandage under my ribs from a new tattoo. I thought she would kind of freak–tattoos are pretty rare/frowned upon here. But duh. She’s a bellydance teacher. Of course she’d be more liberal right?

She asked me if I was hurt and I told her it was from a tattoo, and she just told me she wanted to get a tattoo on the back of her shoulder. Then she asked me if I would be OK for dancing, and we got the hell on with things.

So cool, and I really think that over time we will end up being friends, even if we can’t talk to each other much.

Anyway that’s it–I just wanted to update about these two women who were on my mind.




It has slowly occurred to me over the past couple of weeks how  careful  I have been this past year. I have set boundaries for myself that are really designed to make sure that I’m always presenting myself in “the best” light (one that I have deemed appropriate of a 26-year-old).

My coteacher told me the other day that I think too much about what other people think of me. This was because we hadn’t been getting along and I told her I was concerned that this would make the vice principal dislike me (and therefore all Americans and blacks, my mind continued). 

My coteacher told me that we were at a busy high school and people had better things to do than worry about me (my coteacher is very direct).

In a way, I guess this is what going abroad is for. It’s to remove you from everything that was familiar and place you square in front of your one true common denominator: you. You are your common denominator, and there’s no arguing that in a place where nothing is the same as it was before. If I’m having similar types of problems (or achievements!) then they stem from me and facts is facts.

But back to being careful.

Last year I had some experiences that just made me feel like I was making an ass of myself entirely too much to be 25 years old, and so I began to set a lot of boundaries for myself so that I wouldn’t do that.

And without commenting on whether or not that’s “good” or “bad,” I will say that it has helped me to achieve my goal of not making an ass of myself.

But it has also contributed to me developing a trepidation toward “loosening up,” really loosening up. Because even when I’m hanging out and having fun, I’m still very much trying to maintain a level of control so that things don’t get out of hand.

Is this just regular ol’ growing up?

Last weekend I went to Seoul, and I wanted to spend only Friday night there. I wanted to come home Saturday night and do my regular ol bullshit of staying up until 5 am watching TV on the internet and laying around and whatnot.

Well, things ended up playing out in such a manner that I stayed in Seoul (with my friends) on Saturday night too, and at first I was inexplicably sad. And then I thought to myself “what’s the harm in staying another night, really? Yeah you’ll spend money you didn’t mean to and you’ll be tired…..but so what? Loosen up.” And that was the first time I realized how tense I’ve been for the past year (I had a great night btw).

I’ve started drinking again, and last night I was at a wine bar and I was drunk. As my friend C put it, “I can tell you’re drunk because you haven’t reapplied your lipstick” (I had just bought some $40 Chanel red lipstick, heaven help me). And I insisted I wasn’t drunk as a drunk person must.

And then this guy in our friend group turns to me and say something like “You just noticed me.” And I was confused, but not confused. I knew what he meant, but it was surprising to hear it said out loud.

And I feigned noncomprehension and insisted that I’d been talking with, of and to him the entire night, but I still knew what he meant, which is hard to articulate, but it’s the difference between looking and seeing I guess. 

And he said “well maybe you’re just more discreet when you’re sober,” and it hit me. Yet another area where I’ve been so tense, so afraid to take a risk, so afraid of getting rejected or making an ass of myself. I’m so afraid to get caught even noticing a guy, for this crippling fear of rejection and humiliation and of course making an ass of myself.

What is the balance? How do I open up and show the true me without fear of people’s (or my own) judgement, yet also conduct myself with the decorum that suggests that I’m 26, not 19?

Or am I already doing that and just thinking too much?


An open letter to the last one who broke my heart

Dear You,

Although I have no reason  to believe you read this blog, I hope you see this. C’me on universe.

Last night, I was talking to someone. It was hushed tones, late-night, that talk you talk when you’re getting to know someone who might be someone new. I was intoxicated from a night spent jumping, laughing, dancing, and hyperventilating from the crowd. He was just intoxicated.

I told him about my past, and now my past includes you, and I told him about my past and you in a way that surprised myself. I have struggled to make the best of my past experiences, but for the most part I have straddled the line between bitter and ashamed. Bitter at the external, ashamed at/of myself. This time, though, I told him of my things and I told him about you, and I surprised myself. I told him that with you, it hurt so badly that I had to heal, and as I said it, I realized it was true.

Like a young daredevil, I was careless with my heart, and it got broken a few times. Like a leg that was never set, it healed enough to function, but it still hurt when I walked on it. Or when it rained. Then came you. You were the one who broke my heart again, only this time it got set, it got put in a cast, and it is well on its way to healing properly.

I know that I loved you, short time that we were, inappropriate that it was, speeding bullet, oncoming train, clear and beautiful disaster that it all turned out to be, because it rocked me to my core. I am not the same after you.

Before you, I was angry. I was bitter. I felt stupid. I was lost. I was careless with my heart because I was unaware of how precious it was. If this was a different type of letter, here is where I would add the “hence why I gave it to you” clause, but that is not this. Some things you just can’t control. You were my force of nature.

But when it ended between us, it hurt. It hurt so badly that I had no choice but to go to the places I was most afraid to explore within, to say to myself the things that I was burying, hiding from, talking over. It forced me to look at myself, to listen, and to be honest with myself. I slowly learned to trust myself.

I don’t understand why my spirit recognized itself in yours, but I do know that what that gave me was so pure and utterly good that nothing could fill the space your absence created except for all of my wildest dreams, and so I fulfilled them. I chased them relentlessly after you, and now I’m on my way to teach English in Korea, something I have been scared of for years. But I can do it, because I backpacked in Guatemala. And I went after that experience as a part of filling that space that your absence created.

A psychic told me you realized you made a mistake in leaving me. My ego hopes that’s true. She also told me that you would never be happy in a relationship because you didn’t know how. The very best part of me hopes that’s not. You helped to reinvigorate me. My experience with you showed me how truly beautiful being happy with someone is, however brief. I hope that you find that again one day. It is worth the risk, a thousand times over. The only thing I would change about you and me is that if I could do it again, I would be more honest. Something like that deserves to be experienced fully, because it can never truly be denied.




p.s.: I am also equally OK with you not reading this letter


It already feels so distant (if it were meant to happen at all, it was supposed to be a phase)


Here I am. It’s 4 a.m. and I am on my rebellious child on summer vacation schedule, where I stay up ridiculously late and sleep ’till noon because I can.

I’ve been back home a week,

but it’s the strangest thing. My old life, the one I wrote about, the one I anguished about, the one I cherished,

It already feels so distant.

I feel this really strange kind of innate sense of understanding that my entire life for the past five years are what will henceforth be referred to as “my college years.” This makes them no less real, no less raw, no less amazing.

What it does make them is not permanent. What it does make them,

is a stage.

A stage I have now left.

You know,

when I was going through things (different things, take your pick, the kinds of things that people on their own in their early twenties go through), it all felt so serious. So everlasting. So eternal and enveloping. In those things, in those moments, there was no past and no future but those things. They were consuming and never ending. I internalized them to the point that even after these events had passed, I still saw them as critical parts of my identity. Things I would have to explain to myself and each new person over and over for them to know me. 

Did I mention I’m a clutcher?

But now, suddenly, these things are just things and they are tied to this location and this location is tied to this period in my life that I have just left. I am no longer in college. I am no longer in that place. Those are no longer my things; they are in that space and time, and already that space and time are gone, irreversibly gone. I will never go back to that particular intersection of space and time, and as a consequence, I will never go back to those things. They are there. I left them behind.

Is any of this making sense?

Let me put it this way: A new friend and I were talking about quitting drinking today, and we touched on phases. I told him that I thought that some things, if they were meant to happen at all, then they were meant to be phases. Take for example that hard partying lifestyle of college, the binge drinking and general hot messery. If you accept that that is something that is meant to take place in the natural progression of life, then I think that it must follow that it is something that is meant to be a phase. If you are meant to do that, then you are meant to stop doing it soon thereafter. I think the problem comes when people make it a lifestyle and not a phase.

Which brings me to my latest rant: Taylor Swift. People are so hard on the girl, but my goodness. She’s 22. I was certainly a hot mess from 22 to 3 months ago or last week depending on your yardstick. To paraphrase, let he who wasn’t a hot mess in relationships at 22 cast the first biting comment. 

If at 26, 30, 34, 40, she’s still a hot mess, then talk to me. But actually, still don’t, because I’ll be too busy exploring the next phase of my life to care about Taylor Swift’s hot messery. Or else, she’ll be one of my good friends (because I’ll have made it to that level) and I won’t want to hear you talkin sh*t about my girl.

I’m just saying. We who strive to be happy, to be balanced, to be loved/loving, to be real, to be authentic, to be alive, to be true to ourselves, to explore, we go through things. We go through phases as we learn ourselves and the world around us. It’s the same place, but it’s different for everybody. Maybe we don’t all have the same experiences, but each of our experiences marks a place in space and time where we are and where we’re going until we find ourselves glancing in the rear view mirrors of our lives at all of those same things, as we leave them behind.

o hai, contentment

As I write this, I’m sitting at home with a glass of non-alcoholic white wine. Gossip Girl Season 1 is paused in front of me through some kind of magical device that gets Netflix to the TV (really, Netflix should give me an endorsement deal), and I’m trying to decide what to do tonight.

It’s Friday night, and I can go out and meet up with one of my good friends (J), or I can stay in and watch Gossip Girl.

Thing is,

I would be content either way. I’m slightly leaning toward staying home because it’s cold outside, but who knows what adventures might abound if I go out and meet up with my friend?

I was shaving my legs today because I finally finished moving and school and work and I’m at my mom’s house and I’m not currently working and if I’m not currently working then there is no excuse not to be head-to-toe fabulous, even if it does mean violating my sworn oath not to shave my legs during pants season. So I was shaving my legs today and I was thinking about what I wanted to do tonight, and I realized that I was equally content with going in or staying out.


So I asked myself about all of this contentment.

And then I thought…

maybe I’m just content.

Now there’s a thought.

I don’t know when I got so content. I’m usually anxious, or frustrated, or giddy. There’s usually either an option that takes me up or one that brings me down. And I just finished a pretty big move, and big moves are always marked with a period of abject misery for me.

This is what others refer to as an “adjustment period.”

But….it just.now.occurred to me that maybe this is how I know I made the right choice.

Because I’m content. As in, I’m completely at peace with my decision.

I’m not giddy in that unstable way, but I am completely open to looking at this area (where my mom lives and I went to high school) in a new light. When we first moved here from Georgia, I was a junior in high school. Because of this, I made this area my sworn enemy and clung to an irrational hatred of the area for the next 10 years.

But now that I’m back, I look at it and I see nothing but infinite possibility. I see chances to reconnect with friends, chances to make new friends, chances to really get on the ground and get to know this place I spent the last 10 years rejecting. 

And then I think of living with my mom, and where I was once nervous that we wouldn’t get along, I now see that we missed each other, and we have a chance to spend some really good quality time together before I leave the country for x amount of years. 

I think it has been this year. 2012 was one of the good ones for me. Even though it had its struggles, I really think that I’m going to look back on this year as the year that completely changed my life. It got me out of the country. That’s all that matters. It made me someone who stopped being afraid to approach people and love them and talk to them and smile at them. It showed me I could travel alone; it taught me that my dreams were worth taking the huge risks. It taught me to believe again and love again and it taught me that I could repair relationships, or I could let them go as I saw fit. Coming into 2012, I was bruised. Coming out of 2012, I am brimming with possibilities. With the belief that you’re never fully dressed without a smile, that a stranger is just a friend you haven’t made yet, and with a belief in myself that is backed by the courage to actually bet on my dreams.

Long story short, life is good.

I am content 🙂

26 war wounds; 26 battle scars

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much more comfortable I’d be with my position in life right now if I were 24.

24, single, M.A., about to travel the world.


That sounds about right.

26, [haven’t even MET the person I’m gonna marry (for reals this time) yet] [tens of thousands in student debt] [uncertain future].

That’s how that sounds at 26.

I come from a long line of women who lie about their age. To me, it’s funny, it’s elegant, it’s part of being a lady.

And so briefly, I’d decided that this was the year I would subtract two years and start back at 24.

I like 24.

But then I asked myself which two years I would subtract.


If I’m 24 now, then which two years am I deleting from my life? Not saying that anyone’s life is particularly uneventful,

But I’ve led a pretty packed 26 years. Every year was a year of note. Every year was a year that I learned/experienced something substantial that contributed a crucial component to the woman I’m growing to love today.

So which of these components could I do without?

Certainly none from my early twenties; each of those lessons was hard-learned, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to go through that shit again for the sake of subtracting a year or two.

What about my late teens, then?


there too,

there were no wasted years.

Early teens were a mix of lessons and good memories with friends whom I still love,

before that was childhood, and every moment of childhood is precious.

Don’t get me wrong,

I am in no way saying there aren’t things I wouldn’t do differently.

I’m not one of those people who insists that if they got to do it all again they “wouldn’t change a thing because it made me who I am today.”


If I got to do it all again as the woman I am today,

I’d invest in apple and stay the HELL away from these boys.

It is what it is.

At the same time, though,

I look back at my life and I start to see my 26 years as 26 battle scars.

Each year was like a little war that I survived. I survived 26 times. How many people can say they went into battle (sometimes blind) 26 times and survived? That’s an achievement. That’s something to be proud of.

I think it’s almost like a mother’s stretch marks.


She may miss her unmarked skin. She may see it on other women and compare their smooth, flat stomachs to hers.

But at the same time,

she created life. And as a part of that process, she got stretch marks.

Each mark is there as a direct result of some stage of development of the life that was inside of her. Which aspect of that life would she diminish to have fewer marks?

That’s how I’m starting to feel about 26.


It is a bit too high for my liking.


I am damn uncomfortable with being single and broker than broke.

But at the same time,

This is my life. Every year, every moment, every second has been an integral part of shaping me into a woman who is now comfortable saying things like “that ain’t gon work. I know me.”

Some women are that woman at 24, but me,

I needed 26 years. And so I accept my 26 years as outward indicators of the life that is growing inside of me. They are not my ideal, but they are my actual. And for simply that reason, I love and accept them.



Loving someone who doesn’t love you back (part deaux)

Your heart beats so hard you’re sure you can see the feathers of your necklace moving,

and so you try the Buddhist technique of noticing three times

I am nervous, 

you acknowledge to yourself gently.

I am nervous,

I am nervous.

But your heart is still pounding, so you turn to your default technique and that is to just not show it.

It’s OK to feel nervous, you say to yourself (treating yourself as you do now with kindness and grace). Just make sure you don’t show it.

And so you put on what you hope is your most pleasant smile and you breathe deep,

As you wait for not him,

but his best friend,

to join you and yours for dinner.

And he comes and you two are introduced,

never having formally met,

though having known two very significant people in his life for years you know way more about him than a stranger would and you wonder if it’s the same for him,

yet never having formally met you extend your arm for a handshake,

which he grabs and pulls forward into some kind of you-sitting/him-standing awkward hug

and you wonder if this is because he’s heard so much about you,

or if he’s just a warm person

(but your brain tells your heart it’s the latter).

And so you find yourself sitting across from a now-noticeably empty chair

as they talk about shared history and God,

(him having undergone some sort of spiritual awakening recently).

And as you listen to him talk about atoms and Adam and Atun, the first man,

you think of one man, though you hope your face looks pleasant, or at least neutral.

I hope he tells him he saw me, you think, never having got your moment, as you so deserve, where he realizes he was a fool for having let you go.

I hope he tells him I look good.