One of These Things Is Not Like the Other

I have been obsessed with the 2009 K-drama Boys Over Flowers.

I normally don’t watch TV during the week. But last week I watched two episodes a night of this so bad, it’s good show. There was a time a couple of years ago when I watched mostly Korean movies. But, I had to take a break from watching and I finally think I’ve realized why.

I both love and hate watching Korean movies and shows. I love that they remind me (and my husband) that being melodramatic is in my blood. (Sorry, love.) In the shows, I love hearing my native tongue. And, yet, it makes me very sad that I cannot understand. I love seeing modern Korea. And, yet, it makes me very sad that I don’t know it.

When I first started watching Boys Over Flowers, I was fascinated at how effeminate all of the male leads were. Yet, it only took about five episodes for me to realize that I found two of the male leads to be very attractive. (I know, it’s so wrong for a 40-ish woman to find 25 year old young men to be hot!) Watching the show for so many days in a row, has helped me to pick up a few words of Korean. And it has also made me wonder, no, it’s made me long for the chance to grow up in my birth country. What kind of boy would I have liked? Certainly not the blonde haired, blue eyed boys I cried many a tear over while in junior high and high school. How would I have done in the dating game as a teenager in Korea? It would be pretty hard to have done worse than I did growing up in the mostly white suburb that I grew up in, since the notion of dating an Asian girl to the white boys in my school was anathema to their desires.

I still remember, clear as the bright blue sky, when one particular blonde boy told me that he would never date me because I was Korean. This was a good friend, that is, in the junior high definition of “good friend.” This good friend’s sharing made complete and logical sense to me because, after all, I was the horridly ugly Korean girl. Or so I believed. Being the “one of these things is not like the other” girl, I could only think myself to be atrociously ugly. Would I have thought that, if I had grown up in Korea? Perhaps. Let’s be real, I am well aware of the rate of plastic surgery in Korea and the focus on “perfect” beauty. But, at least, having grown up in Korea, my race, would not have been a handicap from the start. Perhaps, just maybe, I would not have hated myself as much as I did while growing up in the white world that I was adopted into. I will never know. And that, the never knowing, is what makes it a love-hate activity when watching Boys Over Flowers. Would a boy like Lee Minho or Kim Hyun-Joong, ever have liked me if I had grown up in Korea?

It’s amazing to me that, as a grown woman, these issues of self-esteem, still cause such insane emotions. I am constantly disparaging myself. A friend observed on Christmas Eve, as I continually criticized the dinner I had spent the previous 48 hours earlier preparing, “you’re really hard on yourself.” The way that I criticize my appearance and my body, makes me kooky, too. I remember being pleasantly surprised when my Umma, during her stay with me in 2012, commented that I was thin. (In my head, I just said “I’m so not.”) But these issues, this lack of confidence in my appearance that I grew up with that has molded the way I see myself; would it have been the same had I grown up in Korea? I will never know.

I am amazed at how much sadness still resides within me over the loss adoption caused in my life. I miss my birth country, in the way that you miss something you’ve never known. I miss having had the mother-daughter experience with my Umma. Yes, I have a loving (adoptive) mother. I am blessed by her. Still, the loss of being separated from my Korean family is forever etched in my heart. And these damn K-dramas just seem to emphasize that permanent loss, that eternal deep sadness.

I envy the Korean adopted people who go back to live in Korea. I long to do the same but I worry that my Black-Korean children would have a difficult time in Korea’s bloodline focused society. Who knows, maybe if I went back to live on my native soil, maybe the fantasy that I have, could be erased. Or maybe, a part of my soul would be filled because that’s the only way it can be. I may never know. I may never know.