I often feel like a man from another planet, in Korea. And it’s heart-breaking, not exciting, like it used to be. Why? Because I can see what I am missing, and can do almost nothing about it. And I can see what the girl I love is missing, and can do nothing about that, either. There is no cultural translation device, and only sometimes do people care enough to try to help me see.
As many of you know, the girl I love is not ‘my girl’ anymore. The hardest thing about that is being strong enough to be able to still see her and be kind to her, and love her…and not worry about it; to be okay with unrequited love, but to have that girl feeling guilty and thus constantly asking me, in essence, not to love her. Korean women ask you to stop loving them. It is bizarre. I get it, and know why it happens, but it is bizarre.
How can you tell people without being perceived as arrogant, that despite your usual “regular Joe” appearance, inside, you’re on a level that you wished most of mankind could be on; where you can love and not be too worried about it; that you can manage not to play games because even though you know they can work-and you could play them like a pro (and you know they even excite the girls they are beguiling)-you don’t want to play games because they are primitive to you.
Paul told me last night that I have no game. Then he said ‘you gotta be yourself’.’ Well, which is it Paul? The definition of ‘being oneself’ precludes games, since the definition of playing games is ‘not being oneself’.
I can see what my Amber was missing-is still missing-about me, but cannot explain it…mostly because she can’t even imagine my point of view. Just s i probably cannot imagine hers. People from the Occident and the Orient have very different brains. But though discussion, I believe, they cn build a common brain; a mind they can inhabit while together. Whenever I have tried, she doesn’t believe what I say, about certain important issues. It is like I am too good to be true, in her view.
An alien among us would feel frustrated to the point of distraction, and then to the point of ambivalent hopelessness, like Klatu in The Day The Earth Stood Still. That is how I feel when I am struggling to the point of exhaustion, trying to get Amber to believe what I say is true. She often doesn’t take my compliments at face-value: “you don’t have to say that”, is her standard response. It’s even a bit insulting, at times (though I know that is my ego over-flexing): I try complimenting her on her artistic abilities and she thinks I am just flattering her. I am from New York City, and have been to the best commercial art school in America-perhaps the world, and I have been serious about art and illustration since I was nineteen, but she doesn’t trust me or my opinion.
Moment-to-moment I can feel-like summer-hot, course concrete under my bare feet (a memory of going to the Woodmere pools with Mary, Nancy, Mom, and Dad, in my childhood), the real differences in our minds, our languages, our cultural perceptions, and all our words and intentions…which are lost it like leaves gone down a sewer grating in my home town in October.
And I can never get Amber to understand how painful this is, as she misjudges me, time, and time, and time again. And how can I blame her when I know I must be doing the same thing in reaction to her-at times. The difference is, I m always willing to talk about it. She isn’t. And there-in lies the abyss, down which our lost chance has fallen.
If any young man from the West is reading this in Korea, and he hopes to have a successful true-love relationship with a Korean girl who has not lived at least 5 five years in the West. take heed: spend as much time with her among your Western friends before you even have a serious conversation with he on your own. Trust me, it will be the difference between bliss and hellish heartbreak to last a lifetime. And as hard as it is, spend time with Korean people, but don’t listen to them (escept when they say that Koreans are all about social harmony, and “dropping” an issue that could break that harmony); I tried giving the advise Koreans gave me a hard chance, to the extent it became hard to know I was doing it, and it caused me to play games after all, in a sense; I changed. I acted “Korean”, as I saw it, according to their advice, and it got me in trouble, because in the end, though people from different cultures generally do behave differently (and Koreans really do behave a lot like one another-to an uncanny extent), they still are individuals, and women, more than men, hate being compared to other people.
Having said that, how then can I get her to embrace the finer points of intercultural observation and culture shock as I have honestly experienced them? I have been dealing with her people on occupational, corporate and intimate levels for fifteen years, but my experience doesn’t factor in, no the lessons I could share to bring us closer, apparently.
But on changing, a good friend who knows Korea very well, once said, ‘be careful; Korea can erode your morals.’ Now he is not racist, culturalist, or an ornery man. He learned Korean to almost bilingual fluency, loves Korean people and has many Korean friends (and he even likes drinking with Korean men, something most western men I know dislike). But we know what the differences are between our cultures. The hard part is reconciling them when your partner is sort of blind, not to the differences, but when and where they sneak up and derail things.
The truth shall set you free (and heal your relationships), but only if you look at it. And that means good communication.
Peace, Love, and Joy,