Charlie Brown Trees, Unicorn Sleighs, and the Heart Shaped Umbrella (A Christmas Post)

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Charlie one“I guess you were right, Linus. I shouldn’t have picked this little tree. Everything I do turns into a disaster. I guess I really don’t know what Christmas is all about. Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” – Charlie Brown

It’s Christmas, and I’m broke. Y, my girlfriend, hasn’t let this alter her wish list. She knows what she wants. We’ve been together ten months, and she wants us to get couple rings for Christmas. Couple rings are a very Korean thing – when Korean couples get serious, they buy matching rings to express their love and/or signal ownership. The meaning of the couple ring is vague, they don’t signify that you’re engaged or anything, it’s more like in the ’50s when girls wore a pin to show they were going steady. And Y wants my pin, in the form of matching rings that she says will cost around $150.

asian santaSo it’s off to the mall we go. I’m anxious to get there, not because of the rings, but because I want to see if there’s an Asian Mall Santa. It’s juvenile, but the thought amuses me. I start thinking about how North Korean leader Kim Jong-un would make a wonderful Santa Claus. They’re virtually the same person: they’re both fat, come from the North, live in secrecy, are surrounded by small people, and both of them have magical horned animals (If you haven’t heard, North Korea claims to have discovered a unicorn lair. No, I’m not making that up.) True, Mr. Kim is most famous for his nuclear weapons program, but who’s to say Santa doesn’t have WMDs too? Have we ever checked? I mean, what do you think little terrorist Al Qaeda kids want for Christmas? I don’t think the elves are making them wooden rocking horses.

That’s what I’m thinking about as Y and I start looking for rings. Kim Jong-Santa and his unicorn sleigh, flying around the world, giving good little children magical toys and spreading government propaganda. We hop from one jewelry store to the next. Each time, Y tries on rings and asks for the price, and every time the price is significantly higher than what we anticipated.

“I love it,” she says. “It’s $550.”

“I’m sure you’ll find another one to love,” I respond.

couple ringsPlenty of rings in the sea. Although it turns out all the good ones are (not surprisingly) out of my budget. The jewelry store owners all seem grumpy, Scrooges all of them, and Y tells me it’s because we’re looking at the most inexpensive rings, and they think it’s ridiculous. “They see a foreigner and they think he’s rich,” she says. “They think all foreigners are rich.”

The day comes to a close, and we don’t buy anything. I tell her that I love her, but I can’t afford these rings. Then I try to make it sound like we’ve done a public service, since my broke foreign ass has shattered the stereotypes the jewelers had and we’ve enlightened them. Yes, I couldn’t afford a ring, but at least I expanded cultural awareness.

Fast forward. Christmas Eve. Y and I are watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special, which she’s never seen. This is just the beginning. I’ve also downloaded The Snowman, The Grinch, Rudolph, Garfield’s Christmas, and about 30 other specials. I see her future, and it involves stop motion animation. But before we can get to the next special, she takes out a box and gives me my present. It’s a wallet with a change pouch. I didn’t expect anything.

I don’t know what to say. I don’t have anything for her. Not a thing. What’s wrong with me? I’m the worst boyfriend ever, the boyfriend that stole Christmas.

I think she’ll get upset, but she doesn’t. She says all she wants is an umbrella. A heart shaped one. So the wet snow doesn’t fall on her. And she goes over to the computer so I can buy the gift online. The Internet, like Ernest, has saved Christmas.

charlie twoOnce, as a young man, I thought that I understood and could relate to the tree Charlie Brown buys in his Christmas special. You know, the little goofy one that helped teach Charlie the true meaning of Christmas. Over the years, I relate to it on a deeper level. Every holiday, it seems like the Charlie Brown Tree gets more and more important.

“I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.” – Linus

No rings, that’s fine. There really is no Kim Jong-Santa, so we’ll make do with what we can. We’ve got the snow outside and eleven hours of cartoon specials. A heart shaped umbrella is on its way. And we’ve got another day to spend together, so we’re pretty lucky.

That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown tells me. Being able to find someone who needs you, just like he found that little tree.

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Monday Night Snow Fall

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snow 2I’m meeting Y, my girlfriend, in the subway station at 6:45. It’ll be the first time I leave the apartment today. Y broke the door off the cabinet last night and I was supposed to fix it. I couldn’t. I figure I’ll say it’s because there’s a screw missing. Find that screw, and I’ll have the door back on no problemo. Two minutes, tops. Yeah, the screw is my scapegoat, and I’m thankful for it. I know that Y will see right through this, but I figure I’ll say it anyways. I must have some sort of excuse. It’s expected of me.

When she comes out of the subway station, I’m waiting for her. She looks lovely. Outside, Seoul has gone cold, winter jacket mean. Y’s face is reactive; she turns it away from the wind and scowls. I haven’t had my hair cut since September and we walk to a barber shop. There’s a spinning barber’s pole outside the place, pink and yellow, cartoon girls with big eyes going round and round. The lady inside sits me down and asks Y what she’s supposed to do to me. Y tells her something in Korean, relaxing in the seat next to me, and soon there’s hair falling from my head. I hate getting my hair cut, having to look at myself in the mirror, practically forced to, my heinous image inescapable; when it’s mercifully over, the lady asks me if it’s okay, and I, in turn, ask Y.

Afterwards, Y takes me to a restaurant where she orders us Canadian eel. We put the long, thin eels, dressed in red spices, onto a grill and cut them to shreds with scissors. The meat is chewy. Y’s ponytail has come undone; it’s losing its sense of order, a long strand of hair going down the side of her face. She’s got a yellow shirt on and a necklace with big white plastic pearls. I don’t think she’s ever looked more beautiful. We eat the eel with mint leaves and garlic cloves. I tell her she looks beautiful and she laughs.

Which, while not the intended response, is okay, since it emphasizes my point.

On the way back, it starts to snow. This is the first snow either of us has seen this year. Sure, it’s freezing cold and dark outside, but that’s all background noise. I feel so proud walking next to Y. I want to kiss her. It’s only a short walk home, and the snow falls softly down on her black hair.

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Strawberry Yogurt: A Peek Into the Dark Minds of Women

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The Strawberry Yogurt Incident, as I like to think of it, occurred on a lazy Sunday night, not unlike last night. Not unlike it at all, actually, as it, in fact, was last night. But let’s not get bogged down in details. My girlfriend was studying for her upcoming IT exam and I was busy trying to write a short story for a fantasy-and-myth based website. My story was not coming along well at all – it amounted to some gibberish about a rogue knight, narrated by a talking fox – and I was feeling frustrated. The sun was down and, unlike the fox in my crappy story, neither of us were saying much of anything. Until 8:00 struck, and then my girlfriend had a sudden craving.

“Do you want ice cream?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I said, looking up from my Word document. “Sure.”

“Ok. Let’s go out and get some.”

“Oh, in that case, no, I’m fine. I thought you had ice cream here.”

I should point out that I’m currently staying rent free at my girlfriend’s apartment, as I have no place of my own. I should also point out that I hadn’t left the apartment all weekend and, to emphasize my laziness, I hadn’t even put on pants.

“I’m craving something sweet,” she said, still reading her downloaded IT handbook. “I want strawberry yogurt.”

“Ok,” I said, knowing what she was getting at and avoiding it. “Why don’t you go down to the corner store and get some?”

“No, that’s okay,” she said. About a minute later she was repeating, “I would really like some strawberry yogurt” for the third or fourth time.

“Are you saying you want me to get it for you?”

“Yes.”

Sometimes, a man has to ask himself, “Do I really want to put on pants?” As much as I wanted a happy girlfriend, I just couldn’t bring myself to get up.

“Honey,” I said, “I’m really busy with this talking fox story. You don’t need the yogurt. Besides, you’ve been talking about trying to lose weight all week.”

This, I felt, was a smart tactic. No, baby, it’s not that I don’t want to go to the store and get your yogurt…it’s just that eating strawberry yogurt at 8:30 at night might not be good for your metabolism and I want what’s BEST for you!

Of course, my girlfriend is a tiny Asian woman, so both of us knew a little yogurt was not going to blow her up to non-Asian-girl proportions.

“If you cared about me,” she said, “you would go down and get me the yogurt.” While this sounds demanding, I should point out that she’d bought and cooked me meals all weekend, aiding in my ability to live a freewheeling boxers-and-t-shirt lifestyle. So perhaps I owed her a bit.

“Sweetheart, I’m sorry…I’m working on something right now,” I said, trying to decide if the fox should speak in modern slang or not. Ten minutes later, the girlfriend started talking to her friend on Instant Messenger. “Who are you talking to?” I asked.

“My friend,” she said. “She says you suck.”

I could see what was happening. My refusal to go get the strawberry yogurt was turning me into a terrible boyfriend, the kind of guy girls bitch about on IM. In addition, I was struck by the fact that she was so angry about the yogurt, she had to find a friend to hate on me with RIGHT THEN. It couldn’t wait. This wasn’t like What’s Love Got To Do With It, where Tina Turner endured Ike for years before putting her foot down. No, my girlfriend didn’t get her yogurt, and she was ready to seek action now.

And her course of action was making me look bad in front of her friend which, truth be told, was a very effective strategy.

On went the pants, the hair was combed, the jacket went on, the IPod was picked up (blasted Beatles For Sale, repeating track number two, I’m a Loser), and the talking fox was put on hold. I went down and bought the yogurt, and five minutes later I was back. I placed the yogurt and a spoon in front of her and waited.

The yogurt just sat there while she kept talking to her friend. A little while later, she took the yogurt and put it in the fridge.

“What the hell?” I stammered. “Aren’t you going to eat the yogurt?”

“No,” she said, shaking her head. “I’ll eat it tomorrow.”

This was insanity. It would be like me asking her to cook me a cheeseburger and then choosing not to eat it. Or having her pour me a beer, only to ignore it like it was a cup of V8.

“If you’re not going to eat the yogurt, why did you want me to buy it so badly?”

“Because I want you to show me that you love me.”

So, there you have it. Sometimes a strawberry yogurt isn’t just a strawberry yogurt. Perhaps, I got to thinking, this is a difference between how men and women see things. I am a man, and I see nothing but a small container of yogurt (which sits in the fridge as we speak, daring me to eat it myself). She, on the other hand, sees a symbol. That yogurt, to her, represents everything that makes a relationship work – selflessness, willingness to put work in, care, wanting to please the person you’re with – and for her, eating it is far less important than having it.

Everything said and done, I’m happy with how things turned out. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, there are other symbols of love that women sometimes ask for that are much, much more frightening than yogurt.

*

White Guys: I Hate Them

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Any time a person intellectually analyzes his or her viewpoint on something, it’s important to consider how that opinion would change if he or she was on the other side of the fence. For instance, I support taxing the hell out of the rich (in fact, I support basically just taking all of their money). What if I was rich? Wouldn’t that change my stance? Maybe then I would support tax cuts for the wealthy and making up the difference by crushing the middle class, or, as it’s sometimes called, “the way things are.” Likewise, I personally don’t support The Patriot Act. But what if I was on the other side of the fence, and I was a federal agent with lots of time on my hands and I had a genuine interest in good, juicy gossip? Then I would probably love The Patriot Act. It would be like having an endless supply of melodrama right at your fingertips. Who needs VH1 reality TV shows when you can listen in on real conversations people are having? Now that’s entertainment! Oh, and it helps fight terrorism too.

Lately, I’ve been trying to decide how exactly I feel about white guys. Do I like them or not? What’s my stance? In large part, this has been brought on by the negative attention white guys have been getting in the Korean media. Last month, MBC ran a story about interracial dating in which white guys were portrayed as being sex crazed, AIDS ridden, selfish children out to sap Korean women out of their money and their dignity. More recently, a Korean newspaper called ‘Nocut News’ ran two stories about white guys and their continued efforts to bed helpless Asian women. One story uses the phrase ‘white hunters’ to describe foreign men who try to pick up Korean women at clubs. The other story is about websites white guys have made that offer tips on picking up K girls, who are obviously the victims here and not at all capable choosing on their own volition to go out with a white guy/con artist (note: this sentence contained sarcasm). It is clear the Korean media hates white guys, and for good reason. How, though, do I feel about them?

Of course, this is a difficult question for me, as I am a white guy myself. It would be easy for me to stand firmly with my brethren and deride the media attacks as xenophobic, offensive, and ignorant. That would likely have been my stance several months ago. However, things are a lot different now. Despite what my skin pigmentation urges me to believe, I find my viewpoint shifting to the other side of the fence, and it’s all because I have a Korean girlfriend.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that I should be more offended by the news reports, as I am clearly a sensitive soul looking for love and not by any means a ‘white hunter.’ (On a side note, I would urge Nocut News to create a better phrase, as ‘white hunter’ sounds like somebody running around killing white people {which I support}). Yes, I guess I should feel angry at being lumped in with the stereotype. There’s a bigger problem, though, and it dwarves these media stories in the same way current Kirstie Alley dwarves Cheers Kirstie Alley. And the problem is that white guys keep hittin’ on my girlfriend, man, and it’s not cool!

I wish there was some sort of white guy repellent, some version of “OFF” that I can spray on my girlfriend to keep the white guys away from her. Unfortunately, the fact is that nothing can stop a white man. Sure, she’ll tell them that she has a boyfriend, but that phrase doesn’t seem to register. Put a ring on her? It won’t matter – white guys see that as a challenge. Impregnate her? It’ll bring out their kinky side. The white man takes what he wants. Look at how he did the Native Americans. He stole their land and then humiliated them with a bunch of ridiculous sports mascots.

I can see the white man doing the same thing to me. In a few years, there could be a new baseball team called the Cleveland Pregnant Korean Girlfriends.

Those bastards.

Seriously, though, it does make me angry. This past weekend, a white guy approached my girlfriend at the bus station and told her that if she helped him find his hotel, he’d buy her a drink. What a deal. Who could say no? On my birthday, we got in a bit of a fight because some white guy kept sending my girlfriend text messages after midnight wanting her to meet up with him.

“He’s a friend,” she said.

“No,” I responded. “He’s a white guy. He does not understand friendly intentions.”

And that’s the thing: although they’re hyperbolic, to some degree, the Korean news reports are, well, kind of true. We are on the hunt for Korean girls. I’m settled now, but at one time, I suppose I was a ‘white hunter’ too…just an incompetent one. I remember talking to a girl in a bar. To try and create conversation, I asked her to teach me a curse word in Korean. She taught me some phrase and I repeated it.

“What does it mean?” I asked.

“It means, ‘I will cut your penis,” she said. I wondered if it was supposed to be a warning.

“I will cut your penis? I’m going to forget this phrase as quickly as possible.”

At the time, the phrase seemed nutso. I’ve changed my mind, though. Maybe I should make things come full circle by using that phrase on the white guys who hit on my girlfriend. If that phrase doesn’t scare them away, nothing will. I can picture myself shouting it at some white guy in the bar.

“What’s up, bro? You talkin’ to my woman? Say that shit now. I’m standing right here, what the fuck you sayin? Yeah, bitch, I’m talking to you!”

“You got a fuckin’ problem?” white guy says.

“Yeah I got a fuckin’ problem! Step up, motherfucker, and I will fuck you up! I will work you dog! I WILL CUT YOUR PENIS, WHITE MAN!”

“What?”

“Did I st-st-stutter, motherfucker!?! You heard me! I will cut your penis! I will wait for you to use the washroom, and then I will run up in that motherfucker with a piece of loose leaf motherfuckin’ paper and cut your penis! Don’t fuck with me! I got time, you gotta piss at some point, and I got a whole pack of motherfuckin’ paper, white boy! No high five for you!”

Life is hard. I guess the most important thing is that I trust my girlfriend and I know she’d never do anything. That’s part of what makes our relationship so strong. I trust her to fend off the white hunters. It’s vital. Without trust, I would be a nervous wreck all the time. Not just from white guys, either. From what I’m told, horny men come in a whole variety of other races, too.

*

You Abandoned Me with a Cockroach: A Love Story

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It was 7:30 one Thursday morning and I was sound asleep, curled up like a potato bug in my girlfriend’s pink and purple bed.  I can’t say with much accuracy exactly what I was dreaming of, although, given my dream history, it probably involved either playing with a big bunny or losing my teeth.  In other words, my attention was fully absorbed in something exciting.  I’d gone to bed at 1:00 the night before, and my alarm was set accordingly, programmed for 9:00 so that I would be getting the standard 8 hours of sleep that every human must have.  That’s a requirement.  Go under that number and you will be exhausted; go over it and you will officially be a lazy bum.

Suddenly, a harsh, loud, pounding noise pulled me from my rest.  It was my girlfriend, slamming on something by the kitchen sink.  My head hurt and my vision was blurry.  I longed to go back to losing my teeth.

“What the heck are you doing?” I asked.

Delicious Coconut: Toolkit Required

“I’m opening this coconut,” she said.  She had a coconut in one hand and was banging on it with a giant hammer like she was John Henry workin’ on the railroad track.

“What?” I moaned.

“I want to drink the coconut water,” she said, and proceeded to keep whacking away at the thing.  I briefly entertained the thought of going back to sleep.  The coconut had no quit, though.  As opposed to helping my cause by just plain breaking open, the stubborn thing refused to yield, remaining as impenetrable as a bank vault, and so I gave up and dragged myself out of bed.

Sleep is an important part of my life.  I do it every day and often look forward to it. Being in a relationship is also important, although it sometimes makes sleeping a lot harder.  Since I’m happy in my relationship, I try to accept not getting enough sleep or being woken up.  Sure, it’s a little annoying, but it’s more imperative to be a good boyfriend.  I try.  I’m generally supportive, spend lots of quality time with my girl, and often tell her that she’s beautiful.  Too often in today’s society, women feel that men only want them for their personalities – I like to remind my girlfriend that I also love her for her physical appearance.

What I’m getting at is this: If one had to choose but one thing, would one choose love or sleep?  It’s not a very interesting question, as this is typically not a decision a person must make.  There are times, though, when it’s as paramount as anything.  In the instance of the coconut, I suppose I could’ve gotten grumpy and told her to be quiet.  I didn’t want to be that guy, though, and so I chose instead to let it go.  I chose love over sleep.  Also, I don’t want my girlfriend to feel controlled or inhibited in any way.  If she wants to smash open coconuts with a sledgehammer at 7:30 in the morning, she has the right to make that decision.  Just as I have the right to purchase coconut water in a can and present it to her shortly before throwing her hammer in the Han River.

On another occasion, though, I had a bit more difficulty dealing with the love/sleep dilemma.  It was on a weeknight, and I was stressed because I had an especially hard day ahead of me at work.  My girlfriend, as she always is, was impeccably sweet and comforting.  Around 1:00, I decided to call it a night and shut my eyes.  Two hours later, I was woken by the blaring sound of my girlfriend’s security system.

I would feel so embarrassed trying to describe the Korean thief to a sketch artist.

“Baby?!” I hollered, shooting up in bed.  The door slammed.  The security alarm was still going off.  My girlfriend was not in the bed with me.  The room was dark and my head started spinning.  What the hell was going on?  I wondered if I was going to have to fight somebody, and tried to remember where the giant hammer was kept.  Just then, the door re-opened, with my girlfriend standing in its outline like I was looking at a photograph of her in a picture frame.  She typed in a few numbers and the alarm went off.

“Sorry,” she said.  She was fully dressed.  “I have to go to the store.”

“The store?  Now?”  I looked at my phone.  It was 3:15 in the morning.

“I saw a cockroach in the bathroom,” she said.  “I can’t sleep.  I have to go get repellent.”

No one has the right to be afraid of cockroaches until after they’ve seen that last segment of Creepshow.

My girlfriend’s apartment is nice and clean, and she likes it that way.  The presence of a cockroach was too much to stand.  It had to die, and it had to die now.

“Can’t this wait until later?” I begged.  “I really need to sleep.”

“No,” she said.  “I can’t stay in here with the cockroach.”

“Maybe it’s friendly,” I said.  “You really have to go now?”  She nodded.  “Well, I won’t be able to sleep with you awake and fighting bugs.  I’m going to walk back to my place, then.”

I can’t explain precisely how my mind was working.  It was very decisive, sort of like a dog’s.  When a dog’s owner throws a stick and tells him to fetch, he either goes or he doesn’t.  A dog never stops to ponder, thinking about his owner and asking himself, “If I don’t go fetch, how will that make him feel?”  All I wanted was to sleep, and so I put on my clothes and left.  I split.  I chose sleep.

My girlfriend sent me a text message the next morning.  It said, “I can’t believe you abandoned me with a cockroach.”

All made up.

Yes, yes I did.  It’s one thing to abandon your girlfriend; leaving her alone with an insect makes it worse.  If it wasn’t for sleep, I feel none of this would’ve happened.  That’s my defense.  Luckily, we were able to work out the abandonment incident and I was able to return to her apartment, which is now equipped with a cockroach patch.

This morning, I was again yanked from sleep by a loud sound.  In the alley in front of my girlfriend’s place, people walk around with wheelbarrows, picking up recyclables that they can sell.  Today I was woken by the grating screech of someone’s wheelbarrow tires; it was as though he was barreling along and a cat or a small child ran in front of his wheelbarrow and he had to slam on the brakes to avoid vehicular homicide.  My eyes snapped open, my brain confused.  But there was my girlfriend, with her head tucked up against my chest.  My arms were around her shoulders and hers were around my waist.  Our legs were intertwined.  The wheelbarrow also woke her up, and her sleepy eyes looked up and met mine.  It was, really, the most beautiful way to start a day.  The morning sun came in through the window and everything was quiet again.

*

There are Harder Things In Life Than Breaking Up. Telling the Other Person, For Instance.

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In all of mankind’s glorious inventions, whoever came up with the idea of taking turns deserves a special place in history for being particularly brilliant.  I imagine a conversation, somewhere around the beginning of time, between two Cro-Magnon men, that must’ve gone something like this:

“Okay, tonight I’ll sleep in the cave and you sleep outside.  Then tomorrow, I’ll sleep in the cave.  Then the next day, I’ll sleep in the cave again.”

“Hmm, when do I get to sleep in the cave?”

“Oh snap.  I didn’t think about that.”

“Hear me out.  How about tonight you sleep in the cave, and then tomorrow, I sleep in the cave.”

“What about the third night?”

“I have no idea.  Do you want to eat a fish?”

The genesis of taking turns must’ve gone something like that.  Now, eons later, taking turns is still all the rage, just like fire, the wheel, and sleeping in the cave (if you are a bear).  The modern dating ritual largely incorporates this older theory of turn taking.  If I buy you dinner, then you get the coffee afterwards.  If on Tuesday I go to your side of town, then on Thursday, you come to mine.  If you do something nice and clean my apartment, I’ll do something nice and sleep with your friend.  Things like that.

Likewise, sending text messages is all about turn taking.  I message you, you message me.  Say I message you four times before you respond, then I’m a weirdo and you’re frightened.  Or, if I message you and you don’t respond, I lay off sending another message, getting the idea that you aren’t interested in further communication and you are probably at a magic show (that’s an in-joke).

So, two or three weeks ago, I finally met a decent girl on the dating website.  We went out a few times and it occurred to me that I liked her and I wanted to see her more often.  At the same time, and in lieu of my disastrous last pseudo-relationship that ended with heartbreak and a pathetic attempt at a bar fight, I wanted to keep my options open.  The last thing I wanted was to get attached to someone and end up getting hurt again.  I continued to talk to women online and, even though I was texting and hanging out with the one girl, made plans to meet up with another.  This was supposed to be healthy for me.  Kind of like how you send out your resume to a bunch of jobs, despite the fact that there’s one you have your heart set on.  Because that job might not work out, and obviously it’s better to work the night shift at Target than have no girlfriend at all.

I ended up going out with Girl Two twice and, to be honest, she was pretty cool as well.  I still preferred Girl One, but Girl Two was definitely no Target.  Last weekend, I had plans to hang out with Girl One.  Pay close attention – this gets complicated.  Still following the ‘keep your options open’ philosophy, I tried to make plans with Girl Two also.  In fact, I did make plans with Girl Two.  Then Girl One changed our weekend plans a little bit, (unknowingly) creating a situation where I had two overlapping dates.  I found that rather thoughtless of her.  Understand, though, that I’m just not that kind of a guy.  This situation was no fun at all, and I felt stressed out by it.  I decided that I’d have to get rid of Girl Two, which shouldn’t have been that big of a deal since we only hung out twice and never even kissed.

Now came the hard part – ending things.  It’s hard enough breaking up with someone; ending things when there’s no real relationship there to begin with is even more uncomfortable.  As with most things, I started by trying to weasel my way out.  I sent a text saying I ‘might be’ busy the next day.  Her response?  She sent back kind of a snippy text that said, “Fine, if you have plans, just forget it.”  She didn’t sound pleased.  I waited until the next day and then sent another text that simply said, “Yeah, sorry, going to have to cancel for tonight.  Have a great Saturday. : )”

Yes, that’s right.  Have a great Saturday.  I mean, I don’t want to fuck up anybody’s weekend.

There was absolutely no reply to this, which clearly (I think) meant she was pissed.  That was five days ago.  We’ve had no contact since.  In the meantime, I saw Girl One a bunch of times, and we had a talk and decided to give a dating relationship a try.

Here’s the question I’m asking: I’m out with Girl Two, right?  I mean, it’s her turn to text, and since she hasn’t done so…that’s it, I think.  I don’t have to send a message saying that I met someone else or anything like that, do I?  I sent the last text…so, end of story, right?  I repeat – it’s HER turn.  Not my turn.  Deal done, correct?

Maybe not the classiest way to handle things, true, but what’s a guy to do?  Taking turns is important in a relationship, especially one where both people are treated equally.  So, by extension, the next date will be with Girl One, and, after that, it will be her turn again.  That’s only fair.

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The Politics of Sleeping with Someone (Without Sleeping with Someone)

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I have this one friend – let’s call him Ron – who refuses to sleep in the same bed with a girl after he’s had sex with her.  To me it sounds hilariously awkward, the sex over and Ron sliding out of bed to go sleep on the couch, leaving the girl alone and, in my imagination, ashamed and confused.  Ron believes that if two people sleep in the same bed together, that implies a level of feeling and intimacy that he isn’t comfortable with.  He’ll sleep in the same bed as his girlfriend, when he has one, but never with someone he’s only casually interested.  Sure, it might be a mixed message, considering he’s just humped the daylights out of the girl.  Ron doesn’t see it that way.  There’s a fine line between sex and love, just as there’s a very distinct difference between a dirty movie and a real one.  To blur the two can be baffling – imagine how odd it would be if there was a long dating montage set to “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love” by the Spinners, right in the middle of a porno.

There is also a fine line between friendship and courtship, which is what the topic of today’s blog is.  If ever the situation arises when you and your OGF (Opposite Gender Friend) are going to sleep in the same place, and there’s only one bed, what is the best, most civil, most appropriate, way to go about it?

Last September I moved from Incheon to Seoul; it’s sort of like going from New Jersey to New York City.  Most of my friends, though, are back in Incheon, and so I find myself making the trek back on weekends to hang out.  This creates a problem, because after the subway closes at 12:30, I don’t really have any way to get home (I’m too cheap to spend the money on a cab back).  So, for the last six months, I’ve either hung out in the bar until the subway opens back up (5:30 AM) or I’ve crashed at a friend’s place.  The situation gets further complicated, though, since most of my pals are OGFs.  Usually, they’re quick to draw a line in the sand:

“You can come crash at my apartment,” an OGF will say, “but you’ll have to sleep on the floor.  Sorry.”

That rule is typically set in stone.  There is no sleeping in the same bed as your OGF.  On one hand, it makes sense.  Let’s take C-Batz for example.  She and I are friends.  Why would we sleep in a bed together?  I wouldn’t sleep in a bed together with Perkins or Toronto or one of my other male friends.  So why would I sleep in a bed with a female friend?  Just because it’s a girl?  To C-Batz (or pretty much any OGF), the key to the scenario is the “friend” designation, and friends don’t sleep in a bed together.

I, of course, take exception to this a little.  It seems to me that, unlike guys, girls will sleep in the same bed together and seem to enjoy it and find it fun.  It’s nonsexual and safe.  They’ll also sleep in the bed with a gay dude and cuddle him up like he’s a big teddy bear.  Why then, is sleeping in a bed with a straight male friend completely out of the question?  Is there a fear that I’ll lose control, that being around a woman will involuntarily cause sexual arousal and I’ll pounce, like a horny meerkat, on my poor unsuspecting OGF, who will have to fight me off with the nunchucks she keeps at her bedside?

In truth, that could happen.  Cause really I don’t trust myself all that much.  That’s beside the point, though.

All of this comes into question because a few days ago I reacted badly when trying to have a sleepover with my OGF, Special K.  We had gone out drinking with friends and I had gotten obscenely drunk (what’s new?).  Special K offered to let me crash at her place, which was nice, and I should’ve been grateful.  Instead, I acted like a big baby.  We got to her apartment and she instructed me that we’d be sleeping in the bed head-to-toe, meaning I would have my head on one side of the bed and she’d be sleeping with her head on the other.  Fair enough?  Nah, not at the time.

See, to me, one of the advantages of having an OGF is that, you know, she is a girl.  I felt cuddly on the night in question, like I needed a hug.  What would be the harm in cuddlin’ up with Special K?  It wouldn’t be sexual.  It would be friendly, like when Michael Jackson was sleeping in the bed with all those little boys.

Special K was having none of it.  She got out of the bed and onto the floor.  “What?” I thought, offended.  “Am I a leper?  Am I not cuddle-worthy?  DO I DISGUST YOU?”  I felt like the Elephant Man (who might’ve also had his bones cuddled by Michael Jackson), and so I chose to leave.  I booked it out of there and staggered my way to a motel.

Of course I was wrong and out-of-line, but still I feel that this is an issue that needs to be questioned.  Is it possible that a woman, or a man, has to have some sort of romantic interest in a person in order to sleep in the same bed with him/her?  Is Ron right?  Does sleeping next to a person really cross a boundary that shouldn’t be crossed?

Maybe I just need to find more male friends.  With my luck, I’d go to crash at some big Irish guy’s place, and he’d demand that we spoon.  Eh, whatever.  I call little spoon!

*

Who’s Jeff? Oh That’s Right – I’m Jeff!

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Maybe I’m romantic about everything, but online dating reminds me of a Jane Austen book.  It’s all about sending and receiving letters and trying to interpret them, although today we’re more cynical, so none of the email exchanges remotely resemble the type of love letters Wentworth sent to Anne Elliot in Persuasion.  It’s more like dipping your toe in the water to see how hot or cold or desperate it is.  You ask the person about their job, what they like to do, where they are in the profile pic – it’s all very hesitant.  In reality there are so many more pressing things to ask about.  Like if the person has somebody tied up in the basement, or if that profile pic was taken 10 years and 30 pounds ago, or, really, if that person is ever going to take the plunge into the pool and agree to meet up with you.

Or maybe that’s just me and I’m doing everything wrong.  One time I asked a friend what he said in messages he’d send to women on his online dating site.  He thought for a minute and said, “Hmm…I usually say something about the profile and small talk.  But sometimes I go for it and say ‘You’re fucking hot.  I want to meet up with you this weekend.’”  Apparently both had similar success rates.  I would never be able to say anything so forward.  I was brought up with old fashioned values.  I’m the type of guy who likes to ask a father’s permission before I email his daughter a picture of my penis.  That’s the kind of respect I have for people.  When I purchase prostitutes, I demand we go out for dinner and a movie first.  I treat my ladies right.  And trust me, nothing gets a hooker in the mood like Denny’s and a little Nora Ephron.

Anyways, I digress.  The online thing is going okay.  I’ve had a couple dates with one woman, and they’ve gone pretty well (Can they be called ‘dates’?  She might disagree.  For a compromise, how about I call them ‘dates’ and she can call them something else.).  Nothing serious of course, no expectations.  Keeping my options open.  Got a few other blossoming relationships going that are still in the email stage.  I have to say, with the whole online thing, my comprehension of the ‘base system’ is all out of whack; I used to think a kiss was first base, but now, to me, getting to first base means she’s accepted my request on Skype.

Second base?  Switching from chat to a video call.

Online dating also allows a person to have some fun situations that otherwise probably wouldn’t happen.  For instance, there’s one girl that’s been interested enough to reply to my messages quite a few times.  I shot her a message on Sunday, just asking her how her weekend was.  She replied with this: “Good, thanks!  How are you, Jeff?”

Jeff?  Who the fuck is Jeff?  Had she seriously confused me with some other dude?  At first I was a bit taken aback, having been called some other guy’s name.  How should I respond?  I figured it would be awkward to correct her or even point out her slip up.  Maybe the best thing would be to send a normal reply and say something subtle to quietly point out the mistake.  “My weekend was great.  Sincerely, Not Jeff.”

Then, after a few minutes of deliberation, I decided to go with this: “Hey.  My weekend was pretty good.  Hung out with friends.  If you have the time this week, would you like to meet up for coffee?”

That’s right – I went a whole different route with it.  I figured that maybe this Jeff guy is doing a lot better than I am, and I could use the confusion to my advantage.  I mean, if she said ‘no,’ really she meant to reject Jeff, so there would be no need to feel bad about it.  And if she accepted…well, I could play along and pretend I’m Jeff.  I have no problem with that.

“Oh Jeff!” she’d say.  “I loved your profile.  You’re such an interesting person!”

“Yeah!  Don’t I know it!  But let’s not talk about any of that interesting personal stuff.  Do you like kim bap?”

So things are going well.  Even if I’m not getting anywhere with the ladies, at least I’m honing my letter writing skills.  Like I’m Mr. Darcy.  Mr. Jeff Darcy.  Actually, I’ve never read anything by Jane Austen.  I’ve only seen the movie version of Sense and Sensibility once.  I liked it, but the hooker was a little bored.

*

It’s Magic – Poof! No Date!

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Ever since his “Street Magic” special, I’ve wanted really badly to be David Blaine.  He’s a cool cat.  When I say I want to ‘be him,’ I don’t just mean that I want to do cool magic tricks.  Oh no.  I also want to look like him and speak in a monotone.  I want the whole Blaine package.  He’s got this cool mystic thing going on that I admire.  And he’s practical.  He doesn’t saw women in half or make the Statue of Liberty disappear.  He bites quarters and does card tricks and hangs out with Leo DiCaprio.  I appreciate those things.  So do women.

I don’t have any pictures of me trapped in a big block of ice or buried alive; if I did I would’ve used one for my profile picture on the dating site I just signed up for.  As is, I didn’t know what to use for my profile pic.  After deliberating for a few seconds, I decided to go with a photo of me and a donkey (you can see it yourself if you scroll back a few posts!).  It’s not a great picture, but I didn’t have anything better.  I hoped no one would mistake the donkey for an ex-girlfriend, although, truth be told, some of the girls I’ve been with in the past make the donkey look like Megan Fox.  Anyways, I browsed the singles in my area and sent out a few messages.  One was to “May,” who stood out from the rest.  This one fit all my dating criteria.  In other words, she wasn’t overweight.

To my shock, May sent a message back.  “Hi Don Quixote,” it said.  “You look like a devious little boy in your picture.  I love a donkey.”

She loves a donkey?!?  I couldn’t believe it.  Could the donkey picture be just the thing my love life needed?  May and I exchanged a few messages and then she sent me her phone number.  She said she wanted to meet up for coffee.  I was pumped.  And not because I love coffee.

The next day was Valentine’s Day but I texted anyways.  She said she was at work and to contact her later, which I did.  I felt good, confident.  I waited for a reply.  A good amount of time passed.  Suddenly, it was after ten o’clock at night and I still hadn’t heard back.  Finally I got a response:  “I am watching magic show.  My phone is out of battery.”

It was a perplexing message.  A magic show?  What was she doing at a magic show?  Who was she with?  I had the feeling that it had to be a date.  I mean, a person doesn’t go to a magic show alone on Valentine’s Day.  I pictured May and some loser holding hands and feigning happiness while the magician did his thing.  The next day I texted her again.  She didn’t reply.

“Is this a Korean girl thing?” I asked C-Batz.  “Should I send another text?  I think she’s seeing someone.”

“You’re so fucking weird and paranoid,” C-Batz said.  “She went to a magic show.  What the fuck?  Chill out.  It doesn’t mean she’s dating someone.  What if you do meet up with her eventually?  Are you going to get all jealous and start asking her about all the magic shows she’s been to in her life?”

Maybe I would.  Maybe I would get flustered and upset if she ever brought up the topic of magic.  “Listen,” I’d say.  “I know it’s your past, but it still hurts to hear about it.”  Or perhaps I’d start getting suspicious and I’d go through her purse, looking for evidence of infidelity.  “Hey, I found this in your purse.  I think I deserve an explanation.”  And there I’d be,  standing in the bedroom doorway, holding something damning, like a deck of cards or a rabbit.

Romance is a bit like magic.  You have to kind of go with the flow, and they lose their appeal if you start picking away at everything.  Thinking too much about either sort of spoils things.

I guess I’ll try texting one more time and then give up.  If I don’t hear back I’ll assume, logically, that she was stolen away by David Blaine.  Or a guy with a better donkey.

*

If Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number, Go Date an Eighty Year Old

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Sometime in the ‘80s, the hair metal band Winger had a hit with a song called ’17.’  In the song, Kip Winger, the dashing vocalist for whom the band was named, meets a teenage girl and, after questioning the ethics for a verse or so, engages in a passionate relationship with her.  It’s a song about how love and Kip Winger’s horniness know no bounds, and cannot be tamed by silly things like laws or morals.  Back in the ‘80s, when Kip was young, it was acceptable for him to sing about sleeping with a 17-year-old.  People didn’t really have a problem with it.  However, when I saw Winger in concert about five years ago and a bloated, 40-year-old Kip Winger belted out his affection for the 17-year-old, suddenly things didn’t seem so kosher.  Hearing the song from the modern incarnation of Winger and watching the crowd of middle aged men pumping their fists and singing along…it was more than a little creepy.

I wish I had a time machine, so I could go back to the ‘80s and consult Kip when he was writing the song:  “You have to think long term, Kip.  How about tweaking these lyrics a bit.  Maybe, instead of seventeen, you can say ‘she’s only seventy.’  Then the song will become more acceptable as you and your fan base get older.  Really, it’s better to be laughed at now and applauded later than the other way around.  Think about the future of Winger, Kip!”

But enough about Winger.  Let’s talk about me.

On Christmas Eve, I met a girl at a club and we exchanged numbers.  Later, I asked her out on a date via text message (if she didn’t respond, it obviously would’ve mean something terrible happened and she had died).  As luck would have it, she was alive and said yes.  Things were peachy.  But since the nightclub was dark and I was a little intoxicated at the time, it was hard to say with much accuracy what she looked like.  Nor did I remember anything about her, other than that she was Korean and worked at a language exchange program.  Other than that, she could’ve been Kim Jong Un in drag for all I knew.

I texted again and asked her what time would be good.  She responded with: “Six o’clock will be good.  My classes at University will be done then.”

“University?” I thought, beginning to feel a bit queasy.  How old was this girl?  Seeing that she was still in college, she had to be about 21.  I sighed.  In my head, I considered the age difference.  It was pretty tough to deny its significance.  “Wow,” I said to myself.  “When I was a teenager, she wasn’t having her first period, she was writing her first period.”

Still, I would go through with the date.  There I stood in Bupyeong Station, waiting for her.  She texted me and said she’d be late – not just a little late, mind you, but an hour and a half late.  I walked around, trying to fill the time.  At a store in the underground shopping mall, I bought a pink ear hoodie for my little niece.  I wandered around.  By the turnstiles, I ran into Mike (of Stupid Ugly Foreigner).

“I’m waiting for a couple North Koreans,” he said.  “I’m giving them English lessons.  What are you doing here?”

His was a good, morally strong reason to be there.  He was giving free English lessons to two people who had fled the North.  I lowered my head and spoke honestly, “I have a date with a college girl.”

“Does she know how old you are?” he asked.  I glared at him.

Truth be told, I have never, in my life, dated someone my own age or older than me.  They’ve always been younger.  The last three women I’ve spent time with here in Korea have all been under 24.  It’s not that I specifically want younger women…that’s just sort of how things work out.  Recently, though, after my pseudo-relationship-from-hell that ended in August (she was 23), I’ve started to believe that age really does matter and that things have been working out so poorly because I’m trying to connect with women who at such a different place in their lives than I am.  Yeah, we have fun and get along great, but there’s not a whole lot we have in common.  For example, it would be nice to date a girl who could relate to the pain and frustration one feels when the VHS tape unwinds inside the VCR halfway through the movie.

Finally my date arrived.  The first thing that struck me was that she had braces.  I started feeling guilty and hoping we wouldn’t run into anyone I knew.  The braces were such a symbol of youth, I felt really sleazy  – it would be like setting up a date with an older person and having her show up using a walker.  I had planned on having dinner and then going out for coffee.  I asked her where she wanted to go.

“Let’s go to bar,” she said.

“Um, ok,” I said.  “Do you want dinner?  Are you hungry?”

“Yes,” she said, “we will eat French fry.  And drink beer.”

That’s exactly what we ended up doing.  We sat in a bar, ate French fries for dinner, and drank a pitcher of beer.  She was very nice and friendly; it turned out she attended one of the best schools in Korea (Seoul National) and was studying biochemistry.  Dipping a fry in ketchup, she asked me how old I am.

“I’m an old man,” I said.  “I’m 33.”

“33!” she shouted.  “Very old!”  She took her hands and covered her face like she was embarrassed or going to cry.

“Yeah,” I said.  “I know.”

She put her hands back down.  “It is okay.”

“In Korean age I’m 34.”

“34!  33 is international age?”

“Yes,” I said.  I looked at the ear hoodie I’d gotten for my niece and wondered if my date could fit in it.  After we finished the fries and the beer we decided to call it a night.  I decided to meet up with C-Batz and some other friends instead of going home.  We drank and drank into the night, and by two in the morning I was alone in the bar, sitting on a bar stool and drinking whisky by myself.

“I don’t wanna be Kip Winger,” I slurred to myself.  Lighting a cigarette, I sent the girl a text.  I said she was very nice, but that the age difference was too much and it would be better not to have another date.

“I think so too,” she immediately texted back.  “Thanks for fun date.”

A great sense of relief came over me.  In a flash, I was so happy to be 33 and alone.  It felt good to finally say, for once, “I’m sorry but I’m too old.”

The subway had closed and I was stranded.  I got a room at a love motel by myself, and slept like a grandpa.

*