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.

*

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An Awkward Conversation with Leo

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All day long I’d been hearing about Dicey’s – not directly as I would have liked, but instead from a distance, from the next room or from someone who would assume that I’d (of course) heard about Dicey’s already, as seemingly everyone else on the planet had.

“Going to Dicey’s tonight?” a big German guy asked me when we found ourselves brushing our teeth next to each other. “Two Euro beers, I heard.”

“Yeah,” I said, bitter that this was the second or third time I’d been sort-of-invited by someone who was invited by someone else. Never by the organizer, whoever that mystery man was, that cool-ass mofo, emphasis on ‘fo’ as opposed to ‘friend.’ “I’ll probably go. Sounds fun.”

“What time are you going to head down?”

I had no idea. I brushed my gums so hard I spit out blood, angrily. I didn’t even know where Dicey’s was located. It was the place to be, decided by someone who knew where the hell it was and what time to go. Who did the tall German guy think he was talking to? He had mistaken me for being someone in the loop, a member of the in group, someone who gets the secret notes from the President that the inconsequential masses aren’t privy to. In other words, his level of judgment was completely off.

What was I supposed to do? Confess? Say, “Actually, nobody has directly invited me yet, and thus I have no idea what’s going on. Although I’d desperately like to be invited, so if you could pass that along, it would be appreciated.”

Of course not. I said I wasn’t sure what time everyone was going, spit out more blood, and changed topics by asking the guy lots and lots of questions about Germany, nodding to indicate that I was pretending to listen to the answers.

*

On the way down to Dicey’s, I met Leo and Rachel. Leo was from Germany (it’s a coincidence; don’t think everyone backpacking in Dublin is from Germany) (they’re actually all from Brazil and cook delicious pork dinners out on the hostel balcony) and Rachel was American. There was a whole group of people from our hostel walking down the dark streets in a quest for two-Euro-beers; I still hadn’t technically been invited, but due to the enormous number of people I was able to latch on without looking too suspicious. During this long march, I learned that Leo and Rachel were close friends and were traveling together. At this point, I should probably mention something about their looks. I’m sure that’s what you’ve been wondering (if you’re male, at least). Let’s start with Leo…it isn’t that she was bad looking – she wasn’t – she was just, well, very clearly inferior to her friend Rachel, who was ridiculously good looking. And that is what would lead to the trouble later on.

Poor Leo. I could relate. I’m the type of person that knows where he stands; that won’t talk to someone of the opposite sex if she’s too good looking; that has to believe in the notion of ‘types,’ as in maybe, by the luck of the Gods, some girl will be more interested in my messy ass than a guy who is traditionally attractive and has things like muscles and a strong jaw-line and more than two pairs of jeans (we sure rely on this notion of types heavily, don’t we?; “Well, I know I’m not Pet Sounds or Revolver or Songs in the Key of Life…but maybe this person is more into Floored by Sugar Ray”) (I can be Floored by Sugar Ray); when I make a male friend, I ask myself if, should the situation occur where we’re going for the same girl, there would be any chance that she would choose me (and, if I feel she would go with my friend, I secretly start looking at him with jealous animosity). So, although it didn’t dawn on me yet, I felt for Leo. It’s never much fun to be the lesser of two friends, the buddy in the cop movie, the Supreme that isn’t Diana Ross, the Golden Girl that isn’t Blanche (y’all know what I’m saying).

When we finally got to the bar, I found myself drinking with an Irish musician named Kiernan. As I believe I mentioned earlier, a beer cost two Euro, and a deal like that can only end in chain smoking and liver damage. The night wore on and, at some point after midnight, we looked over to see a very sad scene. There was Rachel in the midst of what appeared to be a brilliant conversation with some big muscle guy, and while this happened, poor Leo stood there by herself, her back turned towards them, watching the band, swaying oddly to the music as though she wanted to dance but had forgotten how to.

“Esh,” Kiernan said, “look at that, will ya?”

“That’s really uncomfortable, isn’t it?” I said. “When you go out with your friend and he hooks up, and you have to stand there alone and pretend that you’re having a good time.”

“It’s the worst. You’re searching around the bar desperately for somebody to talk to, and you can’t get in on the conversation with your mate and the girl, because then you’d be cock blocking.”

“Exactly,” I said, shaking my head, watching Leo purposely-not-watch Rachel getting macked on. “I’m gonna go over there and talk to her. We can’t let her suffer like that.”

I suppose I did all that I could. I went over to Leo and did my best to help. Problem was, I had absolutely nothing to say to her. I racked my brain fruitlessly, searching for some possible topic of discussion. It had gone blank; I had cracked under the pressure. All I came up with was, “So, you’re from Germany…”

“Yes…”

“That’s cool…been in Dublin long…have you seen The Book of Kells?”

It was hopeless. I went back over to Kiernan and drank more. When the time came to go back to the hostel, Rachel was missing.

“Where’s Rachel?” Leo asked frantically. “Has anyone seen Rachel?”

“I think she left with some bloke,” Kiernan (unhelpfully) chimed in.

“WHAT??? Who? Where are they? We have to find her!!!”

I scratched my head and checked my gums for bleeding. “Anyone want another beer while we look for her?”

Then Rachel, the elusive one, reappeared. Not two seconds later, some new guy came walking over, offering her a drink. Kiernan shook his head.

“It must be hell being a girl,” he said to me. “They never, ever, get left alone.”

Or, when they did, like Leo, it was even worse. I nodded in agreement. We were lucky, really, that no girls came up to talk to us, and the beer was cheap.

*

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.

*

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.

*

After Getting a New Computer, I Break It and Try to Use that as an Opportunity to Enhance My Love Life

Standard

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a goofy little crush on the computer teacher at my school.  Her name is Jang or something, and she’s really tall and lanky and speaks absolutely no English.  A few months ago her hair was long, but then she decided to cut it short.  Initially, it seemed like a bad call, and my feelings for her sank significantly; in time, though, I was able to adjust and accept her hair for the person it is.  Sometimes she’ll say something to the kids in English, like “Sit down” or “Okay,” filling me with the false hope that she has been keeping her bilingualism hidden all this time.  Then I’ll say, “How are you?” to her, and the blank, slightly frantic look she gives me says she hasn’t been hiding anything at all.

The girls in Korea, on average, seem to have the about the same English language skills as Scooby Doo did.  That is to say, they can listen to and understand the language better than they can speak it, and, also, they talk about food a lot.  Conversations with Korean girls usually start off with great aspirations, only to bog down into this:

Her: Do you like Korean food?

Me: I like Korean food.

Her: Do you like kimbap?

Me: I like kimbap!  He-he-he-he.

Her: Do you like bulgogi?

Me: I like bulgogi!  Scooby-Dooby-Doo!

Or something like that.  Anyways, at least they speak some English, whereas my Korean language skills are the same as…well…as Scooby Doo’s were.  You ever hear Scooby speaking Korean?  No, and you won’t hear me speaking it either.  Although my students have succeeded in teaching me a few odd words, using the supplies in our classroom.  Not that it matters – conversations with Korean girls in bars typically don’t involve a set of flashcards.

On Monday, my school told me to move into a different classroom, for reasons I’m not sure of.  Seeing that the new room is bigger and better equipped, I can only guess that this was a positive thing.  They also purchased a new, large, flat screen monitor for the computer, and told me to incorporate the curriculum CD-Roms into my lessons.  While that was wonderful in theory, it was hell in practice.  I couldn’t get the speakers connected to the computer, I broke a mouse trying to hook it up, and numerous times I did something that caused the CD-Rom to crash.  It was like a Jerry Lewis movie in there, with everything I touched going haywire on me.  The high-water-mark of my computer ineptitude came at the end of the day, when it appeared that I accidently broke the computer itself.  The fancy new monitor showed nothing but blackness.  Surprisingly, my computer expertise – which amounted to turning the computer off and on over and over again – wasn’t fixing it.

“Holy God,” I sighed.  “Am I really this bad with computers?”  At home, the Norton Anti-Virus pop-up keeps telling me my computer is “at risk.”  I always assumed this meant its defenses against a virus were weak, but maybe Norton meant that my computer is at risk simply because I’m around it.

I stood up, not knowing what to do, and then it hit me: What better excuse could I have for going in and talking to the
computer teacher?  I mean, this was, after all, her area of expertise, wasn’t it?  I never really tried to go up to her before; I figured that since we didn’t speak the same language, getting anywhere with her would require me to rely on my looks, and that would be like Paris Hilton trying to get guys based on her smarts.  With the broken computer here to act as my excuse, I felt a sudden boost in confidence.  I wouldn’t be hitting on her.  I’d be asking her for help.

It’s important for me to point out that I did NOT purposely break the computer to have an excuse to talk to her.  That would be unprofessional.  As the poster child for professional workplace behavior, I merely used the accidental breaking of the computer as a means to try to score a date with my coworker.

“Computer, broken,” I said, and I took my hands and made a motion like I was snapping a pencil in two or breaking spaghetti.  She followed me into the classroom and, for the next five minutes, tried to fix it by connecting and disconnecting all the wires from the back.  In silence.  When that didn’t work, she stood up and faced me and I could see that my hopes had been ill-conceived.  She actually looked embarrassed, ashamed that she couldn’t fix it.  Then Jang (or whatever her name is) did something that made my heart sink – she called in backup.

At one point, there were four of us in there jiggling wires and pressing buttons.  Nothing worked.  Later, when everyone had given up and I was alone, I miraculously fixed it by turning the power strip off and on again.  I ran to Jang to tell her the news.  “Fixed!” I shouted enthusiastically, holding my arms up in the air to signify victory.  She kind of laughed a little bit and clapped.

In all seriousness, I’ll never try to make a move on Jang.  It’s just really fun having somebody at work to crush on a little bit.  If she wasn’t there, it would’ve been a putrid day with lots of computer mishaps.  But she was there, and it helped.  Knowing my luck with technology, I’ll probably ask her to fix the computer again.  And, maybe one day, she’ll ask me if I like kimbap.

*