“You’re not trying to have babies?” my new dentist asked me.
I laughed. “That is how I know you’re Korean. If an American-born dentist asked me that, I’d think he was nuts.”
Dentist blushed crimson and apologized. I shook my head and smiled to show him that I wasn’t offended.
Yesterday I went to the dentist because I had some mouth pain. Turns out I needed a root canal. (Expensive fun, I tell you. I have had root canals before, but never as post-canal painful as this one. The procedure itself wasn’t bad, though.)
I chose a Korean dentist because Good Man should be on my insurance soon, and I think it’s a good idea to go to the same doctor’s office for things. Good Man’s English is great, but Doctor-Dentist Speak is another matter. (The only interesting Korean dentist word I know is “love tooth.”) I remember how childish I felt, having to have someone translate for me at the dentist. And I don’t ever want Good Man to feel that way, if I can help it.
At the start of the appointment, Dentist had asked me how I’d found him. I’d told him I’d used the insurance company’s website to find a Korean-speaking doctor within five miles of our ZIP code. He’d looked at me, appearing confused. “Are you Korean?”
“No, my husband is.”
“How long have you been married?”
The rest of the appointment was held in a mix of English and Korean, and Dentist was extremely interested in the fact that we’d met in Korea. That seems to be the aspect of our relationship that strangers find the most interesting: that we met in Korea, and that this is Good Man’s first time living in America.
So when antibiotics were prescribed and their negative interaction was birth control pills was mentioned, I wasn’t actually surprised that he’d asked if we were trying to have babies. It was just such a Korean thing to say, and we’d established that I had more than a cursory experience with Koreans in Korea.
Living in America must be hard sometimes. After living abroad and marrying [Good Man]. No one back home gets Korea. Let alone would get your relationship. […] You opened yourself up to Korea in a way few people do. And you also fell in love with someone from that country, which was both coincidental and not.
[Some expats] and other intercultural folks will get it a little, but not all of them, because not all of them let their mate’s country and culture in, too.
On the way home from the dentist’s office, I considered how differently I would’ve reacted to his baby comment if I hadn’t’ve lived in Korea. (I don’t think he would’ve made the comment had we not established my Korean experience first.)
It occurred to me, too, that my relationship with Good Man would be so much different if we’d met here.
When I met Good Man, I’d already lived in Korea for nearly a year. I’d gotten over a lot of the “why do Koreans do that?” shock. I’d learned a bit of Korean and had learned a lot from Master.
Good Man came to America only knowing how to cook precious ramyeon, and that was only because of his military service. He didn’t know how to do laundry, or how to clean. This didn’t surprise me, because many men in Korea are like that.
But if we’d met in America? Oh boy, I would wonder what in the world was wrong with him.
So when Good Man’s mother told me I needed braces, I told her I was already rather beautiful. It was a Korean thing (of her) to say. (My response was a rather sassy thing to say that I couldn’t’ve gotten away with were I not non-Korean!)
But if we’d met in America, and Good Man had explained to me that it was a Korean thing to say? I would’ve thought he was scapegoating. I wouldn’t’ve dealt with it well. I probably wouldn’t yelled, “But she lives in America! She shouldn’t say that!”
And when Good Man says some aspect about America is “so damn stupid,” I nod. I nod not because I always agree, but because as a newcomer in a foreign country, some things are so damn stupid. I don’t know that I would nod so easily if we’d met here.
I think Good Man and I met at the perfect time, in the perfect place. For us.