Root Canal Relationship Realizations

“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?”

Ten days.”

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.

***
Diana and I have been chatting about inter모모 relationships lately. A few days she mused:

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.

Boys Before Color

After a phone conversation last night I said to Good Man, “I need to study Korean more so I can talk to your mother more easily. Or…maybe your mother should watch Boys Before Flowers. Then we could talk about the hot Orange Haired Guy.”

***
Several weeks ago, Good Man came to school to help chaperon a field trip. Of course he ended up meeting several coworkers and was seen by even more. After he’d left, more than one coworker told me, “He’s cute! Wow, he’s way cuter than I thought he’d be, for an Asian guy!”

How am I supposed to take that? Scratch that. I know how I take it. The better question is how am I supposed to answer that?

A few weeks ago I was talking about various Korean celebrities with high school senior from taekwondo class. She has a Korean mother and a white American military father. She meant it as a compliment when she said to me, “Yeah, you have yellow fever!”

Based on my reaction, I don’t think she’ll risk saying that to anyone ever again, compliment or not.

***
Then there are those things I’m not supposed to admit. Those things related to being in an interracial, intercultural, international relationship.

I start posts about them. I keep them in draft mode, because I fear I’ll be misunderstood.

I can only say that one of the best thing about being in this particular interracial, intercultural, international relationship is the ways that we’re not the same. The ways that he is a 황인 한국 남자 and I am a 백인 미국 여자.

Oh, That Explains It

“How can I say you were confused? ‘남편은 혼란했다’?”

“혼란스러워했다.”

I stared at Good Man. “I thought the verb was 혼란하다?”

“Um. Basically it’s adjective form into… kind of situation… and then past tense, you know.”

I wrote down what he’d said. “You just wrote my blog post.”

HR Woman, You Fail. America, You Fail.

I had to call HR today. “Hi. I need to make a change to my insurance because I was just married. But my husband doesn’t have a SSN. Do I need a dummy number?”

[Note for non-SSN readers: A Social Security Number is a nine-digit number which was originally supposed to be used for tax purposes only. Over time it’s become this radically abused number and is sort of a national ID number, even though we aren’t supposed to have those in the US.]

“You need to find out his SSN.”

“…” I repeated myself. “He doesn’t have one.”

“How doesn’t he have one?”

I really didn’t want to explain that he isn’t eligible for one. “He doesn’t have a SSN. What should I write?”

“Um, write that he doesn’t have one.”

Like I’m the first person in the entire district to marry a SSN-less foreigner? Doubtful.

Then I asked if I needed to send a certified marriage certificate or if I could send a copy of the commemorative, non-official one they give you.

She said, “You need the license.”

I said, “The license was returned to the state by the officiant. I do not have the license.”

“You have some sort of license.”

It took all of my self-control not to say, “I have a driver’s license.” Instead I explained, very slowly, how it works and that I only had the decorative certificate. The one that reads “this is not a certified certificate.” She told me I could just send a copy of the fake certificate. Fine.

It’s a bit moot now. Monday we sent off for ten legal copies figuring that in our half-SSN-less-Green-Card-and-in-state-tuition-applying-he-is-my-husband-even-though-he’s-not-white-and-this-is-our-proof situation ten copies was a good guess as to how many we’d need. We got the legal copies in the mail today. I will probably send copies of both through interoffice mail. God knows if I send an official copy they might flip out and not know what to do with it.

Then I called Walk All Over Ya, my bank, to try and add Good Man to my account.

I asked how I could add him. They put me on hold for 15 minutes.

And then they hung up on me.

So I called again. And was immediately told it’s impossible to add him without a SSN or TPIN (another tax ID number). I said, “So basically there’s no way for me to add my husband to my bank account?”

“Right.”

America. Sucks.

Honeymoon and KKK

Last weekend Good Man and I went away for a little weekend honeymoon. Photos are in the Gallery.

We spent the weekend at the Lantern Lane Farm B&B, in a room we got at a great last-minute price. I would highly recommend this place. Nice people, great room, and they even managed to get a cake for us with very little notice!

Our first night there, we went out for dinner. Good Man wanted Italian. We walked into a very busy Italian restaurant and the waitress started to look for a seat. Meanwhile, to my left, there were two old white men eating. Both were wearing white tunics and one had a blue robe over it with all these symbols on it. His back was to me but his partner was just glaring at us.

I studied the man’s robe just long enough to figure out what it was.

The waitress was trying to tell us where we could sit (at the end of a table next to another group of people) and I was trying to catch Good Man’s eye and I finally said in Korean, “We can not eat here. We are going. We will talk outside.” He was so confused and I just kept saying, very quietly, and in Korean, “We will talk outside.”

I smiled a fake smile to the waitress and said we weren’t interested in waiting. She looked at us, glanced at the robed men, and nodded. She knew exactly why we were leaving.

Outside I said, “키읔키읔키읔.” ㅋㅋㅋ Which would be giggling in Korean, but which I was saying because it’s the closest letter to K.

KKK.

We had dinner at a Chinese restaurant that night.

(한국어)

“Wife” and Expat Medicine Woes

Last night in a moment of stress…

“I’m stressed! I’m sorry I’m being so bitchy!”

“Nooooooo,” Good Man said. “You are not bitch. You are woman! You are wife! You are my wife!”

“You like that word,” I said.

“‘Wife’ is best word ever! All Korean men like the word. ‘Wife!'”

I started rattling off the Korean words related to wife and newlywed. “부인, 아내, 처, 신부…”

“No! 와이프!” He said “wife” in the Korean way, making it almost—but not quite—sound like “wipe.”

Good Man went on, “와이프 is best word ever! All Korean men born since, hmmm, 1970, love 와이프! Wife Magic!”

Meanwhile I keep calling him my boyfriend and fiancé.

“Nooooooo! I am ‘husband!'”

***

One common complaint of ex-pats in Korea is that getting decent over-the-counter drugs is impossible. Going to the doctor is cheap. Getting prescription meds is cheap. Getting decent over-the-counter medicine? Not as easy.

Mother sent Good Man to America with a mini-pharmacy in his bag, much as my mother sent me to Korea with a huge bottle of Advil and other meds.

“American medicine is too strong,” Good Man explained.

Today I took Good Man to the store to pick up some cold medicine. I immediately reached for cheaper store-brand versions of DayQuil and NyQuil. “This is what you want, this is good stuff.”

“That looks scary.”

“No, it’s not. It’s good, but be careful you take day during the day and night at night ’cause the night one will knock you out asleep.”

Good Man looked horrified. “Why is American medicine so strong?”

“Well, your Korean medicine isn’t working, so go American-style. Do you want cherry red flavor or original green flavor?”

“This is medicine, not food.”

“Right, but it’s American medicine. So red or green flavor?”

Good Man nodded. “Green.”

I picked up the green night bottle and the orange day bottle. “This will taste disgusting.”

“It’s OK. I have had Chinese medicine.”

Wife Magic

I look at Good Man, slightly panicked. “Does this mean I’m an ajumma now?”

“Huh?”

“An ajumma? Am I an ajumma?”

He laughs, “You are so silly.”

My voice rises, “Am I an ajumma now?”

He shakes his head slowly. “Nooooo.” I raise an eyebrow and his side-to-side shake changes to an up-and-down nod. “Yes, you are ajumma now!”

***
I was getting sick for the whole of last week. Well, Good Man caught my cold and this weekend he was sneezing, coughing, and sniffling through life. He wanted to watch TV at the B&B but the cabinet doors were closed. The door to the veranda was open. Good Man gave me a pathetic look and whined, “문 열려, 문 닫혀.” Open the doors, close the door.

I opened the cabinet doors and closed the veranda door.

Good Man’s eyes grew large. He grinned, nodded, and yelled. “Wife magic!”

***
Back at home, Good Man walked in the room with the carton of orange juice I’d bought because I’d been sick. He gave it a slight shake and opened his mouth. Before he could speak I nodded, “Yes, you can drink it. Yes, all of it.”

He looked amazed. “You!— You know my thoughts! Wife magic!”

***
I groan and put my head on the table. “I don’t want to be an ajumma.”

“But,” Good Man smiles, “you are magic ajumma. Wife magic! I like wife magic!”

Baskets, Car Shots, Inappropriate Shoes?

Basketball
Last week Good Man and I went to the school behind our house and shot baskets.

I hate basketball. I broke my glasses every single year when we had the “Basketball Unit” in PE class. But I know Good Man likes basketball, so I figured I’d go hang out with him.

I asked him how to shoot. He told me and I took a shot.

And I made it! In fact, I made three shots in a row. How in the world is that possible?

Today, when I dropped my students off to gym class, I noticed that they were playing…basketball. Our gym has the higher hoops, whereas the school playground has lower, kid-friendly hoops.

I decided that I was always willing to look stupid in front of my kids and I took a shot.

And!

I made it!

Oh man, my students think I am the coolest teacher ever now.

Car Shots

Chopsticks

Geeky Glasses

Good Man Borrows my Purple Mohair Hat

He Laughs at Me

“You Want? To Wear Chopsticks? Are you crazy?”

“Yeah! You really are crazy!”

Shoes
I am trying to decide if these are hooker shoes. (Specifically these shoes with this hemline/dress pattern.)

Good Man claims they’re not. “Your gut wants to wear the shoes. But your personality—your brain—is thinking, ‘what might other think?’ You are so Korean! You are like my mother.”

Maybe that’s why Mother and I get along so well.

Later Good Man started laughing to himself. “I have a good idea. Wear red shoes. And go to [Brothel Taco Joint]. And ask waitress if you look like hooker or not. What a wonderful idea!”