Thursday, March 20, 2014

Dating Related Stuff: Friendzoning in Korea

I remembered a few more things I wanted to say in the previous entry about dating in Korea. I forgot to mention a topic inseparable to the discussion of dating: the dreaded friendzone.

The Friendzone
I don't think I have to explain in further detail that the friendzone is when one person (usually a guy) wants to romantically escalate his/her relationship with another person (usually a woman) but this desire isn't mutually shared. It also means there's no sex involved. I won't go into why this is since there are better learned people out there who can provide scientific reasons for the friendzone's existence, but I can tell you that men don't want to be friendzoned by girls who they are sexually interested in. I personally think the term itself is problematic because it puts a negative connotation on being friends with a girl and I don't think adding sex into a friendship automatically destroys it, although it might complicate it. Some may assert that for this reason men and women can't be friends, but I fail to see why two people can't be friends just because sex is involved. For the purposes of this entry, however, let's say being friendzoned means one isn't seen as a viable sexual partner.

People who are aware of this, hope to avoid it as it is generally agreed that once you're in the friendzone, it is near impossible to get out. Apparently women decide whether or not to have sex with a man and their minds never change. I don't know if this is true, but the suspicion it might be true influences my behavior around women I am interested in.

Koreans may not be familiar with this concept but I believe the friendzone exists in Korea just as anywhere else. The only difference is that it may not be as obvious because indirect approaches are usually employed. As "cold-approaching" a random person isn't as common, the majority of couples are connected through mutual friends. Many start off as friends and one person (usually the guy) confesses his feelings and they end up dating or the person gets rejected and things get awkward. The dreaded friendzone exists but because so many people date within their circle of friends, people think befriending someone first is the way to do it.

I've gotten advice from Koreans (mostly women, which further proves to me that women generally give horrible dating advice to men) that I need to be good friends with a girl first and make her feel comfortable with me before I make the move. On several occasions I would tell a friend of mine I want to ask a girl out and she would respond, "Don't ask her on a date yet! Be her friend first."

I of course don't agree with this method. It seems like too much time and effort for an uncertain outcome. There's no guarantee that a girl will like me after being friends for months. Not to mention it's sneaky and misleading to construct a fake friendship with an ulterior motive. If you never intended to be just friends with someone, it's pretty much lying. Also, if she says no, the friendship is usually destroyed and you've just wasted months of your time and her's. I prefer a much more honest and direct approach. It's simply more effective and you know far more quickly if the other party is romantically interested in you or not. There's no confusion of what the relationship is about. Why waste time and emotional energy.

Most direct approaches through dating are done via some sort of set up, either by friends, family, or match making companies. The latter provides a service that matches you with a member of the opposite sex with the purpose of marriage. These matches are made based on a person's quantifiable specifications such as height, education and salary. So this form of courting is extremely direct and down to the point. My problem with this is that like so many other social interactions in Korea, it feels manufactured and forced. I prefer my love life to be honest, but still remain organic and spontaneous.

I also like to do it myself rather than go through channels of other people. The problem with this prevalent "as friends first" attitude is that it's expected, and I think people take advantage of it. Since most cases of friendzoning are of a guy liking a woman who isn't interested in him as a man, women are commonly the culprit here. A girl may know or at least suspect a guy is into her while she isn't into him, but the lack of mutual affection won't stop her from using the guy. I have no empirical evidence that Korean woman are more guilty of this than western women, but I've seen so many instances of guys here acting like lap dogs to the girl they're in love with. Hell, I was one of these guys myself at one point.

The first girl I fell in love with was Korean and while she rejected my confessions of love with the excuse she loved me as a friend, she didn't reject my misguided attempts to win her affection through buying her gifts and dinners and movies. I blame my stupidity for being such a chump but I suspect a better person might not have taken advantage of the one-sided nature of our relationship. I don't think it would've been that hard to say, "I'm not interested in you and never will be. Stop buying me shit and doing stuff for me."

Why chumps do this is probably a culmination of many factors. Maybe the younger guys with less experience with the opposite sex simply don't know how to attract the girls they like and they think this one girl is special because they haven't met many girls. A guy may have romantic fantasies of winning her over by showing how great of a guy he is, when in fact all he is doing is being her personal servant. There's also a saying in Korean goes, "There isn't a tree that doesn't fall after hacked 10 times." It basically means if you're persistent, the object of your affection will fall for you. While I don't necessarily disagree with persistence (if done in a certain manner), it's a saying that can easily be misconstrued as, "if you stalk her long enough, she'll choose you" which in reality means she's running out of options and she knows you'll always be her little bitch. It's a creepy and unhealthy conventional piece of dating wisdom that promotes stalkerish behavior and prevents people from letting go.

Angry Threats 
Threats of breaking up are also a common occurrence. I can't say if this is true for young couples these days since I haven't dated anyone significantly younger than I, but for me, threatening to break up seemed like it happened every other weekend.

Korean parents do the same damn thing. My parents have oft told me I am not their son when they were unhappy with me. Once my father told me to leave the house and live on my own, when I was nine years old. Another time when he was not happy my father told me he wouldn't give a shit if I died. My uncle once told me I wouldn't be family any more if I married a non-Korean. These stories may sound like extremes examples of emotional outbursts, but from what other Koreans have told me, it's a common occurrence. It seems many Koreans around my age have been told at least once by their parents to leave the house for disappointing them. I've learned Koreans like to emotionally escalate way too quickly.

Get bad grades, leave the house. Date a foreigner, you're not part of the family. Marry a foreigner, they're not attending the wedding. It's not just family members that do this either. My trainer also tells me to quit boxing when he's not happy with my training, only to set me up with a fight later. Army seniors will tell junior conscripts to desert if they can't handle military life. Of course, nobody is serious when they tell someone to desert, since a soldier defecting could land the remaining in real trouble.

These kinds of emotional upbringings are reflected when people date. I've been on the receiving end of it myself. The one Korean girl I dated told me she won't see me anymore after many of my perceived slip ups. Even in the few dramas or movies I've seen, scenes of one party throwing out a breakup threat when he/she is unhappy with the other seemed to be common. As with the threats of disownment by parents, or suggestions to desert, these breakups aren't serious. Just like with love, words of hate are thrown around lightly here. Maybe other Koreans are used to this sort of environment. Maybe there's a mutual understanding when such words are uttered during emotional outrages. I cannot help, however, to think this is a trait of an unhealthy emotional environment that will lead to a battered psyche. I sure as hell didn't feel okay as a kid when my father told me I wasn't worthy as his son, nor did my relationship with my then-girlfriend feel secure when she threatened to break up with me.

Korean Girls on Dates
I don't know what Korean guys are like since I never dated one but I wanted to add what I've observed and heard about Korean girls on dates. As I've said before I personally found most of them to be boring. I think there is this pressure on women to fit into a certain feminine mold. They expect most Korean guys to prefer that mold, and they assume I'm one of these guys. I think there is some confusion on how people feel they can act around me because they don't know "how Korean" I am. This also applies to women; I can see the confusion in their faces. I have a theory that in some way Korean women prefer western men because they feel they are more allowed to be themselves around them. But when it comes to me, most Koreans fall back into their mold because I am still Korean.

Alas, how little do they know I despise the "mold" of femininity. I have tried, with frustrating results, to pull out the real personalities of the women I've talked to. I've asked them deeper questions about who they are and told them how much I value uniqueness and honesty. Almost every Korean girl I've asked to tell me an interesting story that has happened to them in their life gave me no answer. Maybe I'm asking the wrong questions the wrong way. Maybe these people are genuinely boring humanoid husks, but I have a really hard time believing there is no humanity underneath that veil of conformity every other Korean seems to hold above their personality.

I know how powerful the expectations of what you're "supposed" to be are. I struggle with masculinity and adulthood myself although I don't let it influence me as much. Most Korean women it seems like, let it control them. I have heard multiple times of how Korean women eat before going out on dinner dates to pretend that they don't eat that much. I had no idea eating little was seen as a feminine virtue. How stupid. So on a date I'm basically sitting across a girl nibbling at her dish like a squirrel, leaving on the dish most of the food I paid for.

I have met people who surprised me, but as a whole dates with the Korean girls I've been with have been a boring ordeal. Not to mention the ordeal of setting up one because how flakey they seem to be. Hell, even my Korean female friends are flakey. Sometimes I think I shouldn't even try for dates and just hit on girls at bars in hopes of temporary fun because it will be too difficult to establish anything deeper. How jaded I am.

With all that said, I don't know the answer to dating dilemmas. These are just what I feel and I don't know where and how to draw the line on these things. I make the same mistakes and find myself not in control of my emotions as well. Among my recent string of crushes, I was already deep in the friendzone with one girl while another put me there because I was too slow to make a move. So what the fuck do I know. How much persistence is too much and too little? How do you prevent friends from not falling for each other at all? How can I blame girls for being boring when that's what they have been told to be their entire lives? Maybe my personality is so dynamic most people just seem boring to me? Or I just have ADHD when it comes to women. There is no real answer. Dating is such a headache anywhere and in Korea it's no different.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Dating Related Stuff: The Korean Dating World

These are my observations about the dating culture in Korea. I have to preface this entry by admitting I have little experience dating in general, but I have even less experience with dating in Korea. While I've been on dates with several, there's only been one Korean woman who I called my girlfriend. So this entry will be a poor source for an objective assessment of Korean dating habits as I will be merely be portraying my observations from own peculiar lenses.

First off, I think the dating world in Korea is generally affected by the relative lack of experience among people around my age, or maybe even older. What I mean by that is most Koreans don't start dating as early as Americans do so in general they have less social skills and experience with the opposite sex compared to Americans the same age. I'm referring to Americans here because I don't want to generalize all westerners and foreigners. From my limited personal perspective, it seems certain European nationals are less sociable than Americans but maybe to them, Americans seem bombastic and arrogantly confident. Whatever the case, that's how it seems to me. Koreans of the same age in general are more awkward with the opposite sex, which in guy terms means less game.

It makes sense because Koreans focus almost entirely on schooling and effectively have no social life (or life in general) until they graduate highschool and go on to university where they finally get to date and waddle around the borders of their sexuality. I remember having a girlfriend or boyfriend in highschool was reserved for the "bad kids" because you weren't supposed to do anything else but study. I think it also explains why guys here are very touchy with eachother to the point of borderline homosexuality. They have no other outlets for physical contact.

Before touching on sexuality, let me start talking about actual dating first. For whatever reason, Koreans have a controlling, top-down approach to well, everything. Everything needs to be regulated, ritualized, and planned (even if they are changed last minute). The same applies for dating and social life. People don't really chat up strangers and make friends. Go to a university and your social life is dependent on "MTs" and other organized group activities that revolve mostly around the department you belong to. In dating, it means meeting the opposite sex is dependent on "소개팅s" and "meetings" where people are set up through mutual acquaintances. I think every Korean I know with a significant other met that person through someone they know or they knew eachother before through work/school/friends. Compared to the US, guys don't approach girls randomly and ask them out as much. Unless they're wasted.

Personally, my dates in general have been introduced to me through friends as well. I've only really went out with one girl (American) who I talked to randomly, although that's because I never really started talking to random strangers until recently. However, I never been to a "meeting" ever which reveals how distant I am from the Korean dating scene, but I've met most of my past ghosts through other people or in class. Going on dates with the few Koreans girls I've been with have been vanilla and boring. My personal goal for a date is to see if I can connect with the other person, if I'm trying to do more than just have sex. A lot of the times, the Korean girls I talk to come off as shallow and boring with nothing interesting to talk about. I guess this goes back to how Koreans are afraid of being seen as different so they feign being as "normal" as possible. Assuming the multitudes of young Korean couples are meeting and talking only about what movies they saw recently, I can not see what the point of having date is. But that's just me and I know I'm a strange person.

Anyway back to the lack of experience Koreans seem to have with dating, I think a lot of Koreans in comparison to Americans aren't as sure of what they want. A lot of young Korean males I've talked to or hear talk use "virgin-esque" language. They aren't necessarily virgins but they have unrealistic expectations and standards as well as romanticized ideals of what dating is supposed to be. From what I hear, a lot Koreans are also supposedly not very good in bed. I think the mess becomes messier due to many Koreans having a very short window to really experiment and figure our their sexuality. After spending their entire teenage years repressing it, they finally get to express some of it in limited fashion for a few years before they're supposed to marry without having no idea what they really want in a mate. This might be part of the reason why so many married couples seem miserable.

I'll heavily generalize and say most Americans' sexual mentality develops like this: fuck as much as I can in my twenties before settling down to have kids. With women there's the added socially imposed confusion of trying not to look like a slut. Everybody deals with the problem of trying to balance social expectations and biological urges. In Korea, the sexual conservatism/pressure to marry part of the equation takes up a bigger chunk of the dissonance young people face.

The unquestioned assumption that one will get married reflects a lot of the Korean dating culture. It explains the more "shallow" and materialistic traits commonly associated with Korean women, although some may describe that as practicality. A common criticism about Korean dating is that superficial things like looks, height, your family's status, how much money you make, etc are all that matters. The parents' approval have a lot of weight as well. When so much importance is put in marriage, I can see why that is. Practical reasons for getting married are placed over flowery ideals, although people like me who are individualistic (and lacking any wealth or status to protect in the first place) don't find much value in the practical value. At the same time, many people seem to hold a more romantic ideal of marriage and love as well. I blame the indoctrinated social expectation and the media for that.

I guess this depends on the age bracket, individuals and changing societal attitudes, but the ultimate goal of dating here is marriage. People may have fun, venture out with different partners and experiment with dating people from different cultures and what not, but everybody seems to think they're going to eventually settle down with somebody. I guess most people from most cultures do this but the difference between my western friends and Korean friends is that westerners don't think about marriage while they're having fun but for Koreans, marriage seems to be on their mind even as they're "having fun." I think it explains why so many young couples I meet have been dating for years. I also think it's a huge chunk of the multicultural relationship narrative in Korea. A Korean with a non-Korean partner has to factor in cultural compatibility and his/her parents' approval and those things aren't always seen in a positive light. I have had friends who are/were in rather serious relationships with non-Koreans and many of them were unsure of how far they can commit because they didn't think their parents' would approve. Almost every Korean I've discussed this topic with has marriage on her mind no matter the age.

As I mentioned in a previous post about conscripts and women, many young Korean guys seem to embody an odd paradox of romanticizing marriage while wanting to bang as many chicks as possible. It was weird to me watching guys younger than me dreamily talk about how they want to find a wife then to turn around and talk about visiting brothels. I think this is a reflection of Korea's sexual culture as whole. Korea pretends to be a sexually conservative country but sells sex on every corner. It's also one of the worst places in the developed world for sexual assault and rape. A personal opinion of mine is that sexual conservatism leads to unhealthy and contradictory attitudes on sex. It's something we should be open and honest about.

Rant aside, when it comes to sexuality in Korea, I can't give anyone a simple answer because of this contradictory attitude. According to some polls, Koreans have less sex than most of the world, which I can believe due to the prudish attitudes regarding it, but people obviously have sex here, hence the myriad of love motels and DVD rooms. Like many things, sex is swept under the rug here. Despite the facade of "proper-ness" in this country, people like to fuck. The desires of reality will clash with what's perceived as right and instead of dealing with it honestly, people rather pretend it doesn't exist.

Koreans may have "less game" and social experience compared to their American counterparts, but they are people and they do fuck. One night stands and fuck buddies do exist, with people doing it behind their significant others' backs. It seems to be a common theme among Koreans to cheat. This is a gross generalization and I have no empirical evidence to suggest Koreans as a whole aren't keen with fidelity other than some articles I've read. I have no real idea how much Koreans cheat or how it'll effect me, but it has come to the point that I am not particularly surprised when I hear about a friend who dates a Korean only to find he/she already is involved with somebody else. I have my personal run-ins with people who happened to have boyfriends as well. I've gotten asked, "Do you have a girlfriend?" by the women I'm getting intimate with. I would think one would assume a guy who's hitting on girls and hooking up with them is single but in Korea, that's apparently not the case.

I have my own baseless theories as to why cheating seems to be prevalent here and I can understand what would drive people to cheat. My guess has to do with the parenting environment Koreans are raised in and the resulting issues with attachment and affection. I think some people want to fuck around but don't want to break up with a partner out of fear of losing a source of emotional affection. Or some people want to have multiple sources of affection out of some insecurity about loneliness. I don't know. The point is I don't judge people who cheat and I do think it is in part, human nature. I personally would never do it because I don't see the point. If I want to fuck around, I'll fuck around without emotionally dragging someone along. At the risk of sounding like a collectivist, it's something I'll keep in the back of my mind whenever I get involved with a Korean girl but since I don't believe in marriage and unsure of serious romantic commitments anyway, it won't matter.

Another related attribute I'll keep in mind when going out with a Korean girl is the general Korean tendency of being clingy and needy. From my own experiences dealing with not just romantic interests, but Korean guy friends, family members and people in general, along with anecdotal data from my foreign friends, I've observed a cultural trait in Korea that many westerners would describe as being needy. Be it constant calling/texting and being offended when you don't respond, or telling you that they missed you even though you don't know them that well, a lot of Koreans have a problem with giving you breathing space both figuratively in relationships and literally on the subway. This goes back to the emotional environment parents provide for their children because this is also how Korean parents act to their children. You can make up your own mind about whether or not this is a cultural difference, but I personally see it as a symptom of unhealthy psychological development.

Once I had a discussion with some Korean friends about the dichotomy between love and sex and their differences in the "west" and Korea. A word I often hear get passed a lot when Koreans talk about western sexuality is "open." This is just a nice way of saying they're promiscuous sluts. Koreans have the perception that westerners (I'll just use the word "westerners" because Koreans tend to generalize all of the west. In fact they usually the use the word "foreigner" but I find that too broad.) dress more provocatively and have more lenient attitudes on sex. Which isn't necessarily incorrect, but these kind of perceptions also tend to be accompanied by moral judgments. Some people with no game will misconstrue a western woman's "open-ness" with her being easy as well. I have often heard Korean guys talk about how they think a western girl will offer up sex easier, and if you're a creep with no game, you'll probably translate this as a girl having sex with you if you're in front of her long enough. For women, there's a perception western men are playboys who just want to bang a lot of chicks (I'd like to add all straight men want to bang a lot of chicks so I don't see why western guys get hate for it).

During the discussion, I mentioned how in the west, or the U.S. at least, "love" usually comes with heavy connotations of commitment. The Koreans I was talking to mentioned how they thought it funny people are open about sex but more guarded about love. I thought this was an interesting tidbit to add because Korea and the west seem to have opposite attitudes regarding love and sex. Koreans (attitudes and perceptions anyway) tend to throw out the word love more easily while feigning sexual austerity. This coincides with what my non-Korean female friends have told me about Korean guys saying that they love them rather early in the relationship. Having sex is a bigger commitment than saying you love someone in Korea, while in the west, love has more meaning than sex. Personally, I think the western attitude makes more sense (assuming it's true) but again, this is coming from a guy who's completely open about sex and thinks love is just a reaction of chemicals.

Thus are my limited experiences of dating in Korea. These are just general things I've noticed and while I do keep them in the back of my head, I also keep in mind that individuals are ultimately individuals. I don't care to change who I am to impress a Korean girl or be more forgiving if she is doesn't like to open herself up and show me who she is. If a Korean girl I meet is boring, I am not surprised, but I also don't rule out the possibility she might surprise me by being secretly awesome. As I've said in the other entry, not everybody follows cultural norms to the same extent. If a girl dates me expecting me to be as clingy as some other Korea guys, she'll be disappointed.

The journey of dating for me is a search for the unexpected, and I'm looking to be surprised.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dating Related Stuff: In General

I'm going to take a detour from my usual topics and instead of discussing military issues or random philosophical questions, I'm going to focus on dating. I planned to avoid talking about the subject in detail since every other blog talks about dating life in Korea, but it is something that's been occupying my mind the most these days. I've decided to write a bunch of posts on it.

Instead of just focusing on the differences between American and Korean dating culture, I want to explore dating in general. While I do think there are differences in how Koreans and Americans/westerners date and I plan to discuss such differences, I also think dating in itself is such a complicated, headache inducing issue that it's not that simple to categorize dating into particular cultural paradigms. So if you're hoping to find some sort of insight into Korean dating culture, you probably won't find it here.

I guess it's even more complicated by the fact that I hold a personal romance doctrine that differs from not just Koreans, but a lot of other people as well (as far I can tell). I will tend to be very critical or at least, skeptical of the many attitudes I have ran into in regards to love. To make it easier to understand where I am coming from, I will outline my general philosophy on dating first.

First off, it's Important
I used to think spending a lot of time thinking about dating and girls was stupid. Of all the things one can expend energy on, it seemed like one of the most trivial. As a school kid, dating and sex related gossip seemed to trump the more important issues among my peers and I saw myself being above such matters. I still think this is true to some extent with how the media seems to obsess over sex such as advertisements using sex to sell products rather than giving potential consumers actual information that can be evaluated logically.

But I realize that sex and dating are essential aspects of who we are as a species. It's a basic need and a drive that is just as important as eating and sleeping. It is after-all, how we exist. Therefore I believe being in-tune with your own sexuality and knowing why or how you date is critical to understanding one's self as well as finding inner peace. It is as important as eating healthy, working out, and having good social company.

Instead of kicking myself for thinking a lot about girls rather than focusing on the important stuff, I realize now there's nothing wrong with thinking about girls because, I like girls. Why should I not think about or pursue what I like? And what have I accomplished by thinking about the more "important stuff" like social issues, politics, and philosophical questions? Have I acquired wealth or am I happier? Not really. Maybe my proclivity for over-thinking on the "big picture" stuff has made me a more interesting person in some aspects, but it also has limited my capacity for living life. But when I am with a girl I like, I feel in the moment, and at that moment, being with her is the "important stuff."

Accepting Sexuality 
One thing I've noticed about myself and others around me is that we have a tendency to deny our sexuality. I've tried to avoid the opposite sex because I was denying myself of something I really like and is a huge part of who I am. I'm sure there's a myriad of historical and cultural explanations for why this is, but I feel our societies repress human sexuality which lead to a weird distortion of expectations of how people should be.

For me, religion played a large part. I see it now as almost sinister how we are told to suppress such an essential element of the human experience. The resulting self-loathing after masturbation, the unrealistic expectations of what sex should be, the ensuing anxiety the first few times, and the almost obligatory need to have children are all the things I've felt in my frustrating sexual journey.

I find it tragic knowing I'm not the only one who's been through that. You could probably tell that I am extremely liberal about sex (among many things). If it's consensual, I don't judge it. I don't care if you have sex with a dozen different people a week or if you hold massive orgies at your house. I don't give a shit if someone has gay sex or is a furry. I don't care if you want to have five wives and husbands. I don't know where to draw the line on it, but I think statutory rape laws are completely arbitrary as well. I know these are extreme examples but the point is even if I may not partake in different kinds of sex acts personally, I'm completely open about sex.

I like to talk about it and it annoys me how some of my adult friends get squeamish or giggly when I do. Some people tell me it's not something I should talk openly about. Well, why not? Of all the things people do and talk about, to me it's one of the least harmless topics. It bothers me people are judged on their sexuality. I've romanticized fighting a few times claiming how it is one of the pinnacles of the human experience. When you fight, you are in the now, and you are being as human as you can be. Along with being out in the natural world, I also see sex as one of these pinnacles. Sex is a very human thing and denying it equates stripping away a part of what makes you one.

If I had any inkling of homosexual tendencies, I would fully explore them and I find out. I haven't yet because I don't think I will need to. I am pretty sure I am not gay, but if I wasn't sure, I'd like to find out for sure. The point is I want to be fully in tune with sexuality. Sexual conservatism is something I can't grasp my head around. Things like the supposed importance of virginity, retarded notions like "saving" oneself for marriage, and the double standards of women being reduced to "sluts" for having a lot of sex while men are praised for the same thing. I just don't get it. In Korea everybody pretends to be sexually conservative and ignore the brothels that are everywhere. I think our societies have a weird, unhealthy obsession with and reaction to sex because we are so dishonest about it.

Dating and Culture
I have briefly touched on a past entry about how I don't believe in cultural differences when it comes to interpersonal relationships. While there are tendencies we share with other members of our specific culture, I think individuals are ultimately individuals. Even within a culture, people will have different ideas and opinions. As much as Koreans like to be homogenized, even people here are not all exactly the same. This is especially true in dating because even if the general outline of how people approach dating is similar, the details of how someone treats and talks to you may not be.

My problem with "cultural differences" is that they seem to usually imply three assumptions going into a relationship. One is that the personal traits you don't like are easier to forgive because it's shrugged off as a "cultural" thing, and this only ends up being a problem in the future. If you don't like something about somebody, you don't like it. Why does it being culturally ingrained even a factor. If I met a girl from a culture where sleeping with other guys was accepted, I wouldn't be able to continue that relationship. There are people with open relationships and that's good for them, but it's something I don't think I can do if I really like the girl. I don't care if I'm not respecting her culture, that's something that won't work with me. Another example is aegyo, the cutesy/whiny/pedophilic way of showing affection. Some people like that, but it annoys me. Am I not respecting the culture because I don't like it personally? I don't give a shit. Also, people misconstrue that as meaning I don't like Koreans girls, which leads me to the next problem of "cultural differences."

The other problem is making assumptions about a person and not respecting his or her individuality. I don't care for a lot of common traits that are attributed to Korean girls. The aegyo, the shy facade, and the vapid materialism are all things I dislike. That does not mean, however, I never go for Korean girls because not every Korean girl is like that. There were many times when I hit on a Korean girl expecting to get harshly shut down but ended up having a good conversation or at least rejected very gently. Like I expanded on a previous thread, older people will tell me multi-cultural relationships won't work because of the difference but that's assuming everybody is the same. People may share cultural traits but not everybody shares the same traits to the same degree. How silly would it be for people to assume I'm like every other Korean guy just based on the fact I am Korean? In fact, it may be silly for me to assume every other Korean guy is like every other Korean because that's pretty presumptuous too.

The last problem is that blaming culture is a lazy cop out explanation for why a relationship fails. How come nobody blames the culture when two people of the same race and cultural background breakup? Ultimately, the "difference" is in the individuals. Saying the "cultural" difference was too much to handle is an overly simple analysis of why a relationship fails. Maybe it wasn't the cultural difference. Maybe it was you? Maybe you need to become a better person.

I Don't Believe in Marriage
Or maybe relationships aren't meant to be. At least life-long commitments aren't. This is where I find myself disagreeing with almost everybody I've met, Korean or not. There's been only one other person who has shared my exact position on marriage, and I have one friend who understands my position. Everybody else gives me the same tired responses such as, "you say that now, but wait a few years" or ask me "won't being old and lonely suck?" and "don't you want to have kids?"

I don't believe in marriage for a lot of reasons including the uncertainty of whether or not human beings are supposed to be in life-long and faithful monogamous relationships. The vast majority of animals aren't, and I don't think humans are that different. I'm also not a fan of the institution of marriage. I don't get why I need to report my love and commitment for somebody to a priest or the government. The only person who gets to tell me I love somebody is myself. Some piece of paper issued by a bureaucrat doesn't validate my love, nor does it prevent me from stop loving that person if things go south.

I also believe marriage is one of those things that's been so deeply ingrained and hammered constantly into our heads from youth that for most people, it's just something they do. Nobody questions it and everybody thinks they have to do it because it's what you're "supposed" to do. You get to a certain age, get married and have kids. Nobody fucking thinks about why it has to be this way. Even if they have some sliver of doubt, it is drowned out by the immense social pressure. All my family members and most of my friends don't question marriage. Most people would think there's something wrong with you if you're not married at a certain age. If you truly believe marriage is the path you have to take, whatever. I'm not convinced that it's right for me or even for most other people.

My detractors may be right about me changing my mind years down the road. We never know what the future holds but that's a shitty argument for marriage. I may find myself wanting to get married, but I may also realize I'm gay or decide I'm into bestiality. That doesn't mean I'm going to start looking for gay horses to have sex with right now. I'm not going to look for someone to marry because I may end up realizing that the person I end up with isn't right for me. It's funny because I was actually all about marriage when I was younger, and among my friends who aren't already married or engaged, I've come the closest to getting married. But things change, and I don't feel marriage is at least, right for me.

I have yet to see a truly successful long-term relationship. Most married couples I know don't seem that happy together. Even simply looking at my bickering parents I know that's not what I want when I'm 50. I am not sure most people are meant to be in marriages. I think it's inevitable that if you live with someone long enough, you'll end up being bored, annoyed, and sick of that person. You'll long for someone new and exciting but you'll stay with that one person out of habit. Hell, I can barely deal with roommates I've had for a semester, how the hell am I going to deal with a wife for decades?

If you people ask me how I will deal with loneliness when I'm old, I'll tell them I would rather be lonely than have my wife breathe down my throat. I'll deal with loneliness then the same way I deal with it now, which is by being a fucking adult about it instead of looking to get hitched just because I was afraid of being lonely. If I were to get married, I'd rather get married because I love that person not because I wanted to someone to bear my insecurities. I've dealt with loneliness for a long time and there were times I searched for and stayed in relationships because I was lonely. Guess what, it never worked. It's a rather unhealthy and precarious foundation for a relationship, especially for one you expect to last a lifetime. If not being lonely is the reason you're getting married, then you'll end up lowering your standards and settling with someone who isn't right for you.

You may say marriage isn't really about love, but should be done out of practicality. I agree to some extent, but marriage has no practical value to me. I don't care about being lonely and I certainly have no desire to have kids. Some may ask, Don't you want to be a father? No. There are more than enough people on this planet and I don't feel an instinctive drive to father offspring. I'm not livestock that is put here just to propagate my genes. I will admit one scenario in which I would get married. If a rich woman who didn't want kids and was content with me bathing in her wealth and doing whatever the hell I wanted, then yes, I would get married to that woman for practical purposes. But that's a fantasy that only exists in my head.

I think like most things in life, being in a truly happy, long-term commitment with somebody is a special anomaly. Just as not every boxer will be world champion and not every MBA graduate is going to be CEO of a multi-million dollar company, most people will not have fulfilling marriages. I don't think most people aren't meant to. I am definitely not meant to. If other people want to become miserable for the rest of their lives, it's their prerogative, but don't try to convince me to join you. But like how some boxers are meant to be champions, maybe some people are meant to be together.

Defining Failure
Contradictory to what I have just said above, I have a problem with defining relationships as "successes" or "failures." In terms of length and conclusions anyway. Most people seem to see relationships as failures if they end, and the shorter they are, the worse. I define success based on how I feel. Even if I'm in a 60 year marriage, if I feel miserable, that relationship isn't so great. At this point in my life, no matter how good or bad, short or long they last, all of my encounters with love have been a learning experience. Perhaps it's a bit shortsighted to judge them as "failing" or "working."

All relationships end at some point. A lifelong marriage ends eventually by one person dying. You wouldn't call that a failure. I don't see why it's a failure if it ends via breakup. Not all relationships are meant to last for life. Well, I believe the majority aren't supposed to last for life. Be it a decade, a year, a month, or even a day, the length of the connection doesn't make it worth any more or less. One of my best friends I only hung out with for half a year and I loved that dude. I will cherish those memories. That friendship wasn't a failure because I don't see him anymore. Neither are my "failed" relationships. I've learned from the bad moments and treasured the deep connections I've made with these women.

So when I go for a girl, let's say a foreign girl, I don't really care that she's going to eventually leave. The same goes for making friends. I'm not going to not be friends with a foreigner because I think he/she is going to leave eventually and leave a gaping hole of sadness in my heart. I don't factor that in when becoming romantically involved. Well, I also believe everybody leaves at some point. We all die at the end.

So maybe if someone gets married and looks back at his/her life, the only way to judge whether or not that getting married was the right decision is see how you feel about it. If I can see a short lived relationship that ends in heartbreak as an experience, so can a person one that was in one for decades. I see the constant bickering and nagging as a failure, but to some people that's part of the journey. 

I don't believe in the romantic ideal of love. I don't believe in the happily-ever-after bullshit movies indoctrinate children with and give them unrealistic expectations. Love doesn't conquer all. Love isn't some magical power. It's chemical reactions in your brain and it's guided by hormonal horny levels. That doesn't mean I think it's meaningless. I think it's real and valuable. I just try to see it in a more realistic light.

Despite realizing it's just my brain reacting, I am aware when I am in love, it fucks me up. My hands shake, my heart pounds, I can't stop thinking about that person, and it sucks. It makes me feel human. I enjoy the spark of emotional connection and to some degree, even the ensuing heartache if there is one. When I am with a women I'm really into, I am happy. I am alive.

However, I don't put as much weight on love as some other people may. Meaning I will admit to loving somebody (to myself at least) maybe easier than most people do. I don't toss that word around easily because I don't want to devalue it (like when Korean companies have advertisements saying "I love you" to the customers, I can't take that seriously), but if I feel it, I admit. For example, the affection I feel for my friends can only be described as love. It's the word my mind jumps to. Even with the girls I've connected with very briefly, I would describe that connection as some sort of love. I may not say it out-loud because that would freak them out. But just because I feel some sort of love doesn't mean I'm ready to settle down and spend the rest of my life with a girl. I am merely admitting my intense desire to both physically and psychologically connect with her. Even if it's a brief moment, I would describe it as love.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Being a Killer

I squeezed the trigger
The butt of the rifle shoved my shoulder as if to say,
“Hey look at what you have done!
I drove a 55 grain ball of copper and lead
Into a man’s head and embedded it into his brain
The back of the skull vomits
the red of his childhood memories and names of loved ones
splattering the remnants of his existence on to the grass
To the ants, green turns to red
To my victim, light into black

I look up from my iron aperture sights and blink
blink to see a dark eyeless face gazing back at me
A blank expression of numb perplexity as it tips backwards into dusty slumber
A clean hit
So this is what it feels like
to take a life
It feels like the cold steal against my finger tips
and the plastic butt-stock on my right cheek
I have never fired my weapon at an actual living breathing
son, father, brother
Enemy soldier
But I have killed countless ranks of unmoving plastic men whose only sin is being practice for
when I really drain out another’s soul
out of a 5.56 millimeter hole.
The above is a poem I wrote about marksmanship training in the Army in hopes to convey the emotion of what I'm about to write.

When we went to the range, we dressed in our camouflage BDUs, laced up our combat boots, Kevlar helmets on our heads, strapped on our heavy duty belts and magazine pouches. Covered head to toe in tactical gear and K-2 rifles slung across our backs, we marched out of the barracks and to the rifle range. Once there, we hopped inside a little pillbox placed at each firing station, rested our rifles on top of sandbags, and eyeballed our targets through our rifle sights. A routine firing exercise and we went through the trouble of all the preliminary preparations one would go through before heading into battle.

I don't know if anybody else realized this or even pondered it, but having some interest in military affairs and having read some books on the topic before my entry, I knew why we had to be tooled up in combat gear to shoot at some plastic targets when we could have easily walked to the firing range in our P.T. clothing and sneakers. The whole purpose of training is to mimic the conditions of combat as close as possible without undermining safety and practicality. 

There's a reason why we wear our helmets and BDUs to the range. There's a reason why we shoot from a hole in the ground or in the prone position behind a sandbag. There's a reason why the targets are placed at 100-300 meters, which is the normal distance for infantry engagements. There's a reason why the targets are the size and shape of people. And there's a reason why when you hit the target, it is designed to drop down as if it died. Target practice in the military is psychological conditioning to ingrain a habit for pulling the trigger when we spot an enemy soldier in our sights. We are conditioned to kill people. 

Dave Grossman's On Killing, goes into further detail but the gist is that most human beings have an inherent aversion to killing other people, unless they are conditioned. To eradicate this natural aversion, the military tries to replicate every aspect of a combat environment so soldiers won't hesitate to pull the trigger. By the time a soldier mentally processes that the target is another person, it is too late. Grossman argues that the willingness to participate in combat explains the higher rate of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among modern soldiers compared to the veterans of past conflicts prior to the use of modern training methods. 

As I was shooting man-shaped molds of plastic with live ammunition, I fully knew what they were doing to me. I accepted it though. Perhaps as a method of consolidating my decision to enter rather than become imprisoned, I've decided if I was going to be a soldier, I was going to be a soldier. Holding a rifle in my hand, I saw the realities and fears of war a bit closer than I used to. As much as I am opposed to the ROK government, I've hated and still hate the DPRK regime even more, and should they ever attack, I had no moral qualms about taking the life of a North Korean soldier. In my mind, I have already crossed the line of becoming a killer. 

I have never actually killed another human. The closest thing I've killed was a rat. But every-time I pulled the trigger and saw a human shaped object 200 meters away dropping from the bullet I just fired...what am I supposed to feel? I've killed a person in my mind. Every plastic target I dropped was to prepare myself for when I actually take the life of another man. I may have logically convinced myself that killing an invading enemy combatant is okay, but how okay I would feel is a different question entire.

Sometimes I watch documentaries of war veterans trying to justify to themselves the act of killing another human. In the PBS documentary "Red White Black and Blue," one of the veterans breaks down and starts crying when talking about killing Japanese soldiers. On Killing discusses the mild level of PTSD service members experience even if they weren't directly involved in combat because they feel they contributed to the deaths of others. I wonder if training in itself plays a similar role. It may not be PTSD to the fullest, but just as I felt a slight pang when I smashed a rat, I wonder if "killing" all those targets ever so slightly took something out of me. 

Even though we're not actual killers, I wonder if thinking about it, imagining it, and practicing the act of it draws us closer to desensitization and sociopathy. Even if it's a minuscule change on an individual level, I wonder what it means to have almost half of the nation's population as potential killers. 

I'm not saying conscripts are all walking nut-jobs who are ready to snap and off people. Nor am I saying the military needs to adopt less realistic training methods. My training doesn't haunt me in my everyday life and while I'm not a well-adjusted person, my military experience plays a very minor role in my issues. As far as the training methods of the ROK Army goes, I think some of the safety obsessed protocols are actually detrimental to combat effectiveness so they need to make things more realistic. If you have read my previous entries, you might think I'm contradicting myself for painting such a cynical picture on what I have described as some of the best parts of the military. I admit I immensely enjoyed shooting and this sort of training momentarily made me feel like a soldier rather than an indentured servant. As much as I liked and still like shooting guns, I also fully realize what the point of marksmanship training and soldiering as whole means. 

What I want to point out is the lack of acknowledgment and honest examination of such implications of violence. I'm just curious to why these psychological aspects of warfare aren't discussed in our everyday lives, in the military and within our political discourse. Much like sex, death and killing and the realities of war are ignored and simply not addressed in this culture. For a country that is still technically at war with a military threat right outside its borders and has most of its security issues stemming from said threat, we don't really discuss its ramifications. I know like everything else in Korea, it's swept under the rug or simply isn't present in the collective conscience of Koreans, because we were never taught to think about these things. It's interesting, and maybe frightening, how we spend all these resources to force guns into the hands of hundreds and thousands of young men and condition them to kill on orders, and nobody bats an eye. 

Nobody even talks about the fact that inside my head I have killed numerous sons. I have seen many men fall from my bullets. You may say I'm over-thinking this but if your neighbor smashed watermelons with a hammer in his backyard saying it's practice for actual human heads, you'd say he's fucking crazy. Well, that's what marksmanship training is, shooting targets to get used to shooting real human heads. In my opinion, even simply acknowledging this fact is a step in the right direction.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Drowning Myself in an Ice River

The title is metaphorical. I haven't literally tried to kill myself by jumping in a river during the winter, yet. I'm actually talking about a movie a friend of my mine took me to see last year. It was a movie that shook me with a surge of recollections of how I felt before I was conscripted into the ROK Army.

The title of the movie is "Ice River (얼음 강)" and it's a short one that's part of a film project produced by the National Human Rights Commission. Titled, "If You Were Me," the project is a series of short movies that show the life perspectives of the disfranchised members of society such as the handicapped, senior citizens, and in the case of Ice River, Jehovah's Witnesses who refuse to go to the ROK military due to their religious beliefs. The last movie obviously was the most relevant to me.

I had no inkling whatsoever before watching this movie what male Jehovah's Witnesses go through. Because they are pacifistic to the extreme, they tend go to prison as conscientious objectors instead of being conscripted into the military. They refuse to even hold a rifle much less kill somebody. The title "Ice River" is a metaphor for the cold and unchanging conditions of reality for people who go against the grain. There is one scene where the protagonist throws chunks of ice on a literal frozen river and those chunks of ice break against the river's surface. The symbolism is obvious. To these people, the choice is either prison or breaking and throwing away what they stand for.

While I'm not much a pacifist (I get paid to punch people) and it's obvious I'm am not a fan of religion, I cannot help but be in awe of the Witnesses' dedication to their beliefs and the length they will go to uphold them. Because the stance on conscription among the general population is that of nonchalant acceptance, many consider conscientious objectors to be cowards. To me, however, they are the unsung heroes of liberty. Giants shouldering the burden of democratic freedom and constitutional rights. The "real men" fighting for what's right. Some may call them cowards, but it takes very little courage to shoot a gun because you are told to. It takes balls of titanium to go against the tyranny of an entire government and military organization. To stand against unjust laws and accept the consequences with stoic eagerness requires far more valor. These pacifists are more "man" than most of these tough-guys who think they became men for shooting a gun and digging a few trenches.

I salute these brave men, as I hang my head in shame.

Watching Ice River shook me in a long-lasting and profound way because it reminded me of my concession when it was my time to pay my dues. I don't mean paying my dues to the government, I mean paying my dues to liberty. As much as I talked big about how much I love freedom and proclaimed myself a Libertarian, when push came to shove, I buckled and fell.

I didn't write about it, even though I wanted to, until now because I didn't really want to dwell on how I torched my own beliefs out of fear. But when I think about it now, what I have done is murder a core aspect of who I am as a person. My convictions were how I identified myself and I destroyed them on the hopes I will have an easier life when I'm discharged. In essence, I have already killed myself.

When I received my papers in the mail, I battled with a dilemma. Should I follow my convictions, or should I give in? What was the right thing to do in this situation? I contemplated going to prison with genuine sincerity. I went over it in my mind a million times. I thought about how I would fare in a Korean prison and how the subsequent criminal record would affect the rest of my life. How I would deal with being treated like a criminal for following my beliefs.

Would I be making a sacrificing for my cause by going to prison? Or would I simply eliminate my chances of securing a better life in the future? What would going to prison gain me anything other than the feeling that I stood for something? Am I willing to exchange economic opportunities for that? Other than the lamentations of my own predicament, these questions ran through my mind and for a while conscription was the only topic that occupied it.

Some may say refusing government coercion is a criminal act of cowardice. But was Gandhi a coward? Was Martin Luther King Jr? Was Muhammed Ali? Was Malcolm X? Was Yu Gawnsun? These people stood against what they saw as oppression and refused to follow the law. They went to prison, had criminal records, didn't and couldn't have normal lives. Many of these people could have easily followed the rules and had "normal" and safer lives. Technically criminals, most people now applaud them as heroes. Rosa Parks could have easily said she didn't want to start trouble for nothing and sat at the back of the bus. But she didn't.

On one hand I have to think that these historical figures are historical figures because they were riding on the correct tide of history. The circumstances of their time allowed them to become who they became. If Martin Luther King Jr. tried to fight for people's rights several decades prior to the Civil Rights Movement, he might have been promptly lynched and never mentioned in the history books. Abolitionists might have been thrown in the gladiatorial pits if they were active during ancient Rome.

Similarly, an oddity like myself, a Korean Libertarian refusing to be conscripted due to his political beliefs, might have simply been laughed at while the cops handcuffed me. Very few Koreans share my views on this matter. I've also met many foreigners who claim they see the "necessity" of conscription in Korea. Perhaps several years down the road, more Koreans will call for an end to conscription but as of right now, I'm an unpatriotic loon. My going to prison would have been unnoticed, just as nobody gives a shit about the numbers of conscientious objectors who are jailed due to their religious beliefs.

Would my lonely stand have been for nothing? I talked about economic opportunities that I wouldn't have access to because of my criminal record but how much of an advantage would my lack of a criminal record really give me? How much more money would I really make and how much money would be enough to buy my convictions?

I never had and still don't have an answer to my questions. In order to not feel like a complete sell-out and disappointment to myself, I don't lean one way or the other. I try to accept what happened, happened. Still, I can't help but think I would be able to lift my head up higher if I had followed my heart.

In the end, I of course, conceded. I dove into the frozen river and drowned away my individuality. I gave into the coercive force of the government and became military property. A service with no honor or glory. Only shame at my own cowardice. For all the tough talking I do about my love of Liberty, what have I ever done for it? Nothing. Being a prisoner isn't glamorous but neither is the life of a slave.

Perhaps my path for redemption will show itself. A few years or decades down the road, when the time is right, I might find myself in the charge against oppressive government policies like conscription. Or I'll harbor these fantasies in my head while eating chips in my room and jacking off to porn. Just another chump who stood for nothing.

Monday, January 13, 2014

People telling me who to date

When you try to frame who a person is by one simple, superficial aspect such as race or nationality, you simplify an individual's identity and existence. We are much more than how Korean, American, black, or Muslim we are. There's more to a person than just their occupations as well. I am a student but I'm not just a student. I'm also a boxer, a blogger, an amateur poet, a Libertarian, an atheist, a shitty guitar player, a lover of animals and a hater of dub-step. Even though boxing is a big part of who I am, it's not the only facet of my individuality.

As obvious as this may be, a lot of people seem to prefer looking at things much more simplistically. Probably because that way, the world is easier to understand and a lot less thinking is required. I will readily confess I think way too much, but I wonder if people in general think too little.

One small way this manifests itself into my life is when people spew useless advice at my face and try to pass it off as wisdom. For example, older Koreans will try to tell me who I should date and marry. This is a habit my family members indulge in frequently because they are, for some weird reason, invested in my search for a mate. I think they assume I'm going to eventually get married and have kids and probably live the rest of my life in Korea with a Korean woman. Other than the whole issue I have with the very concept of getting married and bearing offspring in itself, I personally think the possibility of me getting serious with a Korean woman is smaller than the chance I'll do so with a woman who's not Korean. I'm not opposed to Korean women, but my family would likely not approve of the type of Korean girls I am into.

Not that I need or care about anybody's approval when dating, but my family wants me to be with a girl who doesn't offend their conservative traditional sensibilities. Because of my American upbringing they seem to suspect I am also open to other types of women. My cousins closer to me in age have curiously asked me about my interest in non-Asian women, while my older relatives constantly warn against it. They tell me with the matter-of-fact tone of a sage passing down wisdom that my cultural differences with a potential foreign partner would end up in problems down the road. A relationship with a foreigner wouldn't work, they warn me. They're too different. A Korean belongs with another Korean.

I chuckle and shake my head when I recall these episodes of family gatherings. If it weren't for my ability to find amusement in these kind of things, the holidays would be harder to tolerate. It's amusing to me that they offer these tidbits of "wisdom" without knowing anything about me.  It's funny how little my family members know me and how little they care about who I really am, yet still try to dictate big life decisions like marriage. Anybody who knows me would know I'm not "normal" by Korean standards and if anything, I would probably experience a larger cultural dissonance with a Korean girl than with a white, middle-class American.

Well, to be honest, I don't know for sure. Because people are individuals. There's no guarantee I will be compatible with an American just because she's American just as it's stupid to assume things will be perfect with a Korean girl just because she's Korean. It's why we go on dates and get to know each-other and shit.

I am not so sure I believe in "cultural differences" in relationships either. When two individuals of different backgrounds don't "make it," why do people always assume they broke up due to a cultural difference? If two white Americans from the same town date and break up, nobody would say it was because of culture. People are different and sometimes you don't mesh well and the relationship doesn't work out regardless of what culture you come from. Here, I am tempted to go off on a tangent about defining "successful" relationships but I'll save that for another post.

I've dated Americans and a Korean and I broke up with all of them. I have been on dates with Korean girls and I found very little chemistry with the really typical ones. I also met white girls who bored me to tears. In surprise twists, I have met young Korean girls who were really fun to talk to. I assume being young (young as in legal but still feeling like a borderline creep for hitting on them) and Korean equals boring, but I have been wrong about this several times. The lesson is, you can't be presumptuous.

My mother once gave me a lecture on what kind of girls I should ideally date and eventually marry. As predicted, she wanted me to be with a Korean. She initially started the cultural difference argument, but when I countered the argument with the logic I explained above, she revealed what she really felt. She didn't want to have a daughter-in-law who she would have a hard time communicating with and couldn't adapt to the Korean tradition of being a virtual slave during the holidays. Basically, my mother was trying to convince me out of her own selfish desires of wanting a personal servant like most mothers-in-laws in Korea expect to have when their sons get married.

I think by now my mother knows I would never subject the woman I love to such sexist oppression and she would probably prefer I get hitched to anybody than not get married at all. My other family members aren't as understanding. I know why my family is so interested in who I marry. I am the oldest male heir and it's my responsibility to uphold family traditions and carry on the name. We have a family tombstone and my fucking name is already on it. How disappointed will they be when I eventually move out of the country like I hope to and likely die in some far away land. I don't even believe in being buried and leaving a mark where my corpse is so future generations can ogle at it.

I'm trailing off-topic but the point is that I find it funny and weird that there are all these expectations and traits assumed of me just because I'm Korean. If the other people making these assumptions weren't Korean themselves, you'd say it's racist. I say it is racist. It's collectivist and presumptuous. And these supposedly wise old people telling me this shit pretend they're advising me out of concern, but it's really just selfishness. My uncle once told me he wouldn't consider me part of the family anymore if I married a non-Korean girl. He'll tolerate a Korean-American, but he'll be damned if she's white, black, or Chinese. Luckily for me, I don't give two shits about what my uncle has to say on my love life.

Therefore, a problem with dichotomizing cultural identities is that at the very least, on an immediate everyday level, people try to give you shitty advice packaged as wisdom. They make assumptions about you based on what they see on the surface and try to tell you what to do like it's for your own good. And they feel good about themselves.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

New Years Resolutions

I have strayed away from "New Years Resolutions" in the past few years because I never seem to commit to them anyway. Every year I vow to go down to a healthier weight, eat better, write more, and it never happens. This time I've decided to be different because I have vowed to make changes in my life. I realize it's not a sudden transformation but a gradual process of maturing into the man I aspire to be. These are changes I've been wanting to make anyway and the New Year serves as an extra motivational boost.

My Resolutions are:
1. Maintain a healthier weight. Most people would probably never describe as a fat person and although I wouldn't care as much about my weight in itself, as a boxer I have to reduce it to a level conducive to performance. I have a tendency to cut a lot of weight before fights and then balloon up really quickly. This makes training camps more difficult than they should be. I eat too much and too much of it is crappy food. After my next fight, I intend to gain no more than 4-5kg above the weightclass I compete at. Besides I think it's healthier for me to be lighter than I am currently; I feel better, perform better athletically, and look better aesthetically.

2. Write more. I don't mean my blog either. I will keep writing my entries but I also plan to do more writing in general. I want to work on my poetry, short stories, and academic essays. Mostly I want to focus on my fiction writing ability because it is severely lacking right now. Perhaps I will post some stories here.

3. Read more. In tandem with #2, I want to read not only to become a better writer, but to expand my knowledge. Instead of reading only history as I tend to do, I will read a wide range of literature ranging from psychology and philosophy to novels. Since history is my favorite subject, I will probably mostly about the past. I have books on my shelf I haven't read or only read partially and I plan to read all of them this year.

4. Get out of my social comfort zone. One facet of my personality I have hated for a long time and have been trying to fix is my tendency to play things safe socially. I have been shy and introverted for most of my life and I experienced a transformation since the beginning of last year into a more socially outgoing person. People I know tend to describe me as a friendly, sociable buy. My biggest resolve of the year is to take that a step further and be able to exude social confidence. Since as a teenager I despised my shyness and dreamed of becoming the type of guy who can talk to anybody, and I am taking steps into making that dream come true. As a guy in his twenties, I am mostly considering how to talk to girls I find attractive but I hope to expand my social skill to all areas of life. For now though, I'd like to concentrate on how to charm the panties off women my age. This is the most important resolution for me.

5. Get out of my comfort zone in general. I am sick of my own pussyfooting around when it comes to grabbing life by the horns. I wish to be rid of the doubt that constantly plagues me. I'd like to be more spontaneous, go out on adventures, and do things for the moment. Go on random paths, go bungee jumping, visit new areas, try out a new sport, etc. Live fucking life. Even if scares me, I'm going to run towards whatever it is that fills me with doubt.

6. Increase my personal records. On weightlifting. I lift weights both to supplement my boxing ability and as a hobby. Seeing the numbers go up on my lifts gives me a goal to focus on and makes me feel better about myself. Plus, when is being stronger ever a bad thing? This year my goal is to be able to squat twice my body-weight or more. Of course I will increase the weights on my other lifts as well but squatting is my main focus. I feel ashamed as an adult male I cannot squat twice my weight yet.

Secondary Resolutions - these are things I always engage in occasion but hope to do more often. I won't be as angry with myself for not following through but ideally, I would.

Cut down on soda. I drink too much of it and need to cut back. I save money and lose weight simply by cutting soda out of my diet. So far I haven't drank as much of it so I'm not doing too bad. I also need to eat healthier in general. I'm adding more raw vegetables in my diet from now on.

Practice guitar. For someone who has been playing guitar for years, I am terrible at it. I only know some chords and some songs, and I never seem to get better at it because I keep forgetting that I own a guitar. I should remember to play it more often and to a level where I'm not considered "really shitty."

Study more Spanish. Another thing I would better at if I was persistent. Let's expand my Spanish ability beyond how to introduce myself and saying I like to eat food.  

So begins my journey on becoming the person I want to be. I figure writing my resolutions down here would be a reminder and become etched more concretely in my mind.