Single and Awkward in South Korea Seeks Same

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a poem about whether it was possible or not to keep finding love in a situation like teaching for a year in South Korea, only to need to either shit or get off the pot during that time.

Mixing metaphors like that isn’t always effective, but hopefully you get my point.

A good friend of mine of (wow) nearly 20 years has been teaching overseas for what feels like almost a decade. He started in Burma, then Taiwan, currently the Congo and soon, he’ll be in Cairo. Such far-flung places has meant he, a naturally charming man, has been in a number of relationships. As far as I know, they haven’t followed him to the other countries.

He, like me, is over 30. He is now, I believe about to turn 36. And, I haven’t asked, so I am curious as to whether or not that part of the international adventure he has been having for so long has worn on him. Do you get used to it? Is it not as much of an issue for him as it is for me?

I am not afraid (that’s a lie) to admit that, in some situations, I can be very awkward. Or, at least I feel incredibly awkward. Does that come through? I’m not sure. Every Thursday night for the last couple months, basically since the most recent EPIK crew arrived at the end of February, this part of Busan has been host to a gathering of folks for a near-end of the week drink. Some Thursdays, the crowd has been light. Others, like last night, it has been pretty packed. Those are the nights when I feel the most awkward.

Have you heard about the sorority girl who wrote an email to the rest of her chapter, using among other vulgarities, the term, “cunt punt”? The vulgarity of it is freaking hilarious. But, there is a time and a place. At one point last night, feeling particularly awkward and needing some sort of validation of my place in the party, I turned to a pair of girls, one of whom lives in the same building as me but I rarely see, and said, “You know what is the greatest insult I have heard in a while? Cunt-punter.”

The one that lives in this building seemed to immediately sour and said, “no, I don’t think I like that very much. No,” or something like that, and returned to her conversation with the other girl.

First of all, I don’t think it’s the greatest insult I have heard. I think it’s pretty good, though. But, definitely not the greatest. Second, I wouldn’t consider those two girls close enough to me that they would understand my brand of humor. That is to say, they wouldn’t understand my awkwardness and how, sometimes, I may say something inappropriate. Also last night, a friend I am closer to mentioned how he doesn’t have work the next day. He’ll have nothing to do except wait for his new computer to arrive, “and maybe have a fap,” he said. Fine by me. We’re close enough that I don’t care if he refers to masturbation, at least casually like that. I’d ask him to stop talking if he started going into explicit detail. Had he said this to that girl I made noticeably uncomfortable with my “c-p” reference, I’m sure she would have been even more uncomfortable.

Being here in Korea, among new people my age and (often) younger, is like being in school again. Then, like now, I was awkward. But now, with a receding hairline and without the ignorance of youth, I don’t have a long mane and a lack of understanding of what really is appropriate in certain circles and what is not to hide behind and fall back on. So, count me doubly awkward these days.

I can remember being in the library in high school when Melissa Khani, a very pretty girl who seemed a lot more laid back than a lot of the other pretty girls, took up a conversation with me. At that point, I said something not terribly unlike the “c-p” comment last night which killed the vibe faster than your grandmother walking in on your teen self having sex. Or, worse, you walking in on her having sex. It was the first thing that popped in my mind immediately after I made the comment and realized I don’t really know how to read a room.

This is why I prefer smaller crowds. Three, four people. Let’s get to know each other. I’ll probably have a better shot at not saying something that’s going to totally bomb since I’ll have a better idea what is acceptable and what is off-limits.

Another reason this feels like high school is, plainly, I’m “wookin’ pa nub,” as Eddie Murphy’s Buckwheat would have said. Now, like then, I’m swimming in a sea of uncertainty, impatient and occasionally panicking when the water starts to creep up to my chin.

It’s tough to manage when you’re new and confused and, yes, a little awkward. And, I keep having to go back to the “glacially slow” comment Amanda and the voice of Amanda in my head have drilled into my head. But, I’m getting bored of waiting.

So, be patient, be polite, be precise, be diligent
But, most of all,
be patient.

I just quoted my own writing. Who does that?

I stayed out way later than I intended to last night. Mostly because I met a girl who I was having a really great conversation with. She was stunning, like legitimate stunning. And, we were having a great conversation. And it flowed, natural like. Sure, she has a boyfriend back home but, so what? Tonight we have our conversation. She’s also just in town visiting her brother, who has been teaching here for two years and is leaving today. Pair her inaccessibility by not being single and not sticking around for very long and, shockingly, all my awkwardness fades. I wasn’t even that drunk!

The point of this is this girl said she saw in me a person who is really nice and is really someone who could make someone happy. And, she saw that I was someone who was looking for something meaningful, not just a slap and tickle.

And, is that possible here?  I really wonder.

It’s been on my mind a lot lately. Well, it’s been on my mind for quite a while, but more so here in South Korea, away from home. Looking on the other side of my 34th birthday. I do wonder if it’s possible to get involved in a real relationship when you’re on a timetable. But, only we decide whether that timetable exists. We can decide whether or not we part after a year, two years, or we follow the other to the next place in this world.

So, in a long-winded, way roundabout sort of way, this is me,  a nice, reasonably handsome, reasonably intelligent, respectful (usually), still trying to find himself in this world and prone to the occasional misstep gentleman (a word I’ve used for so long and now it’s TAINTED, especially here in Korea) saying he is single and ready to take your calls. I was going to say “single and ready to mingle” but that just felt too cheesy. And, in saying I was thinking of saying it, I actually did say it.

So, that’s that.



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