Saturday, September 1, 2007

Being Claimed

There is a thread on a similar topic on a forum frequent. It's interesting, but it's not talking about being claimed in the sense that I'll discuss it here. However, there are some similarities and it's what got me thinking about this. That topic is on why black Americans tend not to identify themselves as African. Now I'm not going to get into that here, but it did get me thinking about something else today.

I had to go to the hospital to get my blood drawn for my monthly check-up. Commuting in Seoul is pretty much easy to do now that I know the layout of the city. However, even now, I'll switch up the route just to learn something new or in the hopes of finding a new shortcut. I also try to time things where I miss rush hour or the hours when school lets out.

Today, I completely forgot about that and was on the bus with a bunch of middle school students and they're still just as irritating as I remember them being when I was a middle school student. Honestly, I hate that age so much that, if I have kids, I'll probably really dislike them when they're in middle school just because they'll be terribly insecure and endlessly stupid.

What that means is I have to deal with gawks and stares and sometimes just completely stupid behavior. In Seoul it's not too bad, but if you're on the not-so-well-off side of town it can get irritating because those kids, well, let's just say their families haven't racked up the frequent flier miles. They're not very cosmopolitan. Their grandmas are probably going to gawk too. Although I go to a university hospital, it's on the not-so-well-off side of town, so I'm used to the locals over there. But it got me thinking about being "the other" and about this topic on that forum.

That lead me to the topic of being claimed in the sense of dating and relationships. First, let me say I'm going to be walking in the minefield of broad cultural generalizations here. So I know there are exceptions and outliers. All of this is based on my perceptions and perspective, so take it as that and not as a scientific study.

With that said, I've pretty much consistently dated outside of my race more due to circumstance than anything else. Here, I'm predictably surrounded by white man/Korean woman couplings. Nothing against it; it's to be predicted in the expat community here. I mean if I were a white guy with an Asian girl fetish, I'd get myself a job in an Asian country too. Also, some guys don't arrive with that preference, but due to sheer numbers Korean women outnumber Western ones. However, that's not really the issue. It's just primer to say I've seen and heard lots of cross-cultural, white man-Korean woman, dating stories.

I hear the men in these couplings sometimes bemoaning what they have to go through in a society that isn't overtly accepting of foreigners dating Korean women. However, since a lot of Korean women want to date foreigners and because Korean women seem more willing to marry out of their race, it's an interesting question. At least it seems that way to me, but black women are the most conservative about dating and marrying outside of our race. At any rate, dating a Korean woman is an easy thing to do if you're a white guy here. All men have to do is know a few phrases in Korean.

I've seen guys being coached in the basic lines. Something like "you're very pretty/beautiful", "what's your number?", etc. and the more aggressive Korean women will take it from there. Of course, there are less aggressive ones too and that's going to require a bit more skill and knowledge in terms of language and culture. Honestly, I've seen men fresh from the airport, two steps from the Elephant Man in physical attractiveness, and sometimes very on the low end of the IQ scale scoring women way out of their league. Sometimes the mismatch is so clear it's comical. There are also couples who are wonderfully matched, but the mismatched couples are pretty easy to spot.

What's interesting to me is I'll hear white guys complain that the women they're dating will hide the fact that they're in a relationship with them from their families. This is particularly the case with women who come from well-off families because I've heard of Korean women from less well-to-do families basically being cheered on when they discover she's "caught" a white man. I have one well-to-do Korean friend who was told by her father that if she marries a foreigner she's cut off and he'll never speak to her again. I didn't think he was serious, but she bought it until she recently got a white boyfriend. She was beside herself for awhile thinking her father was serious, but I told her to just tell her parents because they're going to find out sooner or later. She 'fessed up and all is fine on the homefront. In fact, with her parent's begrudged acceptance she's fallen off the face of the earth and is firmly in the dating zone with her new guy. I'm estatic that she's happy.

However, I've heard all sorts of craziness about Korean women not claiming the white men they're dating. I've heard guys bemoaning their plight when their Korean girlfriends and even financees won't tell their parents, siblings, and, sometimes, not even their friends. It's like having a double life. I could never have a significant relationship that I kept secret from the people close to me. That's probably what had me encouraging my friend to tell her family about her guy. I actually felt offended for him and, as he's not been in Korea very long and the fact that I also have a general read on his character, I figured he would be offended too. He's a great guy. He adores her. She adores him. Thus far, I see them as a great match.

I also know I could never be in a relationship where a man didn't want his family and friends to know he was dating me. What's interesting to me is that if that was a situation that I was in and my non-black boyfriend wouldn't tell his family and friends that he was involved with me, he wouldn't be my boyfriend for very long.

Why? Because the fact is I'm black and that's very much part of who I am. I think that since the US is so race focused that I'd view him telling his family and friends about me as something significant. I would understand the problems he'd have if he's from a conservative family, but I would want him to face the music and tell the people he loved that he loved me. I feel so strongly about this that if he didn't acknowledge me, I'd end the relationship. BTW, no, I've never had that problem. Even with one ex who claimed his dad was a raging bigot, he took me home to visit his parents one Christmas. So I have had that awkward "Guess Whose Coming to Dinner" situation. I'm very good socially, so I usually leave with the parents liking me more than they like their own kids.

In contrast, I know of quite a few white men here in relationships where they're hidden. The excuses that I would find simply unacceptble they accept: "She doesn't want to disappoint her family or parents", "She's scared of how her family will react", "She doesn't feel the time is right", "Her mother/father is sick/old and she doesn't want to make the situation worse/kill her mother/father", etc.

That got me thinking about what the difference might be. Are they just naive, pussy-whipped, punk bitches or is there something else going on here?

Why it's so easy for them to accept these sorts of excuses? If it was a man I was dating, I'd tell him to grow a backbone or go get himself a new girlfriend closer to his family's preferences.

I think one aspect is the gender roles and differences. Men are expected to be bold and strong. They're expected to be rule breakers when it's an important issue. Basically, they're supposed to be brave knights that are noble to the cause and save the day.

In contrast, women and, in particular, Asian women are seen as fragile things that need to be protected, educated and saved. Now I don't agree as my female Korean classmates and friends could give just about any man a run for his money. However, there are many Korean women and women in general who play up the helpless maiden routine. But the image of the Asian woman isn't the main topic here. I bring it up just to say that due to that image I think they get more chances.

Another issue is a white man might be reluctant to push being claimed for fear of appearing to have a colonialist, superiror or intolerant mind-set. I think this is because since they're from the dominant culture in a rapidly globalizing world there is no sense of being the "other". At least, that is, not until they get here. When they get here some revel in the attention. They're rock stars in a sense. Others aren't so arrogant about it. Either way, I tend to steer clear of them these days. In the past, I've been out in a group and have seen the ugliest most horse-faced white guy in the group be described as "handsome" by particularly flirty and nowhere near drunk Korean women. I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but you know something is up when 9s are hitting on 2s. I'd argue that a lot of that is a result of cultural dominance.

It's just an interesting question to me. A situation that would simply be unacceptable to a person of color is completely acceptable to these guys. It's interesting and, all I have to say, is better them than me.

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