Playing The Foreigner can mean suppressing your personality (at work and in public and such) for the sake of Fitting In or Not Going to Asia Jail. This strategy works flawlessly, so long as no one asks you any questions about yourself, ever. And this never happens, especially in Corea del Sur. Thus, The Foreigner must consider three courses of action when confronted with an inquiry:
A) The Truth
B) The Simple English Response (whatever answer will be easiest to explain in broken Korean/basic English)
C) A Complete Lie That Will Make A Future In Place Much Much Easier
These aren’t always mutually exclusive, but frequently so. Let’s witness this process in action. An Example: “Do you have a boyfriend?”
Possible Answer A) The Truth: No, I do not have a boyfriend. Yes, that’s my age, you heard right. Your frowning and head-shaking and pity are not necessary and unappreciated. What’s that? You want me to date someone you know? Likely a man raised with a Confucian value system that quite specifically outlines the subservience of women to men? Super great.
Possible Answer B) Simple English Response: No.
Possible Answer C) A Complete Lie That Will Make A Future In Place Much Much Easier: Yeah, I totally have a boyfriend. But, um, heee….doesn’t live here. Yeah yeah, far away from here. I know, it’s totally sad, right?! But that’s okay. I’ll, you know, maybe see him over winter vacation or something, no big deal.
Guess which one I chose? (Hint: C) And for awhile, there was peace in Erinland. My well-meaning coworkers were happy that I wasn’t going to die alone, and I was happy because my answer effectively killed the question, and my 6th grade girl students were happy because Boyfriend meant I wasn’t ever going to date Kyung Hyu – my babe of a coteacher and the man that they are clearly all destined to marry.
Complications arose. First, my 5th graders were to speak with my family on the phone as part of a lesson. As they wrote down their questions, I spotted several “You like Erin Teacher boyfriend?” Goddammit you little bastards…of the four sentences you know… This would end in much shit upon my head if my parents thought I had a secret boyfriend OR if my parents thought I had a secret boyfriend and then I had to tell them I didn’t. They would cry the bitter tears of those with a spinster daughter. Blessedly, the question never reached my mom & dad – proof of a divine, benevolent force at work in the world.
And now, with winter vacation on the horizon, I’m getting more and more curious questions from coteachers about where I’m going, when I’m seeing Boyfriend, what we’re going to do, when we’re getting married, if my parents like him, when they can see pictures, etc. The lies! The tangled, tangled lies!
Anyway, this is all making me feel like Jan Brady.
Update, yo: In efforts to keep my finger on your pulse, dear readers, I need to know if I’m racist and if that bothers you. More specifically, is that picture caption racistly hilarious or hilariously racist? There’s a difference, believe it or not. Fire away.