One of the few advantages of making a third less money than I was a year ago and having to teach children instead of adults here in the Holy Land of Seoul, South Korea, U. S. A., is that I no longer have to pay attention to the way I dress. It is of course advisable to wear some form of clothing, considering how bloody cold it is outside, and since I’m working in an only tenuously-heated space (heated, coincidentally, by a space heater my wife and I brought over to the joint from our place), but at least I don’t have to spend time ironing shirts, wearing a suit, or putting on a dick-indicator (what’s more commonly known as a necktie) and asphyxiate myself just so I can look nice for the customers–er, students. Since they’re just kids, they don’t give a shit how I look or what I wear to work.
That doesn’t mean I don’t have to keep some things in mind when getting dressed in the morning. For example, I’ve found that long underwear is indispensable in the increasingly Siberian, if not Dostyoyevskian, conditions in which I live and see my breath. I’ve also taken a shine to the thick flannel (unless they’re polyester) pants my wife bought me, whose label reads, appropriately enough, SAP (short for “Shirts And Pants”).
I’ve been wearing the same polar fleece, pullover, or whatever you want to call it every day pretty much all winter so far, making sure to wash it at least once a week or so, even though I wear two layers underneath it so that unbearable stinkiness can’t set in too quickly.
In the Sisyphean struggle of everyday domestic life, it seems like my waking hours are evenly divided between washing the dishes and doing the laundry. I wash all my socks together in hot water–I have about a hundred pairs–then hang them all up afterwards. Most of them are either grey, black, or white, just like real life, and many have sprouted holes from fractious toenails that slice their way through in an antisocial display of comparatively harmless banal anatomical violence.
(I do have to keep an eye on my fingernails, however, as I once accidentally slashed one of the fingers of the other hand–probably while in the act of hanging laundry or washing dishes–and afterwards had to apply antibiotic ointment to the tiny wound.)
To return to the thrilling topic of hanging up socks, depending on my energy level, I’ll make sure to hang each one up next to its twin, and to turn them outside-out so I don’t have to do it later on.
At night I wear flannel pajamas to bed over a fresh pair of long underwear, and my pajamas, I’m terrified to say, have seen better days. When my Japanese sister-in-law visited just before Christmas she said I looked like a cartoon character who’d been mauled by a dog–and that was two years ago. I keep forgetting to buy a replacement every time I go back to the States for a visit, maybe because I’m always there in either the late spring or the late summer for a month, so the thought of pajamas is seasonally irrelevant.
Finally, one of these days I’ve got to get a haircut. These days my hair looks increasingly ridiculous. It can’t seem to decide whether to be straight or curly. In the summer months the incipient sideburns tend to wing out, making me look like an embryonic version of Bozo the Clown. Nowadays the gray wings growing in front of my ears swoop towards my face, sometimes playfully stabbing me in the eye like a bored psycho killer. When this happens, it makes me contemplate shaving my head. It’s hard to feel upbeat when the tendrils made of dead protein cells that grow from your own body conspire to torment you.
Let’s leave my shoes for another time; suffice it to say I wear the same pair every day–a scuffed- up pair of brown dress shoes–even when I go hiking, which is woefully seldom now that it’s cold as a witch’s grin and dark as the inside of the human heart.
Okay–looks as if I’ve managed to tell you about them anyway. Now you know all you need to know about me. I look forward to our candlelit dinner date together and to hearing all about you and your idiosyncrasies regarding your wardrobe, nails, and hair.