It’s an honor to be back in cyberspace, floating freely through the cosmos with a billion-mile long umbilicus attaching me to the maternal planet. I apologize profusely and vehemently for being remiss in my blogging duties lately; I’ve been suffering from a slight malaise of mental mayonnaise, feeling my life to have become a sea of mediocrity bereft of its former food chain of variously voracious denizens. I’ve also been busy. My life is not my own.
Not that I should waste too much energy and become enervated about this non-existent emergency; the good news is that feeling sorry for oneself is an irrelevant pastime since both science and Buddhism have proven beyond the five o’clock shadow of a doubt that the self doesn’t exist. The cover of New Scientist magazine dubs the self a trick our minds play on our–yes–selves. But I confess I often get restless and bored when reading about scientific experiments pertaining to the human mind; maybe I’m too obtuse or provincially subjective, but they don’t seem to get to the heart of the matter (or matters of the heart, for that matter) enough for my taste. Then again, having grown up surrounded by superstitions revolving around such eternal verities as “the Reds are out to get us” (to update the chestnut, replace the word “Reds” with “terrorists”) and “Ultra-Brite toothpaste makes your teeth as white as you can be,” perhaps scientific reasoning is an acquired taste.
It’s funny how fluid perception can be, depending upon where you’re standing. For example, here in Korea most people don’t seem particularly worried about Kim Jong-un (or Jeong-eun, as Korean people would probably transliterate his name), the lunatic du jour, even though he’s got some people in the Pentagon so nervous that they’re pouring a billion dollars into beefing up the missile defense system on the Pacific Coast of the United States.
Not being a particularly good chess player (which is a polite way of saying I absolutely suck at the game, no matter how hard I try to win, but I still love to play because it’s a fascinating realm to delve into; playing solo is a good way to learn how to read the whole board better; the reason I usually lose is I zero in on too few squares on the board instead of focusing on all sixty-four of them at once, a tricky feat), I don’t know what goes on in the minds of these strategic planners who make the world safe for war and destruction. My guess is that the boys at the Pentagon are wise to buttress America’s buxom buttocks with defensive flying fecal matter, even though the anti-missile missiles often seem to miss what they set out to hit.
Kim Jong-un must be fondling his own man-boobs; I’ll bet he’s delighted to have tweaked the eagle’s beak. (Speaking of man-boobs, one of my seven-year-old elementary school students put her hand on my chest and asked, “Are you a girl?” When I told my wife about it later, she said, “She sexually harassed you!”)
Park Geun-hye, South Korea’s new president, claims her role model is Margaret Thatcher (proving that history sometimes moves backwards instead of forwards). Like the Iron Lady, she’d better have a big pair of ovaries to deal with the cherubic menace not far to the north, not that she can afford to get too belligerent or too many sparks will fly, leading to the kind of epidermal burns antibiotic ointment is useless to assuage.
Getting back to my point about varying perceptions, and changing the subject completely (since–let’s face it–nattering about what might happen to either one of the Koreas is about as fruitless as trying to describe God’s appearance to a police sketch artist), one of the delusions built into the overall one of having an unchanging self (that some of us all too often believe stays the same on the outside, no matter what the mirror says) is the sense that one still looks relatively young long after having crossed the threshold of middle age.
To wit, last Saturday when my wife and I were in the teachers’ room at the little school where we work, a high school girl I’d never met before, seated at the table having a private math lesson, looked up at me and said, rather startlingly, “I love you!”
“Thank you!” I said, to be polite.
“You are handsome!”
Jina, my wife, smiled and looked at me to see my reaction.
The girl continued: “You look like–KFC haraboeji.” Depending on the context, the word means “grandfather” or “old man.”
When I heard that, I started laughing uncontrollably. She was comparing me to that beloved, white-suited mass-murderer of chickens, Colonel Sanders. Apart from not having realized that I looked quite that old–at least to some people–the juxtaposition of being considered both handsome and comparable to a man not likely ever to have been chosen for the cover of People Magazine for their annual “Sexiest Man Alive” expose was hilarious to me, and I guffawed up a storm.
I hadn’t laughed like that in a long time. Korea is a serious country (at least in some ways). March is a tug-of-war between winter and spring, a season all its own–call it sprinter, or wing. At least I don’t have to wear a scarf or a muffler anymore (a “muffler” makes me feel like a car or a hostage gagged by a kidnapper); it’s a hassle to tie the thing properly without either choking yourself to death or having the thing dangle on the ground and sweep up the cigarette butts rolling down the street.
You get used to receiving back-handed compliments after living here for awhile (not that that’s even necessarily what it was; maybe Col. Sanders is considered a stud here–it must be the glasses). A few years ago my feelings would have been hurt by such a remark (with good reason, since I would have been that much younger than I am now), but it reminds me that some girls and women are not as shallow as so many of us males are when it comes to what they find attractive in members of the opposite sex.
But I’m pretty sure that’s changing. These days men are being objectified by the media just as much as women are. In accordance with this tsunami of a trend, my wife has asked me to trade in my man-boobs for a set of six-pack abs. Or maybe I can donate the “moobs” to Kim Jong-un, just so he’ll have an extra set for himself and/or his fetching wife.
If only I looked like Brad Pitt (and why shouldn’t I? After all, we’re the same age); that way I could do an obscure commercial in black and white for some men’s cologne while looking like Jesus and saying inscrutable things written by a team of overpaid imbeciles.
But there’s only one Brad Pitt. And one Tom Cruise (one too many, that is).
Be seeing you.