Monday, September 03, 2012

Korea trip: Friday

The next day--Korea's Friday--we once again went to Insadong, this time to return a dress that MJ had bought the day before. It was cute but too short. I also bought a ring at the same store because we felt bad about returning the dress.  There's no room for guilt in a run-of-the-mill commercial transaction, but that's just how we are. 

Either Thursday or Friday, I can't remember which, it was decided that I was going to be in MJ's wedding after all.  Apparently MJ had asked RR to ask me if I'd be in the wedding, but because the request and response were phrased in typical MJ and RR fashion, it wasn't clear at all that she was asking me to actually be in the wedding or that RR had agreed to it. Both of them say "yes" to invitations to stuff that they don't want to do, because they don't want to hurt the asker's feelings.  And they know this about each other.  The two of them are so very worried about making the other one do something she doesn't want to do, but which she wouldn't say no out of fear of causing hurt feelings, that their conversations are very indirect.  Trust me when I say this is not a cultural issue but very much a personality issue.  It's not uncommon for us to have entire conversations in an attempt to plan something, and at the end, we don't have any idea how the other two really feel about any of our potential plans.  So the request had been more of a "Do you think JLR would want to?" said in a way that made RR think MJ was considering asking me out of a concern that I would feel excluded.  Not wanting MJ to feel like she had to include me out of mere politeness, RR replied along the lines of, "She's happy either way, whatever makes things easy on you," which she meant as, "She will if you really want her to but really doesn't care if she isn't involved, so don't worry about hurting her feelings," but which MJ took as, "Yes, she will be in your wedding."  Honestly, even now, I'm not entirely sure that MJ didn't insist on including me only because she was worried I'd feel weird sitting with the other guests by myself. She and RR are extremely considerate. Picture two people standing in front of an entrance saying to each other, "After you," "No, after you," "No, you first," "No, I insist," until the end of time. That would be MJ and RR. That is why I am included in their friendship circle. I'm not nearly as much fun as they are, but I get us through doorways.

I didn't bring a dress with me that was appropriate for being in the wedding, or at least in a typical American wedding, but fortuitously the dress I brought to wear to the wedding was the same color as RR's bridesmaid dress. That meant I just needed to acquire a jacket to make it more formal--and, if this were the U.S., much, much more matronly, by which of course I mean dumpy.  And for that matter, in the U.S., a suiting-type jacket (as opposed to, say, a lace bolero, very popular with brides and bridesmaids) makes it less formal. Put a jacket over a sundress makes it dressier, but it does not make an outfit formal enough for a wedding unless it's made out of wedding-appropriate fancy fabric. But I dutifully acquired a mother-of-the-bride jacket.

MJ said later that people who went to the wedding told her that we looked "like little dolls," but I think that's just because we're twins.  And also I'm guessing that it was really just her mom who said that, and her mom likes us.  Moms who like you because you are nice to their children tend to think you are adorable.  I just don't see how anyone could realistically describe us, or at least me, as looking like a little doll, because looking back at the pictures from the wedding, I definitely looked like a middle-aged, fashionably conservative wedding guest. I looked like the lead character from one of those really cheesy romance movies on t.v. where the frumpy middle-aged woman gets divorced from the man who never really appreciated her, finds a sexy new boyfriend who loves her for who she really is, and then suddenly and inexplicably develops a fashion sense she never had before, brought on by the power of love.  I looked like the woman in the "before" part.  As we were looking at the pictures, I told RR, "I look like I could be [MJ's] mom."  She made me feel only marginally better by saying, teasingly but also in complete earnest, "No, you look like her financial adviser. . . You look responsible."  Maybe I helped create an impression on her wedding guests that Americans are reliable and fiscally responsible.  So there's that. 

On our agenda for Friday was a trip to yet another department store, this one called Galleria. But first, as I said, we went to Insadong to return a dress. On our way there, we stopped by a cute coffee shop to order coffee and a piece of dduk, the kind filled with bean paste. It was so good. The shop was upstairs, so we were able to sit by the open window and look out on the street below. 


View from the counter. We sat where the guy on the left is sitting.

View from our table.
 In theory, I would love to live above a shop on that street. I'm sure that in practice, I'd find lots to be annoyed by if I lived in such a place. But it was lovely to think about. While we ate, MJ had a long conversation on the phone with Fiance about whether or not they'd have to drive to Fiance's hometown that night for some sort of ceremony with his family. It had previously been decided that they were not going, and so MJ had scheduled all of her last-minute wedding stuff for Friday and Saturday. But now suddenly, Fiance's parents were firmly requesting them to go. Yep, in-laws the world over act like in-laws. It may not be that big of deal to other Koreans, so I can't comment on whether his parents were being inconsiderate or not in the context of Korean culture. But I do know that it caused MJ stress, and that's all I needed to know to get annoyed with her in-laws about it. I do not like it when people make my friends feel stress.

After that, we returned the dress, and on the way out of Ssamzegiel, we stopped by a fortune teller.  Doing something like that is not something that's like the three of us at all.  We don't any of us believe in it.  But it can still be a fun thing to do.  And as it turned out, I'm glad we went.  The woman there read MJ's tarot cards and predicted that her soon-to-be husband would support her in her career choices and that she would be successful in her career, likely as a professor.  It was a very positive, encouraging fortune, and a nice thing for MJ to hear right before making a major life change.  So although none of us believed that the woman had any real insight into the future, we felt better for having heard it just the same. It was a nice way to lighten our mood.

Feeling in good spirits, we stopped at a restaurant in Insadong for ssambap. While we were there, "Rhinestone Cowboy" played on the PA system. That was kind of unexpected.

Then it was off to the Galleria, where we picked up a jacket MJ had ordered and I bought some makeup, but before we had a chance to buy the cosmetics that MJ wanted, she got called away by Fiance. He'd had the suit for his wedding made for him, and the shirt wasn't fitting properly.  MJ thought he could handle it at first, but it became clear over the course of a few phone calls that this was going to take MJ and her "We paid for this, so you're going to give us what we paid for" no-nonsense shopping persona to straighten it out.  So she left us at a cafe in the store while she went off to the suit place, which was nearby.  It was a nice practice run for us being alone in Korea.  We survived, needless to say.  And when she returned, we also survived her shopping for skin care.  Shopping with MJ takes a tremendous amount of patience.  She isn't picky about what the people around her wear or what they look like, but when it comes to buying things for herself, she is painfully meticulous.  We don't shop like that at all.  We're more like the way I once read men's shopping style described: it's like a military excursion behind enemy lines--you get in, do what you need to do, and get out before anyone sees you.  Fortunately for us, our mom shops like MJ, and we have developed coping skills over the years. 

After MJ returned and picked us up from the department store cafe she'd left us at, we went across the street to a small restaurant where we were attacked by a bee. The bee probably didn't consider it an attack, more like just circling around our heads.  But when a bee is circling your head, it feels like an attack. It was hard for us to relax. 

The conversation was enjoyable, mostly about wedding stuff, but it was clear that the day had been exhausting for MJ.  She just looked so beat down. I really wish that eloping were more common and acceptable.  Most women I know are so ready for the wedding to be over by the time it arrives because the stress of keeping family members happy and of making sure that nothing goes wrong in the wedding preparations is overwhelming.

We liked visiting the small restaurant because it felt very non-touristy, and I think we would have liked the food if we could have had any of the parts with flavor on it.  We ordered bibimbap, only actually it was just greens and rice and our own pepper paste. The proprietress was very concerned that we couldn't eat much of anything there, and I wish our Korean were better so we could have told her that her concern was sweet but pointless because we were used to it, and there really wasn't anything she could do to make it better.  She asked us if we could have daikon, which we can--but she forgot to ask if it was ok if it had gochujang on it, which it isn't. So we had to pick it out of our bowls and hope that the contamination was minimal. And then we took some Benadryl.  And then of course, we went back to our hotel and crashed, because there's really not much you can do after you take Benadryl. So that was the end of Friday.

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