Wednesday, September 30, 2009

“우리 남편”

Men from Gyeongsangdo (경상도, 慶尙道) are known to be ‘무뚝뚝하다’. In other words, they are anything but interesting guys. Despite such unflattering association, most of Korea’s previous presidents and current president are hailed from this very region, which include Busan, Daegu and Ulsan as its major cities.

There is a joke about Gyeongsangdo’s men. When a man returns home after a day of work, there are only 3 things he will say to his wife - “아는” (how’s our children?), “먹자” (let’s eat) and “자자” (let’s sleep). This joke exaggerated the difficulty which Gyeongsangdo’s men have with their words and is no less due to their ‘무뚝뚝함’.

However, ‘무뚝뚝함’ is not just restricted to Gyeongsangdo’s men if my Japanese classmate has a say in it. She has this to say about her husband who is also Japanese.

“We went out for a date at a café. I left my seat for the toilet but when I came back, I saw he had ordered himself a cake and was eating it. I was mad because he didn’t even bother asking me if I would also like to have one. It seemed to me that all he cares about is himself.”

“One day, after we were married, I decided to make him a cake. (My Japanese classmate doesn’t speak Korean to her husband but I am using Korean below because that was how she said it when she was relaying her story.)

어때? (how is it?), I asked as he was eating the cake.
응…(umm), came his reply.
어때? I asked again hoping for something more from him.
안 보여? 나 먹고 있잖아. (Can’t you see, I am eating), came his blunt reply.

기가 막혀(I was dumbfounded). I spent so much time and effort making the cake. He could have at least said that it is delicious or thank you or some nice and encouraging words but all he could utter was can’t you see I am eating.”

What is not apparent above is why my classmate still considers her husband a nice guy albeit doing badly in the department of sensitiveness. Her husband is supportive of she pursuing her interest even though she has to be away from home for a long time to study in Korea. When he missed her, he would travel all the way from Japan to her dormitory without prior notice. My classmate said, “I didn’t even know that he was coming until I received his phone call saying that he is already below my dormitory.” At that moment, words were unnecessary.

My teacher also has much to 'complain' about her husband.

“We don’t quarrel over big issues like world peace or global warming; we quarrel a lot over trivial things. I can’t understand why he has to press the toothpaste from the centre despite telling him so many times to press from the bottom. I also can’t comprehend why he can’t walk a few more steps to put his laundry inside the laundry basket. He just likes throwing his laundry centimetres outside the basket and on the floor.”

But again, what is not apparent when my teacher spoke about her husband’s shortcoming, is the depth of their relationship. Her husband took a very long time to win her over because he had never been her ‘이상형’ (ideal type). After more than a year into marriage and a decade of courtship she has these words of wisdom to say, “When you take a long time to love a person, correspondingly, the love will last longer.”

In reality, there is no way to tell with certainty what love is, but, what is certain is love cannot be measured by what a person say or not say, men and women alike.

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