By Jennifer Stevens
It started off like any normal relationship—a friendship request on Facebook. “I found a hot girl and want to talk to her. Please help my English! I can help you Korean =)))))” It sounded innocent enough. Plus, I was secretly longing for a Korean boyfriend ever since I saw a couple wearing matching Mickey Mouse shirts on the subway (I’ve ascertained that couples doning the same articles of clothing here, from shoes to shirts, is an official declaration of coupledom).
“Just be prepared for mass phone calls and text messages,” a girlfriend warned. “They definitely don’t know how to play hard to get.”
She was right. Five minutes after he dropped me off from our first date, I got a text: “I had a great time. When can I see you again?” I got another in the morning: “I miss you. T_T” Then five minutes later: “Have a great day! ^^” What the hell am I getting myself into? I wondered.
“You have to remember, there is a major cultural difference, especially when it comes to dating,” my girlfriend said. “Just accept that this is a new experience, and appreciate the fact that you’re dating an honest man who doesn’t play games.”
So, I responded to the text messages. I answered every call. And I started seeing him four times a week. When my parents came to town, I introduced him as my boyfriend. He got them a hotel through his broker friend. He took them out to dinner and drove them around Seoul.
Our relationship seemed to be playing in fast-forward—minus the sex—until one day he said,“I make reservation at a hotel this weekend for us,”
“Oh, wow, really?” I responded. “Where is it?”
“It is really nice hotel near Seoul. We will cook for each other and then sleep in the bed together.”
My mouth fell open and I searched for something to say. “Can’t wait!”
I immediately called every girlfriend I could think of who could give me sex advice at 11 o’clock on a Wednesday night, 10 a.m. U.S. time. “What is this, junior prom?” my friend Melissa shouted in the phone from her Washington, D.C. office. “Is he serious? And more importantly, are you serious? You’re telling me he’s met your parents, you’ve changed your relationship status on Facebook, and you haven’t even slept together?”
“You are not helping my nerves,” I told her.
“Well, I’m sorry, honey. But there’s probably a reason he’s been courting you like a boy trapped in the 1940’s. Two words: Chopstick dick.”
I was somewhat relieved when I came down with the flu two days later. “I’m not gonna be able to do anything this weekend,” I told my boyfriend. “I’m really sick.”
“But, the hotel is reserved. Maybe you feel better in tomorrow?”
He came by the apartment that night with a bag full of cough syrup, Hello Kitty vitamins, Lemona packets, and three cans of Red Bull for my roommates.
“You do know you have to sleep with him,” said my roommate Chris after he left.
“Yeah, yeah, I know.”
But my cold stuck with me all weekend and the following week, right up to the Boryeong Mud Festival, or Mudfest as it’s known here.
“I am happy that my girlfriend feels better for her mud party,” said my boyfriend on the phone, on my way to Mudfest. “But I am not happy working at 11 o’clock on Friday night while my girlfriend goes on vacation without me.”
“Call me tomorrow and we’ll make plans for Sunday night, I promise,” I said trying to offer some consolation.
But Saturday passed without one text message. Then Sunday.
“I’m starting to worry,” I told my roommate, Chris. “This isn’t like him; he usually texts me every couple hours.”
“Maybe he went away with his parents for the weekend,” said Chris. “I wouldn’t worry about it.”
By Tuesday morning, I’d become riddled with anxiety. I’d sent countless text messages, two emails, and had called his phone six times.
Then, finally, a text came in Tuesday afternoon: “You bad girl, I came to China last Saturday cause of my work. I can go back in tomorrow ^_^”
“Why didn’t you tell me you were going to China?” I replied.
“I don’t want to bother your vacation. You are so busy.”
“That’s strange. I was really worried about you.”
“I hope that’s true,” he responded.
“I have no idea,” he said. “He obviously really liked you, so that’s not the question. Maybe it’s a cultural thing that you’re not even aware of. I heard that Koreans really don’t like confrontation.”
“Well, he never introduced me to his friends or family,” I said. “Maybe he felt weird about dating an American?”
“Or, maybe he did have a small dick,” Chris said, laughing.
I guess I’ll never know.
A former Floridian, Jennifer decided to make the move to Seoul after friends found her with a hammer in hand, hovered in front of the freezer, trying to pry her “emergency credit card” from a block of ice. Living like an heiress on a copyeditor’s budget had finally caught up to her. Finances now in order, Jennifer spends most of her time teaching and daydreaming about where she’ll visit next.