It started even before I came here—I had a real job, supposedly, so I had to dress nicer. I realize now I could have gotten away with going to work in an oily loincloth, but while I was still in Maine, still wondering whether I should even come to Korea (I remember that windy green mountain where the decision was made…), I thought I had to don casual professional attire. So much for the casual elegance of the years before, the silkiness in the undulation of a black velvet cat, a scarf in the wind—so much for that!
Koreans like to dress nicely, particularly young ones; I was changing before I stepped out the door.
And sixteen months later, now that I’ve decided to stick around for a good long time, and hunkered down with a nice Korean girl, and submerged myself in the Korean language, that spiced brine of still-boiling stew, I’ve gotta say, I think I’m turning Kor-e-an I think I’m turning Kor-e-an I really think so. My eyes aren’t changing just yet (I’m not even sure they offer that sort of eyelid surgery, since, after all, no one chooses to look Asian), but I’ve noticed a few new ways of thinking, a few behavioral changes.
I now view with a really vicious disdain anyone who fails to conform to fashionable standards, and judge them harshly—immediately!—instantly!—if they express themselves through their clothes in even the slightest original manner. And I come from a college where one of the graduating students from my class accepted his diploma while wearing a pair of old overalls and a whole net of green bacchanalian ivy. I thought nothing of it at the time. Now I would be incensed, spitting venomous 반말 like a black mamba if even a single person in a crowd of thousands failed to show up in a suit and tie.
And I avoid conflict; I don’t spend every thought, every waking moment, prodding my friends on to sudden explosions of rage—poking those swollen pustules with hot needles—and I just smile and agree whenever my coworkers say or do anything that would have collapsed my younger mind, my younger self, in a fit of babbling agony. The poisonous resentment eats away at my insides like the green broth from a burst appendix, I’m going to start flagellating myself in public if these passive aggressive tendencies don’t calm down, and I’m terrible at hiding my disagreement from anyone—my face is an open book—but still, despite it all, despite my somewhat distressing Koreanification, life is good, life is richer than ever.