Turning point.

So I got to have lunch alone with the private school teacher again today. Yaaaaaaay. And stuff. I keep trying to give her the benefit of the doubt, because that's usually the best thing to do until you just can't anymore, at least when you're as generally inclined toward doubting as I am. Today we reached a kind of breaking point, when, trying to deflect attention off of me and my grandfather and my amazing job and things of that sort, I asked her about her children. Which is generally enough to keep ajummas rambling for a good 45 minutes or so, at least. It didn't turn out that way, of course. Instead she turned it back on me pretty quick, asking why I didn't want to get married, which she's assumed from the fact that when she asked if I had a boyfriend, I said no. And when she asked why, I said just because. And when she said, you don't want one, I said, it's not that I don't want one -- it's that I don't want just any one. I want someone I really care about, who makes me a better person and who I may stand a chance of making a better person as well. At which point she declared me a true romantic, and decided I wanted to die alone. Apparently.

I told her I wasn't against getting married, but I don't feel that it's a necessary thing. She asked about children. I said, again, if I find the right partner and we decide that that's what we want, then that's what we'll do.

But you won't stay home with the children, right?

Well. I wouldn't prefer to, no. At which point I told her about Diana and her potential plans with her Korean husband for her to be the breadwinner of the household, while he leans more toward taking care of the children, and how that seems like an absolute dream to me, because I do somewhat feel that it's better to have a parent at home with the children. I just don't necessarily want to be that parent. That could change, of course, but as for now that's my general feeling. She gaped at me. Not in horror exactly, more just in a general kind of shock at this novel concept. She was also quick to jump to the "moocher" argument, that we can hear so often when we raise the possibility of this kind of idea with both Koreans and Americans, actually.

"I think it's dangerous because sometimes there is bad man who doesn't want to work."

Okay. So. If I want to stay home with my children, that's commendable, but if my husband wants to, he's a no-good lay-about who's taking advantage of me? Man. Women really just can't win, can they?

Instead of trying to make this argument, I suddenly found myself doing the one thing you don't do ever -- that is, coming out with all kinds of personal information that no one in my job place knows at all. But I was feeling pretty defensive, of Diana and Min Gi and their decision, of my own inclinations, and of, frankly, my future husband. Wherever this dream man may be.

I quickly informed her that my father left when I was 14, and that my mother was left with largely no financial resources, other than to work her ass off, given that she had no formal education and not loads and loads of stuff on the resume. In fact, there wasn't a fucking resume. Suddenly, she's got two kids to support and a mortgage to maintain, and no real way of making that happen. I told her, if I'm going to bring children into this world, I feel a responsibility to be sure that I can provide for them, no matter what their father may decide to do down the road. Because it's easy to be arrogant and to say that I won't make the same "mistake" by choosing "that kind" of man, but we all (who have been through this) know better than that. People change. But children don't disappear when they do.

Something about her entire face changed. She said, "You know I had kind of stereotype about Americans. And so I was very surprised when I saw how upset you were about your grandfather. Because a lot of Americans, I thought, don't care that much about that part of family, but I understand now -- he's really like your father."

This bit of connective insight out of this woman caught me completely off-guard. I blinked at her. "Well.... yes. He is. And my aunt and my cousin are like that, too. Close family. My aunt left my cousin's father because he beat her. So they all live in the same house. I lived with them, and when I didn't live with them, I lived two minutes up the road. So we are a close family, yes."

"So you are strong woman now. You finish your college and work this job and save money so you can be a strong woman. I see that."

"Well... yes. Basically."

"It's a very sad story."

I shrugged. "It's just a story. And I have a big, happy family. And we all love each other and take care of each other, so I have nothing to complain about, really."

"No. You're very strong woman. You go to school and you come here and are working hard. It's a very, very sad story. I won't tell anybody your secret."

I didn't bother to tell her that it's not really a secret. I'm not ashamed of my family, or of my "sad story" -- I just don't generally feel inclined to go around blabbing it at everyone. Nonetheless, it was nice to finally see some humanity out of this woman.

"Anyway, if a man could be pregnant, I'd actually want my husband to do that, too. That sounds awful."

She laughed. And we finished our lunch in relative peace.


Diana E.S. said...

Ah yes... strong women, giving men, and close families. The stuff of tragedies. Truly.

At least she's not completely horrible?

Yeah... the general reaction I've gotten to him being a stay-at-home dad is utter disbelief and confusion. Korean dramas do portray stay-at-home dads as lazy goodfornothings... which is ridiculous. Being a stay-at-home parent is tough and pretty damn thankless.

He's just so much better at housework and stuff than I am. And he'll be an awesome stay-at-home dad. If he figures out a career or something that he's passionate about, we'll figure out how to support that, too. We're lucky we can do that.

I'd love to meet this woman and have a lovely conversation with her... haha.

Anonymous said...

Hours spent per day with a child is subject to very strong diminishing returns. Hour 1 is all great, but once hour 12 rolls around, it can be downright unpleasant. Solution? An in-house nanny. I think that once i get over the cultural conditioning of instantly loathing families that use nannies it would be pretty sweet.

Thats my precondition for having a kid aged 2-8. So either I'll be motivated to be very wealthy, or the world won't have to deal with the product of my wretched genes.

I'm no Picasso said...

I would seriously love to find a man who would be willing to stay at home with the kids because a. I don't want to, b. it would take a truly innovative thinker with real courage and a real I-don't-give-a-damn-what-anyone-says-or-thinks attitude to step up to the plate there and c. imagine the kind of father a man who would be willing to stay at home with the kids would be. Certainly, I would hope, nothing like mine.

I think you hit the goldmind with Min Gi and I ain't about to let nobody but nobody claim to the contrary.

Anon -- Yeah that really kind of sums it up. I'll be okay spending infinity with the little buggers once they hit 12 or so. But up until then, I'm afraid I'll be a little bit lost. I can handle the teenage years. I just need to find someone who can handle a dirty diaper with any kind of dignity, and a screaming, non-conversational-language-endowed creature without resorting to turning into one themselves.