- My long-term goal is to be Egypt.
- My long-term goal is to become a gracias choir (I thought she’d made a spelling mistake, but it’s actually a thing.)
- I would like to make a boyfriend (In Korean, people say “make a partner” rather than “get a partner”).
- I will play with my boyfriend.
- My long-term goal is that I will buy my house and live with three cats. When I graduate a universe, I will make money, so I will buy my house.
We were headed down the mountain in the late afternoon, enjoying the sunshine filtering through the mostly still-green leaves. The air smelled sweet, like California, and it was a perfectly pleasant day – warm, but not hot, with a mild wind blowing. We’d been hiking for a few hours and were nearing our finishing point; we would intermittently stop to take in the scenery at a peak or viewpoint, wipe our foreheads of sweat, and kiss each other in the sunshine.
I stopped to kiss him again in the middle of the woods when I saw that we were alone – a rarity on trails in Korea. Before I could even put my lips on his – as soon as my hand touched his face – I felt it in my cunt. That hot, swollen, goddamn-I-want-you feeling. I ran my hand down his chest and told him a bit breathlessly that I could feel my labia pulsing when I touched him. “Well, there aren’t that many people around,” he said, and I suddenly got butterflies in my stomach.
We walked over to where a rope was separating the trail from the woods and climbed over it, finding another trail. Walking along that trail brought us to a clearing, where we quite unexpectedly found more trail signs! We walked in a different direction through a thicket of bushes and trees until we came to another clearing with a big, V-shaped tree in it. Looking around and seeing no signs and no people, we walked up to the tree, him behind me. I reached behind me and quickly unclasped his belt before unbuttoning my own pants (as he barely slid his down) and pushing them just below my ass. I placed my hips against the tree, leaning through the V. I was so wet that he effortlessly slid into me; I held on to the two trunks to my left and right and pushed my body back against his.
I held tight to the rough bark, feeling it scratch my hips, and asked him to fuck me harder. He plowed into me, placing one hand on the tree trunk for balance and gripping the back of one of my hips with the other. In the middle of fucking, I saw a hiker walk along a trail downhill from us, about fifty meters away, which only made it hotter. As I got closer and closer to coming, I bit my own shoulder to keep from making noise, but I was unable to be completely silent; I still groaned and whimpered as quietly as I could. Seeing this turned him on, and within a few minutes he was stifling his own sounds of pleasure. I felt his cock twitch inside me as he came, and we both leaned against the tree, hot and breathless. We laughed, delighted with our taboo woods sex, cleaned up, quickly pulled up our pants, and made our way back to the trail.
I wish I’d taken a picture of that tree – or two trees, really, meeting at the base and growing together.
In the past ten years or so, it’s seemed to me that pop culture has become saturated with dystopia – books, films, and television shows that would have us believe that the future is a dark, desolate, desperate place with scarce resources and no humanity. The Lobster, a new film from director Yorgos Lanthimos, is a light in that darkness.
The film opens with the main character, David, played by Colin Farrell (in a mustache strongly reminiscent of 1980s Bruno Kirby), being dumped by his wife. In the next scene, he’s checking into a hotel, where he is informed that he has forty-five days to find someone else in the hotel to pair off with – no grieving period for his lost relationship; no time to heal his broken heart. If he doesn’t find a partner, he’ll be (through some future scientific miracle) transformed into the animal of his choosing. In case you didn’t catch that: all that separates us from the animals is monogamy!
What ensues is a process of calculation by all hotel guests in terms of potential choices: Find someone you can tolerate and pair off in order to get out of the hotel. Commit suicide. Escape from the hotel and live in the woods with a ragtag band of loners – but then live a life of celibacy (or face extremely severe consequences). Or, in the case of one hotel guest, get really good at hunting. For each loner that a hotel guest catches in the woods, they get one extra day to find a mate.
When two people announce their official coupledom, they are literally given privileges – bigger rooms, better meals, time on a yacht, access to sports and hobbies that require pairs. Guests are further motivated to partner up via a series of hilarious skits – woman alone is raped. Woman with man is felt alone. Man alone dies by choking to death. Man with woman is saved.
How does one find a partner, then? It seems that people pair up based on physical and psychological maladies. Characters feel that they are adequately matched based on the fact that they get nosebleeds or that they have a limp. There’s a telling scene in which David asks the woman he’s sleeping with (played by Rachel Weisz) a series of questions to find out if they have anything else in common besides their bad eyesight; they don’t. We hold onto tenuous threads a sign of destiny when first meeting someone – “Wow! This person also likes Miles Davis! We are SOULMATES!” – and Lanthimos nails it.
His presentation of the intersection of sexuality and partnership is also fascinating; in the hotel, partner sex is encouraged, but masturbation is banned (and there’s a horrific physical punishment in place for breaking that rule). Guests are forced into a state of arousal but then forbidden to jack off. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, Loners are encouraged to masturbate, but partnered sex is forbidden. Even flirting is punishable by physical deformation. It’s here where the dystopia (and the main point or the film, I believe) really took hold for me: There’s a Manichean binary between monogamy and dying alone.
And so people in this imaginary world, not so different from our own, couple up in order to avoid transformation or being hunted. In what is my absolute favorite scene in the film, the Loners hold the couple who run the hotel (and enforce the rules) at gunpoint, asking the husband how much he loves his wife. From the bottom of his heart, he claims. They then ask him to choose whom they should shoot: Himself or his wife. Shoot her, he says; he can live alone. She can’t. So much for true love!
The Lobster is not a very subtle allegory, but it gets its point across in a hysterically deadpan, macabre way that left me eager to see it again. It is wonderfully strange and presents a delightfully different vision of dystopia. This movie is comical satire at its finest, even when what it’s satirizing – the serious social pressures we face to become we instead of me at any cost – isn’t so funny.
I am not beautiful in my country.
Okay, so I guess I’m beautiful in that Dove ad, body positivity, everyone-is-a-unique snowflake kind of way, but I would never be described as objectively beautiful by American beauty standards.
My two front teeth are a bit indented because when I was growing up, my parents couldn’t afford braces. I used to weigh significantly more than I do now, and my heaviest weight is what I’ll always feel like I am. Sometimes I have acne, because I’m a human. I have those little rolls of fat near my armpits that ladies with big boobs have. I don’t tan, I don’t wear makeup, I don’t wear high heels, and I’ve never once gotten a manicure.
I am not beautiful in my country.
The first time someone passed by me on the streets in Korea and whispered, “Oh, beautiful,” I thought it was a fluke. Maybe they were looking at someone else, or maybe they’d never seen a foreigner before.
Then it happened again. And again. And again. Students would tell me I was beautiful, strangers in bars and cafes, clerks in stores. And suddenly, I felt beautiful. Over time I grew confident and held my chin up. This is incredibly strange to me, because in Korea, I am definitely not beautiful to other Americans. In fact, I’d say a large percentage – not all, to be sure, but a lot – of North American men come to Korea because they find Korean women to be so beautiful. And stranger still is that so many Korean women do not consider themselves beautiful the way they are naturally, opting to get plastic surgery, wear heavy makeup, and wobble around on stilettos that will ruin their feet in the long run (this is in part due to unrealistic Korean beauty standards that are based on unrealistic western beauty standards, creating a WHOLE CLUSTERFUCK of expectations of an external appearance that no one will ever be able to live up to).
I am fully aware that cross-cultural attraction is fraught with colonialism, racism, degrading sexual stereotypes, objectification, and exoticism. That sometimes what’s happening is not genuine attraction to a person, but attraction to the romanticized and dehumanized version in someone’s head of what that person represents. I’m also aware that my white privilege has an impact on my social interactions in Korea.
But I’m going to keep it one hundred on my end and say this: being told I’m beautiful – something that never happened to me at home – feels good. Even if it comes out of exoticism and a bullshit adherence to western beauty standards. When it’s paired with sincerity and stated as an opinion rather than used as a manipulation tactic, it can be so empowering. The guys who pass me on the street and whisper, “Oh! Beautiful!” aren’t looking to hook up; they’re not asking for my number. They say it shyly, quietly, as if they’re just thinking aloud. And I straighten my back, turn and smile coyly at them, and think, “Yes. I am beautiful.”
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone were told this enough to really, truly believe it?
If you’re interested in reading some fucking fantastic articles about gender and beauty in South Korea, look no further than The Grand Narrative – really incredible blog. On the other end of this experiential spectrum, check out this horrifying pieceabout the intersection of online dating and racism.