I think I accidentally went on a date on Wednesday night.
I mean, I certainly had no idea it was going to be a date when I turned up, and it was never at any point confirmed as being one, but it definitely left me with an “I’ve just been on a date” kind of feeling. Which was a little unsettling.
The attitude in Korea towards single people, and particularly single women, is alarmingly unaccepting. If you are single, there must be something wrong with you. If you are voluntarily remaining single, there must be something wrong with your head. Why on earth would you choose to remain as you are, with no one to come home to, and no one to have children with, and no one to devote your life to slavishly looking after? Quick, woman, get yourself a husband! Nearly 30? Red alert… doesn’t even matter if you like him at this point, as long as you get married.
I have tried to explain to my Korean friends that I have had enough misery from unsuccessful relationships to last me for a lifetime, and that while I won’t shoo away Mr. Right if he comes calling, I have absolutely no desire or motivation to go looking for him. That I am, in fact, rather happy with my life the way it is. That I like being independent and free to do as I please and go where I want, whenever I choose.
My explanations are typically met with blank, uncomprehending stares, the way that you’d look at, say, a guy sitting in the street with a brick on a leash, rocking back and forth and singing Cliff Richard songs.
It shouldn’t have surprised me, therefore, when I met up with a Korean girlfriend the other night to discover that she had brought along yet another of her 30-something male colleagues to introduce to me in the hope of marrying us off within the next few weeks. At least the last one was in a group situation – and spoke relatively good English. This one spoke English at roughly the same level as I speak Korean, and dear, optimistic, positive-thinking Yong Joon seemed to be under the impression that each of us was practically fluent in the other’s language.
So we made it through a decidedly awkward bilingual dinner, during which Yong Joon kept saying things like “isn’t she cute/sweet/adorable?!” (I began to feel like a little fluffy bunny rabbit or something) and “isn’t he handsome/funny/clever?!”. I did the appropriate giggling bashfully behind my hand, he did the appropriate bowing his head modestly. It was the standard Korean dating ritual, only with subtitles and an awkward Irish girl. When Potential Husband insisted on paying the bill and went to the counter, Yong Joon nudged me excitedly and said “He likes you, I think you make perfect couple!”. I didn’t know whether to be annoyed with her or just amused. “I think the word perfect would suggest that we can at least communicate with each other at the level of kindergarten students,” I hissed at her, keeping a grin on my face for the sake of Potential Husband, who was looking anxiously over at us. She pursed her lips thoughtfully, not really seeing the problem. “You can be language exchange partners first!” she came up with in a triumphant flash, as I gazed helplessly at her and then had to change the subject upon Potential Husband’s return.
I don’t know, at this point, if I’ll manage to escape Korea unmarried. I feel like there will soon be a nationwide charity organisation set up with the specific aim of finding a Husband For Hails.