Wednesday, March 29

How we met (Part 2)

They picked me up from my Pacific Heights apartment, and we were off to bar hop in North Beach. We hit Rosewood and Romolo, two of my favorite spots in that often crazy neighborhood. Because I was trying to play the role of the tough girl, I attempted to match both boys drink for drink. While I can normal handle my alcohol - we Koreans are the Irish of the Asians, after all - I somehow failed to realize that I was a mere 5'4" being who hadn't eaten much that day, and both Taer and John were over 6' tall. And we were ALL Korean, so I couldn't rely on my "Irish" genes.

Somewhere between drink number eight and eleven, I realized I was feeling the libations. I then found myself at the Matrix with a mojito in my hand and the boys by my side. Hungry and drunk, we all decided to get some food at Won Mi after all this. When John went to get the car, I somehow ended up waiting outside, with Taer holding me up. Now, I can't say whether I leaned on him or whether he had me lean on him, and I'm not even sure I totally needed his support; but neither of us were complaining. (Taer very cutely admitted later that he didn't wash his shirt for several days because it smelled like my perfume and had traces of my makeup left on it. It may not quite be Brokeback Mountain sweet, but I did think that was really cute of him.)

Nothing happened that night, and he was off to the east coast the next morning. A thank you email from Taer became many emails back and forth, which eventually turned into phone calls. The calls became longer and more frequent, 4-5 hours every day. I was smitten.

A month after our first meeting, Taer was scheduled to come back to the bay area for work again. I was excited to see him again, but I was a little apprehensive.

I didn't remember what he looked like.

What if I had on some major beer goggles when I met him before? What if our phone chemistry didn't translate well in person, sans alcohol? What if he didn't think I was cute?

Well, it's obvious by now that all my what if's were unfounded. I still get as excited to see my man now as I did way back then. And now we're going to live happily ever after.

Tuesday, March 28

How we met

My life was at a low point. I hated my job, one which made me lose weight from stress and didn't give me enough free time to even use the restroom. I was fighting with my family. I didn't want my friends to have to deal with the miserable version of me, so I was keeping my distance from them too.

And that's when I got the email from Yun. She was a Maryland friend from my summer in Korea during college. We kept in touch sporadically, via Christmas cards and birthday calls. Yun's friend, Taer (pronounced "Tay-Are"), was coming to San Francisco for work, so would I mind showing him around a bit?

Usually, I would have been more than happy to play hostess to my friend's friend and show off my lovely city. At that point, I wasn't looking forward to trying to be Miss Mary Sunshine with someone I didn't know or care about. I sent a late reply, which Taer didn't see, so when I didn't hear from him, I thought I was off the hook.

Until my phone rang Saturday afternoon. "Hi, is this Jenn? I'm Yun's friend..."

Taer was hanging out with John, the one person he knew in the area. I reluctantly made plans to meet with them for drinks later in the night. I really wasn't in the mood, but I didn't want to be rude. Little did I know that Taer had thoughts of setting me up with John...

(to be continued)

Because of JetBlue, "I do!"

I would like to take this moment to give a "shout out" or "big ups," if you will, to JetBlue Airways. JetBlue and my long distance relationship were "born" around the same time - approximately four years ago. (And why am I loving the quotation marks so much?) Taer and I have been apart the entire time, and we see each other once a month. All this traveling can get tiring and expensive, but JetBlue always makes our flying experience as good as it can be.

Getting my own personal satellite tv makes the time fly (har dee har) by. And we always get the best deal on JetBlue. We used to pay $99 each way in the beginning, and even now, we still never pay more than $300 total for a nonstop round-trip flight. Yes, I said nonstop! And with their rewards programs, we've earned oodles of free flights, which we've used especially happily during those expensive peak times.

Other airlines have skimped on food; and while JetBlue doesn't serve full meals either, their snacks are top quality, and you can usually ask for more than just one measly bag of pretzels. I like to get the Terra Blue Chips and cookies to satisfy both my salty and sweet cravings.

So JetBlue doesn't often fly to the main airports of big cities. I'm more than happy to travel to Oakland Airport rather than SFO for the Blue. That's where I picked up my fiance - I'd like to repeat that please: fiance - last night.

"JetBlue?" you ask?
I say, "I do."

Monday, March 27

Two weeks notice

Exactly two weeks from today, I will be starting my new job in Washington, D.C. TWO WEEKS! That's so weirdly soon. I think I'm in a bit of denial. Also, it doesn't feel totally like a final departure yet because I have an arrangement where I'll be able to come back again for a week at the end of April and once more in May before I'm finally and truly there. My arrangement has to do with the 'rents, but that's a whole other story.

Because I romped around all day Saturday for Tina's birthday surprise, I didn't get any packing done. After Sunday brunch with my family, I was planning to come back to my place and "be good," meaning I would pack and figure out what else needed to get done for my move.

But then I got a call from Chenja and Amy. They were going to Sam's, and I was joining them. So much for me being good! I couldn't resist the idea of having drinks by the water in the gorgeous weather.If you think that I'm trying to "show off" my ring in this last picture... then you're thinking correctly! But that pinky sticking out was supposed to look sleek and sophisticated, not disfigured. Oh, well.

Can someone just magically pack all my stuff for me?

Thursday, March 23

Mother's love

"This country is so BIG! California alone is four times the size of Korea..."

My little mom gets upset every time she's reminded of my pending move. She's been saying things like, "I didn't think about my own parents when I left them in Korea to come to the U with your daddy. I realize now how sad they must have been."

And then that makes me sad too.

I was born in San Francisco, and I have never lived anywhere outside of the bay area. After graduating from Berkeley (which was only a half hour's drive from my parents), I moved back home while I worked in public relations for a year, and I continued to live at home during law school. When I finally moved away from the nest again, my mom almost cried. And it only takes me 20 minutes to drive back to that nest - maybe even 15 if the traffic and lights cooperate. It's no wonder she's unhappy now; I've trained her to believe I'll always be nearby.

I'm finally ready to cut the strings. It's like I'm 30, going on 18.

The last time I was home, my mother fell asleep on the couch and mumbled that she was too tired to get up when I left. Usually, she walks me to the door and waves her goodbye as I pull away. She never closes the door until I've driven away completely. I used to think that maybe it was a Korean thing, but I realized that my Korean dad and my Korean brother only occasionally joined my mom at her farewell post. So then I thought that maybe it was a mom thing. Now I'm thinking that maybe it's a "my mom" thing. I sometimes didn't want her to walk me out, but I'll admit that there's something very comforting about seeing her tiny 5' form in the frame of the front door.

I kissed my parents goodbye for the night, and I felt a little empty when I let myself out, unaccompanied. But as I pulled away, I noticed a familiar silhouette in the upstairs window. There she was, half-asleep, watching over me. There's something very comforting about knowing that there are some things I can always expect of my mother.

Wednesday, March 22

Tomato, basil and olive salad for potluck with the girls

The girls got together at Sindy's for a potluck feast last night. I pulled my recipe from Donna Hay, and I did a really nerdy thing. This may be even nerdier than the TiVo tip.

See, the recipe was simple; it was pretty much a Caprese salad with a twist. But that "twist" of arugula, olives, red wine vinegar, and the making of croutons was a bit more than I trusted myself to remember perfectly. I didn't want to lug the whole cookbook with me, however I was feeling too lazy to write it all down... so I took pictures with my digital camera!
I've been taking camera phone photos of wine labels for ages now. It's the only way I can commit new wines to memory. The camera phone would not have sufficed because there was no way I would've been able to see all this text on the tiny screen. That's when I pulled out the big guns.

And once again, my friends benefit now because I easily uploaded the recipe here. The olives added a more flavorful saltiness, and the croutons were the hit of the dish; I'll probably add more of those next time. Don't forget that good olive oil is key! Yum.

I've been carrying around my camera a lot lately, merely to capture all the images and people I'll miss in and around San Francisco. Nowadays the girls' automatic reaction is, "Is this going on the blog?"

I wasn't necessarily planning to blog this pic out of some sense of respect of privacy, but if they're happy to be blogged, I'm happy to do the blogging.
And here's Pixel, our first "nephew," and the cutest Boston Terrier you'll ever see!Oh, it's all so bittersweet! I'm looking forward to being with my love, but I'm already missing the other loves I'll be leaving behind. I'd better stop writing, or the tears may start...

I'm today's "Review of the Day"

These Yelp people sure do know what they're doing. Irene sent me a message this morning to share in a hooray that I am the San Francisco "Pick of the Day!" Of course I got all excited, and I'm even blogging about it now, which is spreading the Yelp word to whoever reads this.

It's no wonder that the founders were featured as one of BusinessWeek's "Tech's Best Young Entrepreneurs." It's an interesting business model. It's like Zagat meets Friendster meets Citysearch meets MySpace meets Craigslist meets blogging meets all sorts of other cool things on the web. Word of mouth works. Word of mouth combined with highly encouraged and easy to use user interaction works really well.

Everyone has opinions. But not everyone is like me, ready to go through the trouble of figuring out how to put together a blog to put their opinions out there. Not everyone wants to write a blog; they think it's too intrusive. Most people, however, don't mind having their opinions known, especially when it comes to things like restaurants or where to shop. Yelp makes it easy to share opinions, and you're welcome to write as much or as little as you want about whatever you want.

Then people can vote if they think your reviews are any combination of: Useful / Funny / Cool. And that's just with the click of a button. Easy! If people want to write a little more and let you know that they like what you've written, then they can send you a "Compliment" and reveal who they are. And that makes you want to write more.

And then you can add anyone as a "Friend" and send a "Compliment" back. It's a little bit of positive reinforcement going both ways. It feels warm and fuzzy. The next thing you know, you have a good group of friends, and you can see when any of those friends have written anything new. You may discover a restaurant you've never heard of or decide not to visit one based on a review.

You can continue to publicly compliment, or you can send a personal message, so no one else will see it. Or you can leave your circle of friends and see what's going on via the Message boards. Maybe someone is talking about sharing bad date stories or where to find the best chocolate.

Oh, those Yelp people are smart ones. They played on my ego, and I bit. And I will continue to bite. I'm hooked. And you should be too...

Monday, March 20

TiVo hack: 30-second skip

I consider myself to be a bit of a tech geek. I like to read manuals. Are you ready to pull out the tape for the bridge of my glasses yet? I genuinely enjoy researching and learning all the little insider tips and tricks out there. My nerdiness may not be cool, but it does have its benefits, especially for my friends. I always try to share any particularly interesting finds so no one else has to geek out as much as I do. And here's a good tip for TiVo users!

You can program the Advance or "skip-to-hash" button (the play arrow pointing to a vertical line, shown below) to act as a 30-second skip button instead. Why is this useful, you ask? Well, the answer is that you'll be able to skip past commercials easily with just three or four pushes of this newly hacked wonder.

So are you excited? Are you ready? Here's how you do it:
  1. Play any program you've already recorded.
  2. On your remote, press: Select > Play > Select > 3 > 0 > Select
  3. You should hear a "boom" sound three times, confirming success! (Can Ali G fans out there hear Borat's "Success!" exclamation?)
  • If you advance too far with the 30-second skip, try hitting the Instant Replay button instead of rewinding. I find it to be faster and easier. I'm all about convenience.
  • The Advance button will continue to function beyond the hack. When you are playing a recorded program, press the Rewind or Fast Forward button first, and when you press Advance after that, the program will jump to the next "hash" mark on the playback progress bar at the bottom of the screen. (Doing the same thing while playing live tv will get you all the way to the beginning or end of a program.)
  • You can find this tip and others on and

Sunday, March 19

Cheese and dressing favorites: from SF to DC

I made a couple of exciting discoveries this weekend. One piece of happy news is that Cowgirl Creamery is opening a store in Washington, D.C. really soon - this spring, according to their website! Yay! Anyone who is not familiar with Cowgirl's cheeses should simply swing by the Ferry Building.

One of my favorite Saturday activities is to visit the farmer's market at the Ferry Building. One of my favorite places in San Francisco is the Ferry Building (even on a non-Saturday). One of my favorite places to go for a run is along the water... by the Ferry Building. Oh, I do love the Ferry Building so!

If the Ferry Building were a man, I would have a passionate love affair with him. I would call him "Fer-dah-leeng" and wouldn't even care that so many others loved him too. Fer-dah-leeng, in all his wondrous gastronomic glory, is absolutely meant to be shared. Fabulous Fer-dah-leeng!

I will miss the Ferry Building terribly and would love to find a clone magically recreated in D.C. by the time I move there. Since that is pretty much impossible, I'll be quite happy with the pending "birth" of this lone Cowgirl instead.

Also this weekend, I was introduced to Pietro's Sesame & Miso Dressing. A salad dressing discovery might not sound all that thrilling, but you don't understand. It's more than just a dressing. In fact, it's even more than the marinade which it also claims it can be.

The Pietro was not meant to be confined to my lettuce. I wanted to drink it. I savored it as much as I would a fine wine. Yes, it really is that good! It was the perfect blend of salty, sweet, and spicy. It was liquid delight in a bottle.

My friend got his in San Francisco's Japantown, but the best news is that I can also find this delight out east too! The food in S.F. is generally better than the food in D.C. However, if I can pour this stuff on everything, it'll all taste amazing. I'd use this on tofu, meats, Cowgirl cheeses...

OK, I won't really use Pietro dressing on cheese. Or ice cream. But everything else is fair game!

Friday, March 17

Where will we live?

I've been hearing the same questions from everyone lately:
"Do you have a date yet?"
"Where are you going to have the wedding?"
"Who's going to be the one to move?"

Well, we don't have the wedding stuff figured out because a lot of it depends on our families' ultimate reaction, which will hopefully be acceptance. I'd be terribly sad if we had a traditional wedding and my daddy didn't walk me down the aisle. (But we're working on that!) Taer just wants to elope, which is not my ideal either. I don't need a big, fancy ceremony, but I would like to at least invite our closest friends to a fun "party" with good food and wine... and maybe I'll even throw on a white dress or something. Just maybe.

One question I can answer is where we'll live - and that's in D.C.! It's really, really weird for me to think about leaving the place I've been my whole life. I am such a San Franciscan through and through; I'd even call myself a bit of a San Francisco snob. I'm proud of my home roots. I don't know how this California girl is going to deal with the east coast winters, but I'll be sure to allow myself some wardrobe supplementation when I get out there; that's for sure. A girl has needs, you know! And sometimes those needs are met by a man named Barney... or Marc. And, oh, there are others. Don't worry, Taer has already learned to get used to the other men in my life.

Details of my move will come, but in the meantime, I'm trying to figure out everything I need to do before I leave and all the people I have to see. A lot of my list also has to do with FOOD. I'd love to hear any suggestions.

This is all just so weird. I'm not going to wear green today so people will keep pinching me. Maybe that'll help the reality of it all sink in.

Or maybe I'll just end up with bruises.

Wednesday, March 15

Makeup on, lights on, contact lenses in

The girls took Tina to an early birthday dinner at Zuppa tonight. In honor of T, I say, "Yumster!" After a night of good food and good times with good friends, you would think that I'd be ready to crawl into bed for good sleep.

Instead, I'm lying on my sofa right now, snuggled up in one of the many blankets we keep in the living room, NOT sleeping. I find that I end up doing this way more often than I should. I don't know why I hate just going to bed like most normal people. I guess I'm not all that normal. It's like I'm a little kid; I just want to stay up and play as long as I possibly can. The thing is, there's are no human playmates in sight. It's just lil ole me, with a computer on my lap and TiVo on in the background. I love my electric playmates... and they're not the kind that girls normally enjoy.

On nights like these, I'll often find myself waking up at the oddest hours to a blank tv, with the room lights on, my unwashed makeup smudged, and my contact lenses dried onto my eyeballs. Pretty site, eh? Every so often, I'll even sleepwalk into my room at some point, and then I'll magically find myself in the aforementioned state in my bed.

When you take all of the above and add in me finding an empty bottle of [insert alcohol here] in my bag the next morning - well, that's just the beginning of a good blog entry!

Tuesday, March 14

What celebrities do you look like?

There's just so much to think about, I feel like my head is going to explode. All that will be left of me will be a living room full of hair. A LOT of Mufasa hair.

So I'm going to take a mini break from the serious stuff and share a fun new source of entertainment:

MyHeritage will take any photo you upload and run it through their face recognition technology. You will then be told which celebrities you resemble. Not exactly life-changing, but it's kinda amusing.

Here are a few names which came up for me:
Lucy Liu - I'm guessing that any Asian female will get this as a match.
Nicole Richie - Uh, sure... just add 30 lbs. to her.
Hilary Duff - Is it the cheeks?
Naomi Watts - Another blonde? I guess this doesn't take hair color into account.
Uhm Jung-Hwa - I actually heard that I resembled this singer/actress many times when I was in Korea. I don't know whether or not I agree, but a girl can hope.
Jessica Alba - I didn't make this up, I swear! Heck, if I really did look like Jessica, I'd just sit around and stare at myself all day long.

Have fun - and let me know what names you get!

Monday, March 13

The first different step

I visited my parents tonight, with a taped version of The Look for Less in hand for them to watch. It was the first time I'd seen them since THE TALK last week. All things considered, we ended on a relatively good note then, but I still wasn't exactly expecting rainbows, butterflies and puppies at home. (I'm not entirely sure what that means. It's not like my parents live on Sesame Street and have that stuff in the house usually, but I'm sure you get it.)

My mom got home before my dad, and in the middle of her sudden lecture to me about the importance of maintaining on-time payments to build good credit, she let me know that my father noticed that I'd "changed" after our last talk. I wasn't sure initially if that was a good or bad thing.

My mom clarified that he mentioned that I seemed softer, and he was more willing to listen to me this past time because of it. "You know your daddy," she said. "He can be very stubborn."

I can be stubborn too. Very stubborn. My father and I had been butting heads over the past few years; I was playing the role of the defiant teenager. So I was a bit of a late bloomer with the whole rebellion thing... about 15 years late. That’s because I finally found something worth fighting for. Someone worth fighting for.

Rather than dealing with everything directly, I found avoidance easier and just closed myself off from my parents as a result. I began creating a barrier around myself so that it wouldn't hurt so much when we did fight. I tried not to care as much about the parents who I loved so much while I was growing up. It was slow and subtle in the beginning. I didn't call quite as often, and my visits became less frequent. The next thing I knew, I found that I no longer greeted them with the big smile, hug and kiss which was once the norm. I am usually a very affectionate person, but I couldn’t even remember the last time I showed that side of myself to them. I was merely cordial, and that was really sad.

When I was finally ready to talk to my dad about marrying Taer, my first instinct was to continue with my “You can’t tell me what to do anymore” attitude. I was ready to push, knowing he would push back. I was ready to be disowned. I didn’t think there was any other way.

My mom was convinced that I had a chance, but I had to be willing to take the first step. However, it couldn’t just be any first step; it had to be the first different step.

It’s so easy to fall into a particular pattern with the people around us. We develop relationships with people based on what we learn to expect from one another. I had learned to expect staunch adherence to an outdated belief from my dad. He wouldn’t listen to anything I had to say, so I decided to not say anything after a while. I just wanted to be heard.

I didn’t think about the fact that he, too, just wanted to be heard. Here I was, with all my chatter about validating feelings, and I wasn’t paying that exact respect to my own father. I grew too accustomed to our stubborn pushing.

So I took the first different step. I squashed my stubbornness and told him how much I loved him and asked that he listen to my plea. It was how I should have approached him a long time ago. And it worked. He noticed. He felt like I heard him, and he listened to me in return.

It isn’t all fixed yet. But my parents did laugh a lot as they watched themselves on the small screen. My dad even made some really bad jokes and danced around in his own silly way, a side of him I hadn’t seen in a while.

When I left, I kissed and hugged both my parents, and I told them I loved them.

It isn’t easy taking unfamiliar steps, and the first few will probably be wobbly. But if I do it first, then I can at least hope for some unfamiliar steps to be taken back in my direction. Pretty soon, we’ll both be sure of our footing, and we’ll be on a better road together.

Sunday, March 12

Watching myself on tv is the weirdest thing

Sindy and John graciously hosted a viewing party for the first airing of my appearance on The Look for Less on the Style Network. I got a bit of a sneak peek when Camilla, who got to watch the show first on Eastern time, called me from New York promptly at 5:20 p.m. Pacific time.

"It's so weird to watch you on tv!" The girl just couldn't stop laughing! She actually rewound her TiVo while she was on the phone with me and provided commentary through her giggles, "There you go, running up the escalator again!" "Your mom is so funny!" "I love your runway walk!"

I quickly scanned through my memory of all the hours of taping, trying to figure out which part she was talking about. I had to know: Did I looked lame? Did I come across as just a materialistic shopper? Did I look fat?

She assured me that I looked fine, just like myself, and that, if anything, I may have come across as a mommy's girl. That was ok by me. As Camil laughed her goodbye to me, she told me that she would never erase this from her TiVo, and that she could watch it over and over and continue to be entertained. I didn't know whether or not that was a good thing...

A few hours later in San Francisco, a dozen of my friends cheered with me as the opening music began. It was the oddest thing to watch an image of a girl who looked like me and was wearing my clothes on the small screen. Is that what I look like? Are those the kind of mannerisms I have? Is that how I walk? Is that how I talk? Does my mouth really do that lip thing? Is my voice really that deep?

It was all just so weird!

And it was all just so fun! Needless to say, all of us couldn’t stop laughing also. I was especially entertained/horrified when they showed my slo-mo strut next to a split screen of the actual model’s slo-mo runway walk. Did they really stick me next to a model? Do I really bounce that much? I didn’t mean to walk that way! I guess I’ve got a natural springy strut – and I’ll keep on struttin!

Anyway, I really can’t do the show justice with mere words. I’ll try to get something uploaded for non-Style Network subscribers to watch.

Some questions that were asked of me after the airing included:

Did you really get to keep the clothes?
Yes. I have them at home.

Will you wear them for us next time?
I don’t think so… but you can probably actually convince me to if you ask really nicely.

Did they do your hair and makeup?
Only for the last part, where I was “revealed” to my family. I had on quite a bit of makeup, but I guess that’s what’s needed for the camera. And my mom was truly as happy as she seemed.

When will we get to watch you on something again?
I don't know, but I do hope it's soon!

Thursday, March 9

The sparkly lining

I am hopeful. My Korean name is Sang Hee, which means, "There will always be great hope."

My father stood firmly against my relationship with Taer for years. And now the absolute "no" has amazingly become a "maybe." Forcing me into submission had worked in the past, but this time I wouldn't have backed down. I didn't want to be disowned from the family I so loved, but I was ready for it. I could do it if that's what it took. Because while I was scared, I was sure of what was right. And now there is hope.

I am thankful for everyone's support. I need it. I am able to keep my spirits up because of it. What should be a joyous time for us has been bittersweet, but when we are finally and truly together for life, our union will be that much more blessed because we have fought so hard for it. I would fight even harder if I could. I would suffer anything for my Taer. My love.

We are still not sure of our parents' acceptance, but I am trying to focus on the positive. And one positive thing for me is that I am lost in adoration of my ring! I don't mean to come across like a materialistic woman who is only concerned with the size of the rock on my hand. I can honestly say I would be equally ecstatic with a silver piece from a street vendor in Chile (part of an alternate plan Taer had in mind which I'll share sometime later).

Other women have said that they also gazed constantly at their own hands when they were newly engaged. It's normal. For me, with Taer still so physically far away, the ring and all it signifies gives me an even greater sense of emotional closeness. I am his, and he is mine. I can't wait for the day when I will be lost in adoration of his face instead of this ring. I would trade it in to be with him today.

But since that is not possible, and since people have asked to see it, I'll share the object which has me mesmorized. It's perfect.
The cut is called asscher, and it's in a pave setting. (All of this probably means nothing to most boys reading this.) In this last picture, I'm holding a bottle of my favorite wine, Ridge (Geyserville).

Wednesday, March 8

The hardest thing I ever heard

"I have made my feelings clear, but you can live your life the way you want. If that’s what you choose, then I will not be your father anymore."

I heard these awful words twice. The first time that I tried to talk to you about my relationship with Taer, you were firm about your opposition to the idea. You repeated your message again to me last night.

Appa, you know that I have been dating Taer for almost four years now. I know how you feel about this, but please know that I really never wanted to hurt you or go against your wishes. I even thought about breaking up with him several times in the past because I didn't want to upset you so much. Your happiness means that much to me.

So far, I have lived much of my life in a certain way because I knew it would please you. I have fulfilled the wishes and dreams you and umma have had for me. You told me to go to law school; it was not something I would have chosen to do on my own. You somehow decided that being “very smart, a good writer, and a good speaker” equaled being an attorney (especially since my non-science background wouldn’t have worked for med school, your other ideal offspring choice as a Korean parent). So I did it.

You wanted me to pass the California Bar even though I had absolutely no desire to practice law. It made you proud, so I did it. Your new favorite phrase was, “I tell people that now I have my own personal lawyer – my daughter!” I loved seeing you so happy.

But I was never able to part with Taer, even though I knew that was what you wanted from me. My life makes no sense if he’s not in it. It’s just not an option for me. We love each other, and now we are ready to spend the rest of our lives together. I love you so much and don't want to lose you, so what can I do to make this right for you?

I understand that because he has the same last name (and origin) as us, it’s simply wrong to you. You grew up learning and believing that this was just not done; there was no question about it. You even used the word “taboo” – a word I was actually surprised you knew – years ago, the first time, as you pounded your fists on the table to emphasize your point.

You and umma instilled a lot of strong cultural ties in us, but I was still born and raised here, in the U.S. This isn’t wrong to me. We are obviously not related even though we have the same last name, so our kids will be fine. That was the concern centuries ago. It may have been valid then, which is why there was an antiquated law banning such marriages before. However, even in Korea now, that law has changed.

You’ve said that we would have to prove ourselves to you to win you over, but you never gave us the chance in the past. You only allowed yourself to meet him once in all these years, and even that singular time was not out of choice on your part.

How do I know he’s the right one for me? You simply have to see us together. I have always looked at you and umma as having the ideal relationship, the kind I would want. I grew up setting very high standards for my own future relationship because of you. The love between you two is so obvious, which is unfortunately not common, especially among Asian parents of your generation. When I tell my friends that I grew up with the two of you kissing and holding hands all the time, they’re always in disbelief. But that’s how I picture you: laughing together, hand-in-hand. That’s how it should be.

And that’s how it is. That’s what I have with Taer. Ours is the kind of love we can’t hide. I’m practically giddy when I’m with him, even after all this time together. He’s so good to me and so good for me. I think most of our friends picture us laughing together, hand-in-hand. He just makes me so happy.

Now I understand what you need at this point. You say that when a man and woman want to get married, the man's side is supposed to woo the woman's side. His side should be completely "ready" before he approaches you. You want to make sure he’s from a decent family, and you also want to make sure that his family fully accepts me. Because they are also having a problem with the last name, you do not want to send me into another family who will not be completely happy to welcome me as their own. You love me so much and you are so proud of me, you think anyone should be overjoyed to have me as a daughter-in-law. You don’t like the fact that you don’t hear any of your friends speak very favorably about their own daughters-in-law. You think I deserve more than that.

You also say that a mother often feels that a daughter-in-law is taking her son away, so she is threatened. Do you think a father can feel the same way about a son-in-law? The first thing you said last night is that you were sad. You felt so sad that I was choosing to go against your wishes. You talked about the father-daughter relationship and how we used to be so close. You said that becoming less close with time was natural, but I noticed the unhappiness in your voice in that sentence. Are you afraid that you might be losing me now?

Appa, I love you so much. I will always be daddy’s little girl. Nothing can take that away.

Thank you for letting me talk to you last night, and thank you for giving this a chance. I know you're not promising anything yet, but this really means a lot to me. “Maybe” is the best I can ask for right now. I love you.

Tuesday, March 7

Our marriage is no longer illegal in Korea

The Prohibition of Marriage between Koreans of the Same Surname and Clan Origin

Under Article 809(1) of the Civil Code, individuals sharing a common ancestor in their paternal lineage, no matter how far back in time, may not marry. In contrast, under Article 815, as long as a couple does not share a common ancestor in their maternal lineage within four generations, they may marry. Introduced into Korean society with Confucianism in the fifteenth century during the Chosôn dynasty, the principle was established during China's Han dynasty, and gradually weakened until it was abolished by China's Qing dynasty at the turn of the century.

Given that there are only 274 Korean family names, 43% of which are Kim, Lee, or Park, the intra-clan marriage ban has been a serious problem. Based upon statistics gathered by Lee's Korea Legal Aid Center for Family Relations, an estimated 300,000 couples have defied the ban.

Confucian activist groups which have lobbied intensively to keep these provisions intact maintain that the ban exists to prevent the incidence of birth defects, yet this claim belies their well-publicized desire to preserve deference to paternal lineage. Appealing to nationalistic sentiment that Korea's beautiful customs and mores should not be replaced with Western social norms, Confucians have sent letters of the following style and content to the National Assembly:

"Each country has its own traditions and ethics. Under such customs the people prosper. We Koreans have lived by the law forbidding marriage between parties of the same name and origin and have lived prosperously without any problems. The fact that a few unintelligent women want to revise the law and permit marriage among individuals of the same name and origin is nothing but a preposterous demand. This law is our country's beautiful custom. If we permit such marriages, it will bring total confusion to our clan system and bring us back to a primitive family society. In our effort to move forward and become an advanced nation, why should we step backwards towards barbarism in the area of ethics and morals . . ."

Since the ban perpetuates the notion that only the paternal lineage counts in tracing one's roots, their desire to preserve deference to the paternal line underlies their claims.

Through signature campaigns, staged dramas, and public forums, Lee and other advocates for legal reform, have pressured the National Assembly to abolish the provision. For decades, the National Assembly took a compromised position. Refusing to abolish the law, it quietly instituted one-year amnesties from the ban in 1978, 1988 and 1996. Approximately 4,577 marriages in 1978 and 12,443 marriages in 1988 were legalized.

Yet in 1995, Cheju Island's district court asked Korea's Supreme Court if it should recognize the marriage of a couple who shared a paternal ancestor, but married in Japan. This act reflected the public and media's general agreement that the law is devoid of scientific reasoning and that prohibiting marriages between individuals within 8 relational degrees of each other (third cousins) is consistent with the trend of other modern countries.

In a decision that received considerable international attention, the Supreme Court held that such marriages must be recognized noting that it has become a common tendency for couples to either change their last names or circumvent the prohibition by marrying in Japan or America and returning to Korea with a marriage certificate. Following this decision, in May 1995, Seoul's Family Court asked Korea's Constitutional Court to rule upon the legality of marriages between individuals who share a same paternal ancestor and marry within South Korea's borders.

Over two years later, on July 16, 1997, the Constitutional Court overturned the 689-year-old government ban, declaring the law unconstitutional by a 7 to 2 vote. The Court explained that "the law impaired the fundamental right of individuals to pursue happiness." With "its exclusive emphasis upon maintaining the purity of the paternal line, the law violated the spirit of the nation's constitution which establishes that marriages are to be based upon mutual respect and equality."

The Court concluded that only marriages between individuals related to each other within eight degrees on either the maternal or paternal side (closer than third cousins) will be forbidden. With this decision it is estimated that 60,000 Korean couples are now able to legalize their marriages. While Confucianists have angrily announced that "the purity of the Korean race has been destroyed" and "the future holds family chaos," women's leaders view the decision as a "tremendous victory over uncompromising custom and tradition."

If you're still interested and reading, here's a little more...

The notion of "ancestral seat," or pon'gwan in Korean, is something unique to Korea, and it refers to a place, that is a geographical location, where a given surname is supposed to have originated from. The idea is that if two persons share the same surname and the same ancestral seat, then they are descended from the same ancestor, and hence are members of the same family, or clan. For example, the most common surname in Korea is Kim, but even among the Kims, there are more than 280 different ancestral seats. This means that although two people might be both named Kim, as long as their ancestral seats are different, they are not considered "relatives," and are therefore free to marry each other.

The other side of the story, however, is that even though there are more than 280 different Kims, certain Kims from certain ancestral seats are so numerous that for example, the number of Kims from a place called Kimhae is currently almost 4 million. This means that those 4 million people can never marry among themselves. Now, in a country of a little over 47 million people, it is easy to see that this is not an insignificant restriction on one's choice of marriage partners.

From the foregoing account, it might appear that this is such an absurd provision that it should have been a fairly easy case to hold unconstitutional. Yet, one must understand the place of this marriage prohibition within Korean cultural tradition. One must know that because it has been a part of Korean culture for such a long time, it still carries an enormous normative force among ordinary Koreans. It has been taught for ages that this constitutes the backbone of proper family ethics. That is, people were taught to think that to marry someone with the same surname and same ancestral seat is the height of moral depravity, because that is essentially marrying within the "family," in other words, committing incest.

Anyone arguing against this prohibition therefore was seen as someone inciting people to commit immoral acts. This made it all the more difficult to advocate for the repeal or revision of the provision. Marrying someone with the same surname and ancestral seat was simply not done-- it defined the parameters of the people's conception of what a proper marriage in a civilized society should look like.

Monday, March 6

Watch me on tv this Sunday

I'm still floating... but I have to share yet again that my appearance on The Look for Less is airing this Sunday, March 12th. I don't mean to keep repeating this, but I'm pretty excited about it. It's on the Style Network at 8pm.

It's my 15 minutes of fame - literally! The 30-minute show is split into two guests per episode. (With commercials, I think that makes more like 12 minutes of fame, but who's counting?) I'll be the first one on #604, but you won't see my name on the schedule listing.

Apparently "Tiffany is celebrating her 30th birthday at the Art Academy" sounds more exciting and sexy than "Jennifer is taking a family portrait at the Palace of Fine Arts." Oh, well.

I will remember 3.3.06 for the rest of my entire life

It was the first time that my boyfriend's offer of a fancy dinner didn't excite me. I didn't get much sleep on my redeye flight, and I had been through a long day of meetings. A "jacket required" restaurant with a group of friends sounded... tiring. A "just make sure that the holes in your t-shirt aren't offensive" kind of spot sounded more my speed that night.

However I thought it was sweet that Taer went to the effort of arranging a nice night out, so a very exhausted and cranky me tried my best not to act too exhausted or cranky, and we were on our way. Near our destination, I noticed and commented on a cute horse-drawn carriage; and as soon as we parked, I found out that it was for us!

"Really? For us?!?" I was completely surprised, but then I knew exactly what was coming.

Once we got in, Taer even told me, "I actually wanted to do this in San Francisco."

"Do what?" I asked, with my best wide-eyed, innocent look.

"Uh... you know... just hang out."

So we rode around the monuments in the freezing cold. The hansom cab was lovely and romantic, but seriously - it was freezing! It was supposed to be in the 50's (which I already consider chilly), but it ended up being in the 30's. THuuR tEEEs! We were covered by three hugely thick blankets, but I think we stopped being able to feel our faces about halfway through the ride.

We got out when we got to the Reflecting Pool. It was even colder next to the water, but I didn't notice.

"It took 30 years for me to find you, and I've been waiting 3 years and 8 months to be with you. I love you and can't wait any longer. Will you marry me?"

I'm pretty sure he said something like that. I barely heard him because I was crying as soon as he got down on one knee. Of course I said, "Yes!"

I also barely heard him because of my chattering teeth. It was so frickin cold that my tears froze and fell off my face as ice pellets. I lied earlier when I said that I didn't notice how cold it was there; I was just trying to sound enraptured in love. Did it work? I was and am in love, but I was and am someone who gets cold easily!

We quickly returned to the carriage, where we were told by the driver that ours was the fastest proposal he had witnessed so far. Ha!

We completed our ride and enjoyed a meal without friends - he really tricked me - at 1789. We were told that our corner spot was considered one of the most romantic tables in all of Washington, D.C. We created our own four course tasting menus, with each of us ordering different dishes for every course, paired with a different glass of wine for each dish. It was decadent!

We started with a salmon carpaccio, which was so fresh and flavored well, and a tasty grilled shrimp appetizer. The next course included foie gras, always rich but always a favorite of mine, and equally luxe seared scallops. Our main course consisted of rack of lamb, which was really starting to fill my already protruding tummy at this point, and rockfish, a local yummy fish. We finished off our meal with a really interesting toasted bread pudding which was almost more like creme brulee. (I couldn't possibly do two desserts, though I did indulge in both dessert wine and champagne!)

I told Taer that I didn't care about the ring before this all happened. And I can honestly say that I meant it. But now that I have this beautiful piece of art on my finger, I can't stop looking! I woke up early the next morning, and the first thing I did was place my left hand 4" from my eyes. (I'm blind without glasses or contact lenses.) Taer kept calling me a dork, but I think he was secretly as mesmerized as I was. (By the way, for anyone who cares, it's a beautifully perfect asscher diamond with a pave band. Truly pefect for me - just like Taer!)

If we hang out in the next few weeks, you may catch me stealing a glimpse - or just openly staring with a goofy smile on my face. Just a little warning. And actually, it may continue to happen for the next few months... or years.

I'm so happy!

Thursday, March 2

The best boyfriend

I love it when I'm packing to visit Taer and he says to me, "Make sure you leave some room in your bag so you can take stuff back if we go shopping while you're here."

He just gets me.

Wednesday, March 1

The first Korean in the NBA

Ha Seung-Jin is the first Korean player in the NBA. I found out about him when Gabe sent me this link after coming back from the Blazers game in Portland earlier this week.

Uh... I didn't know quite what to say or think when I saw this picture. I'm still sitting here, with my head cocked to the side and my mouth and nose kinda crinkled up, trying to figure out what to write right now.

Anyway, several of my guy friends said they heard about some North Korean last year who was supposed to be drafted, but Ha Seung-Jin isn't that guy; he's from South Korea. In fact, he went to Yonsei University, which is where I met and fell in love with Lee (and where a lot of Korean Americans go to "study," usually for the summer*).

I guess I should point out that I'm really happy to see that we're getting out there. And by "we," I'm not saying I'm of pro athlete status, but I am happy to see the Asian representation out there. I just wish that "we" put a little more muscato for the eyes out there...

So he's a basketball player, not a model or anything. And I don't want to be mean. So let's continue to focus on the positive, shall we? He's very tall and big - 7'3" and 305 lbs. And he's supposedly still growing. And that's about all I have to say for now!

Not the most fun post, I know. Sorry, I just had to share. Consider this the beginning of me blogging about sports. Ha!

*Remind me to tell you more about "studying" - with quotes - at Yonsei sometime...