The Superman theme song plays on OCN as I get out of the shower. Suddenly I wonder whether I shouldn’t ditch Pachelbel and the hanbok wedding idea for a nice classic georgette and lillies wedding and then freak out the guests as I walk in the church on the superman theme song.  We all know superhero movies are romance dramas acceptable for male consumption. DC and Marvel functioning as the male version of Mills and Boon. The hero bursting through his shirt with the damsel barely managing to keep her composure, clutched in his arms. I love ’em! Its always been a way for me to get my fix without being ridiculed by my brothers. We all hollered together at all the nice clean violence while deep inside, while clutching my perfume Barbie to my chest, I fell in love with Christopher Reeve. I firmly believed that he would marry me…of course I also believed that there were only two countries in the world. South Africa on the one side, and America on the other.

I am always annoyed with people who argue the defining features between men and women like we need to farm our way around all these irreconcilable differences. I am not saying we’re the same, I’m just saying we want the same things, but it takes more than a wrench to fix a car. We all want romance and the big love fantasy…girls just tell it flavoured with princesses (where the woman is the central figure) and men express it as superheroes (where the man is the central figure). Afterall, before we find that big love, the race is at least mildly egotistically driven. I am alone, nobody loves ME, all by MYself…

Just today I met a new friend for lunch where we discussed the differences between Korean and Western relationships. I told her about my relationship with a Korean boy when I was a bright-eyed, 21-year old feministic individualist, freshly graduated from University on her first trip away from home. Women are taught from a young age by our strong mothers not to be clingy. To be completely self-reliant and to do everything for ourselves. Boys don’t like needy girlfriends… so I set myself up for culture clashes with my community-wired boyfriend. This guy would put me to bed, feed me and put me on busses and trains. Once I had a stomach ache and he made me wash my hands while he poured water in a glass, popped the pill into my hand, and handed me the glass and watched me take the medicine. The same guy scolded me every morning when I left the window open during the night and made me sleep on his shoulder on the subway. I was freaked out. My feminist-in-danger needle was buzzing off the scale while I worried about my “controlling” boyfriend thinking I was so pathetic for not being able to do these basic things myself. Fear of rejection and loss of control took over and the relationship ended in a friendship declaration.  Months after the break-up I complained about this characteristic to a Korean male friend who immediately started accusing me of single-handedly ruining a great relationship.

How much room do we need to leave our partner in a relationship? If I had not been so involved with my own independence, I may have been of similar use in helping to take care of another human being. Now I find myself at a crossroad. When I go back home, will I have this expectation of a western man? I don’t think its about expecting men to be super-heroes…I think its about leaving them enough room to be ones. It’s not about not being self-reliant, but making the choice to allow each other to be co-reliant. Accepting each other’s weaknesses and building a good base together.  I once watched a couple on the bus. The girl was crying while the boy kept wiping the tears off her face and speaking to her softly. Its not like she was physically unable to dry her face, but a choice to let someone care for her. I think its a kind of humility that I hope I can learn from. So, Superman, if you’re reading this…I’d love to let you open the mayonaise jar for me. You rock!

 

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