Thursday, January 08, 2009

Didn't Know I Used So Many Products!

I read that the average Korean woman puts a total of 17 products on her face before leaving the house, while the average American woman puts on less than half the amount, anywhere between 2 and 6.

I realize that this is because Korean society is still very much ... shall we say ... patriarchal, with men being the definitely dominating gender. In general, Korean women want to get married, make a good catch, find a man that can take care of them. American women are less worried about pleasing the man in their life and finding that man to try and please. As a Korean-American, I realize that I'm right in the middle, and my actions reflect my position between two dissimilar cultures.

At times, I am a demure Korean woman, speaking softly and politely to my elders, keeping my eyes down, and cooking and cleaning. At other times, I am (the worst kind of) brash American woman, drinking tequila and yelling at people in bars.

Oddly enough, those two different sides of me provide me with a sense of balance. When I need quietness, familiarity, serenity, I draw into my Korean heritage. I recall stories of my various family members (both sides of my family are huge and still mostly reside in Korea). I look at old photos, I cook dishes that remind me of my family, I have long talks over coffee with my mom and sister.

When I need to let loose and just go wild, I am definitely American. My girlfriends and I go out dancing or we just go to a bar, giggling over ill-chosen drinks and having the best time while being jostled by sweaty people and drinking something horrible (red-headed sluts (the drink, not the people) will knock you OUT. Jägermeister is a fickle friend). Sometimes I need that.

I am forever grateful that I am able to have such two distinct parts, and am so glad my parents dragged me here when I was a child. I do appreciate the accent-less English, thank you. I know it's hard to come by for a native Korean speaker, and I get a kick out of the fact that people assume I'm white when they hear me on the phone. The reaction I see when people I know hear me speak in Korean for the first time is also pretty funny. Somehow, they think a girl who speaks perfect American English would be completely incapable of speaking another language! And this includes lots of Koreans that I've worked with that assume I'm totally American and don't speak a lick of Korean.

Back to the point, even the number of products I use reflect my in-between-ness:

1. Clear Lotion
2. Essence
3. Moisturizer
4. Toner
5. Eye cream
6. Sun-care
7. BB cream / foundation
8. Eyebrow pencil
9. Powder
10. Lip care
11. Finishing spray

This is my daily list of products that go on my face after I've washed it. I don't do it quite as extreme as the Koreans, but neither am I as low-maintenance as the Americans. (Unless I go out. That requires lots more makeup and sometimes false eyelashes, which are never a good idea in a bar and yet somehow always present on women in bars).

Struggling to find my identity in a country whose entire existence is based on freedom of expression is a surprisingly difficult task. It's hard to know where to put myself, what category I belong in. In this sense, I am an Asian person. We like knowing exactly what our identities are, exactly where we fit in. That's the reason Asian companies are so corporate and also successful. It's bred into our DNA to be this way, to automatically appraise and assess what class everyone belongs in.

I can only hope that I am able to take the best that both cultures have to offer and leave behind the detritus that will only make me more confused about who I am.

I thought I'd have it together by 26, but I guess I was terribly wrong. Hopefully I'll have it together by ... 30??

2 comments:

william January 9, 2009 at 1:32 AM  

if you're going by 30 korean age...that's way less time, dear. stick to the american.

jeanny January 9, 2009 at 9:57 AM  

I actually was thinking about this last night and ... I think I need til at least 35.