This visit to Korea after a year spent in the US has been quite enlightening. I wish I could say there have been far more good things than bad ones, and believe me, I’m usually a “glass half-full” kind of a person, but I can’t.
True, the time I’ve spent with my good friends and the selected few moments I spent with my family brighten up the “good things” category as much as they can, but alas not enough for the whole two months. (As well as the cute socks I got to buy – Americans, it’s high time you start making cuter socks! You’re depriving your own people!).
One -major- “bad” thing has had to do with how easily I get impatient with my mom. Dad has always managed to find different and various ways to annoy me, so that was nothing new, but this new “dynamic” I seem to have developed with my mom is not less than disturbing.
Like the good daughter that I am, I’ve decided to give some serious thought about this situation; and I’ve reached the partial conclusion that the reason I’m more annoyed, more difficult with my mom is the very same reason she was harsher and more demanding with me as a kid. Just as she wanted the very best for me because I was her daughter, I want the very best from her because she’s my mom.
This sounds cliche, but my mom was my hero for a very long time. Probably up until my mid-20s. But I guess that, even though that is when I became conscious that my mom had her faults; subconsciously, I didn’t really stop regarding her as my hero.
Mom was the one who taught me that girls didn’t always have to dress up in pink and play with dolls. She’s the one who made me aware of my independence, my strength and my potential as a woman and as a person. She’s the one who assured me that I didn’t need men to “complete” me, that I could grow up to be anything I wanted to be, including a successful, sophisticated, and strong single woman. And all this before I even knew the word Feminism existed.
Mom was also the one who taught me to always be compassionate and tolerant to others, especially those who didn’t have the same privileges I did. She’s the one who showed me that how just you can be towards those around you can define you, and not how much money you have. All this before I was even aware of what social justice, politics, or humanity meant.
Yet, today, she makes sly comments about my “inability to get married” (doesn’t matter that I constantly tell her it’s my “reluctance to get married”), and admits that she will feel somewhat safer knowing there will be a “man looking after me” (there is absolutely no reasonable logic behind this thinking). In those moments, I don’t simply see my “annoying mom”. I see a fallen hero of mine betraying me. I mourn my role model, my childhood Feminist hero, my Wonder Woman.
When she fails to feel for Ned and Felix in “The Normal Heart” because they are gay, I can’t just brush it away as the same attitude thousands of other older Korean women probably have. I take it as a personal affront to the values of altruism, compassion and understanding my hero raised me with.
My hero was perfect you know.
But this woman, whose sole change and “mistake” was to get older, is far from being perfect. She has so many faults. And so I strive to mold her with my memories of her past perfection. I refuse to see that she is a mother (a Korean one on top of that) before being a feminist. I refuse to acknowledge that she is also a product of her time and customs, which didn’t even discuss, even less “acknowledge”, the LGBT community.
I guess I have to give up at some point, for certain things, and accept her as my imperfect hero and my perfect mother, just like she gave up trying to make me memorize all these Chinese characters when I was growing up. Oh but it’s hard…
After all, even superheros have faults, Superman did make the terrible mistake of wearing his underwear outside for the longest time.