As I mentioned in my bio, my parents were anxiously waiting for me to marry a nice Korean boy so that I could get cracking on the whole “continuing-the-legacy” thing. I understood where they were coming from. They were very proud Koreans and knew that it was an uphill battle to sell the concept of marrying a Korean guy when the only ones we were ever exposed to were usually related to us by blood. By the time I hit my late twenties, though, they were starting to sweat my ability to meet anyone. I remember being at my apartment getting ready to come over for Thanksgiving when I got the call from my mom, “Jenn, why don’t you try wearing something pretty to dinner? Like a nice skirt?”
Despite my mom’s lovely, soft-spoken voice, I could sense the blood in the water. This was the sound of meddling even though I’d told my parents that I wasn’t open to any of their matchmaking shenanigans. I felt a little railroaded since I really wanted to spend Thanksgiving with them. Innocently, my mom disclosed that this was the son of a family friend who was staying with them while he was recovering from eye surgery. He also happened to be a medical doctor and Korean. So, could I please look nice when I came over… See? Blood in the water.
A couple of knowing glances once I reached the house let me know that my siblings were privy to what was going down. Some of them had been down this road with my parents. But rarely were these meetings ever done across our family dinner table with everyone in attendance. I heard my father call up the stairs in Korean as I sat down in the living room. There was a teeny, tiny part of me that felt bad for this person. To my knowledge, he wasn’t aware of the fact that this was a set up. But any sympathy I had quickly dissolved once he came downstairs.
Granted, he was recuperating from eye surgery, but the eye patch still came as a shock, especially behind a set of thick glasses. He was lanky and decked out in a t-shirt with turquoise sweat pants. This was only strange because I didn’t expect him to be so casual when having a holiday dinner at someone else’s house. After introductions were made, my dad started asking polite questions to get conversation started. What followed was a very impressive list of accomplishments that just. Kept. Coming. I liked people who were passionate about what they did. Then again, I liked two-sided conversations as well and no one could get a word in edgewise.
We were ushered into the dining room by my mother who tried to sit me down next to him, but I quietly opted for the other end of the table. Admittedly, I didn’t try very hard to get to know this person and was usually more cordial to guests in my parent’s house. But he didn’t seem to be seeking me out either and I was fine with that. So, lulled into a sense of safety, we began to eat. My mom was a fantastic cook (still is) so it was easy to get distracted by her PaJeon (scallion pancake served with sesame soy sauce), Jap Chae (glass noodles with vegetables), and bulgogi (marinated table top beef). And if we were all in agreement about anything, it was how delicious everything was. But, when my mom interrupted our guest with a comment about how pretty and single I was, all I wanted to do was crawl inside the Thanksgiving turkey, pull a few pieces of garnish in behind me, and never come out. I caught a few pained glances from my siblings and felt my cheeks get hot. Luckily, our guest didn’t take the bait and kept up his train of conversation.
I didn’t expect my parents to know what my preferences in guys were, especially when their pearls of wisdom around dating were “you’ll date when you get married.” But I hoped that their rare opportunities to interfere with my love life would’ve shown more understanding of who I was. The older I’ve gotten, though, the more I understand that in the realm of heavy-duty, old-school matchmaking they were doing a great job (luckily, they took my “no” vote well). So, when I get stressed about Thanksgiving, I think about how thankful I was after that meal was over. Come to think of it, it may also explain why I enjoy being the person that prepares the turkey every year…unstuffed.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I wish you peace, love, and a few pieces of garnish nearby just in case.