I’ve been thinking about things I miss about Korea and one thing that springs right to mind is a feeling. It’s the way my body physically feels when I’m there. . .
In Korea my body feels differently. Light. In Korea I am very conscious of the space I occupy; of what my limbs are doing and are capable of. In Korea I feel like I’m walking on a cloud. I’m propelled, constantly moving. I have an endless source of energy.
Here, in the U.S. my limbs feel heavy. Fat. Bloated. Weighted down like every movement is an effort. (No joke; I’ve gained 10 pounds since I’ve been back.) I’m not conscious of what my limbs are doing almost as if they could be off doing their own things (slapping people? grabbing things that don’t belong to them?) and I wouldn’t even know.
I’ve explained this feeling to others who are in Korea or visit there regularly and they agree they feel the same way. I’m not sure why we feel this way.
It could be that in Korea (and maybe in all of Asia?) women are far more feminine. They dress more girly. They wear makeup more. And high heels. And form-fitting clothes. They pay more attention to how they look; to how their clothes look on them and how their skin, body, and figure looks. There are far more options for girly, cutesy, pretty accessories; $1 earrings and pretty barrettes/headbands are ubiquitous. And don’t get me started on shoes. (Again everywhere and so cheap if you want.) And underwear. Ahhh. (Bras in my size are so hard to find here–more like a treasure or discovery! But there, once you figure out how sizes work, they’re abundant.)
In Korea I learned that heels are often more comfortable than flats. Even when walking all over the city up and down tall flights of stairs in and out of subway stations. And dresses/ skirts (tights too) are far more comfortable than pants that hang on your legs and weigh you down. And makeup isn’t that hard to apply and can feel good on. Like armor. And that’s just what’s on the outside.
Let’s go into the inside; to feeling, to the inescapable, seemingly inexplicable or un-recreatable part. This occupation of body; of space, once feeling it, is like an awakening. Let me try and explain with an example.
I grew up thinking I had big calves. Everyone told me they were huge. In middle school and high school I even knew this one male athlete who would kneel down and kiss them wishing he could transplant them to his own skinny poles. Later on in life, often, in order to fit my legs into knee-high boots I had to squeeze them like how some people squeeze themselves into a pair of too skinny jeans; “Suck in!” I accepted this was who I was; a girl with big calves.
When I met Jamie it was reaffirmed when he told me Japanese and Korean girls are known to have big calves. It’s like someone took their legs and compressed them. (Hence calf elongating surgery written about in the Wall Street Journal.) Chinese girls don’t have calves like this.
In this sense it felt as if anything was possible in Korea, for if you grow up believing you (or your body) is a certain way, your ENTIRE life, and then you suddenly have an experience showing you that’s not true–wouldn’t you think that too?
The way my body feels in Korea is present. Aware. Because of that awareness I feel attractive. Possessed of self.
In Korea, my body feels like “This is how it was meant to be.” It slims down without any effort at all; in fact I think I eat more there than I do here. It defies all odds of how it has been more than three decades of life.
I miss that.