Wednesday, May 25, 2011

One thing that sucks...

...about what seems to be most Korean marriages is that once a woman is married, it's pretty much the end of the road for her male friendships.

Even with colleagues at work, gone are the days of after-school coffee, bowling, and drinks (even in groups), and weekend excursions with co-ed friends become a high level of taboo.

Such is the case with my school nurse, and it bums me out. She was one of the more friendly people when I first came to the school in the spring of 2009, and we have had some fun together - two student trips filled with hiking, mekju-baji ("beer pants"), and melon bar shananigans with teacher friends, and then a really nice weekend excursion last Spring where she joined myself and a male PE teacher on a trip to Chuncheon for the mime festival. This was pretty rare - a Korean woman venturing out of town and overnight (the scandal!) to share a room with two male colleagues - of course, she got the King-sized bed and the two lads were relegated to the floor.

Clearly, we had been establishing a more and more clearly platonic friendship as the second year came and went, and we had a lot of fun together.

About a week after our trip, I set her up on a blind date with a friend - there wasn't a second date. Two months after that, I heard a rumour at school that she was engaged. A month after that, an invitation appeared in our office inviting all school staff to attend the wedding. I couldn't go, however, as I had a Saturday class that day. I gave her an Outback Steakhouse gift certificate at school after the honeymoon.

Since getting engaged, and even more so since getting married, this young lady has made herself as scarce as humanly possible at work. She used to join the PE teacher and I (along with her female friend at lunch) and now she sits either on her own or surrounded by as many women as she can manage.

When I asked if she would be joining the PE teacher and I on the grade 1 field trip next week, which would have been our third consecutive student trip together, she said that she wouldn't be going. When I countered with the suggestion that she might join us and some friends for a weekend get-away this Spring or summer. She issued the blanket statement of "I can't". Passing conversations in the hallway which last year would have included some laughs and catching-up are also dismissed or excused as quickly.

Honestly, we weren't that close, but it was nice to have her as a friend at work. Notice how I'm using the past tense. That makes me kind of sad.


Andy Irwin said...

A sad story but is it really that different to what ultimately happens in the western world? Women are still expected to [predominantly] run the household once a family is on the way and this essentially spells the end for social groups, at least as they were previously known. It seems that part of marriage is the acceptance that about 80% of the time you would have devoted to friends is now given to your partner.

Though this happens all to often, I don't think it's conducive to good long term relationships. Give and take is a hard thing, especially if marriage comes too soon.

Regretfully, this comment is a bit jumbled and doesn't make a lot of sense. But I'm sure 'you get me', at least some of me.

George Bailey Sees The World! said...

I still think it's a bit different.

Back home, I once dated a Catholic School teacher who was a bit more conservative than I initially thought. One day, I found myself in an awkward conversation with her and her mother in regards to plans I had with a platonic female friend the following afternoon.

To my unpleasant surprise, both seemed quite on the offensive and strongly so when they suggested that such male-female friendships would NOT be continuing past the point of our marriage.

I didn't marry that Catholic School teacher.

That being said, I think that, (generally speaking) things here in Korea are just a little bit more extreme. I value my lady friends, and, unlike the early Harry Burns' outlook on life, I do believe that women and men CAN be friends WITHOUT the sex part getting in the way.