My Musings on Dating

I have about three months before I turn 27 and I have some things to say about dating:

Dating is hard.

Maybe it’s because my free time is limited or because I moved to a new place and I don’t have an ongoing social scene. Heck, maybe it’s my more introverted “too many new people makes me a bit crazy” personality but no matter the reason, I come up with the same conclusion: Dating is HARD.

Not every woman or man at this age is looking to play around or date ever so casually. Not all of us can simply “not think about it too much” or “not feel anything”.  Some of us are really wanting a genuine connection with someone special and for some of us that never actually seems to happen.

Some of us are always having to deal with the question “So why don’t you have a boyfriend/girlfriend” and/or “Are you ever going to get married?” like men/women magically fall from the sky and are perfect for us. ( Newsflash to the people who ask these questions: STOP. STOP making single people explain themselves to you. THEY owe YOU not a single explanation for their lives.) 

What really makes dating difficult is that little part of your brain that keeps the compatibility scorecard. I honestly think everyone has this part in their brains, but some of us think of it way more often.  This is the part of your brain that will ask ” but what do we really have in common and is that enough to sustain ANY sort of relationship?” Your scorecard has to be realistic but not to the point of where you’re bored in your relationship. This scorecard contains all your “deal-breakers” and the things you can negotiate and compromise on.

And you know what?

Your scorecard can and often will change with time and experience. So what you tolerated in your college relationship at 20, might not be something you are willing to deal with at 25.

Right now, at 26, I’m watching  many of my friends re-negotiate their scorecards and other who have found the balance they’re looking for and settled into great relationships.

While I wish I could say I have all this figured out, I don’t. I’m not sure when I might have it figured out. I try not to put a deadline on my personal development but it’s hard when you’re watching people fall in love and build lives together (thanks social media).

So again I say : Dating is hard and I don’t know if it ever gets easy.

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Can we talk about being a young adult?

No really. Can we talk about being a 20 -something year old person outside of careers and dating/marriage/kids? As a 25 year old woman, I sometimes wonder why I hear so little discussion about the other things that affect my life.  I hear so much about kids and marriage (or at least dating and heading towards serious relationships) but what about those other pieces in our lives? What about spirituality, learning more about ourselves, defining what success means for us, learning what makes us feel vulnerable and what simply makes us happy? Heck, what about discussing how to take the time to develop as a person?

I tell my mom pretty often that I feel short changed. Why? Because as we grew up, adults would talk about relationships (mainly about sex) but very, very. very little about other things that encompass an adult life. While there are some things we simply learn by doing, it would be nice to discuss some of the big things we might experience during our young adult years. It would be nice to know that some of the uncertainty we may feel is normal and learn ways to cope and work through it . Our parents (and other adults) can’t tell us everything that we may face, just having something to go on, just some discussion, about the experiences of the adult life would be great.

 

My Honest, HONEST Feelings about Dating in Korea

Warning!!!!

If you are highly sensitive about race and gender (and the intersections between the two) this post may not be for you! For those who are open to understanding the dating game in Korea for Black women (from what I’ve observed after a year here) please read on and comment below! (Keep in mind I don’t live in Seoul. I live in a small city and other cities may be different) (For tips on dating in Korea as a Black woman see my last paragraph)

One of the FIRST things I noticed when I moved here was the (foreigner) male infatuation with Korean women. It started with the constant talk about how Korean women are beautiful or sexy or sweet (etc.) and how foreign men dreamed of  dating them. When you live abroad in Korea, Korean women are considered some sort of prize to be won. While for many guys, dating a Korean woman is a bragging right, something to high five and something to boost their egos, to others Korean women are datable because they simply are KOREAN and KOREAN= WORTHY in their eyes. 

On the other hand, many Korean guys want to date white women, simply because they are white women. I’ve seen no other reasons given for this dating preference. No Korean guy has ever said “Oh I date white women because they have this set of characteristics that no other group of women possess.”  The whiter, blonder, and blue eyed the woman, the more likely the Korean men are to jump up and want to date her and often, it’s considered more acceptable to date a white person if a Korean wants to date a foreigner. (Notice how many white dancers and actresses are featured in Kpop videos)

Now, with all that said, where does that leave a Black woman in the dating game in Korea? Well, oftentimes both situations leave us out completely. While Korean women and white women will receive a man’s interest simply for being Korean and white, the same sort of attention and consideration is not passed along to Black women. Now, this is not to say that my friends and I want to date some foreigner or Korean man with a Black girl fetish or simply because they want an ego boost.  This is to say that we want to be considered simply because we are human beings. We want to be considered because we are interesting people with great personalities. We don’t want to constantly be overcoming barriers that no other group of women has set before them.

Oftentimes, I feel that where white and Korean women are offered love simply because of who they are, Black women must constantly be trying to prove our value to everyone to be offered any sort of love. We have to prove we are NOT the stereotypes that many people hold about us. It’s almost as if I need to hand out resumes to make men understand that I have value too! It’s beyond annoying!

As my friend likes to say “I’m an awesome person, why can’t that just be enough for guys?” – Honestly, I don’t know why we have to work so hard as Black women to be seen as worthy of consideration as possible dates or partners. It’s an issue we experience at home in the U.S., but in the small foreigner community in Korea, we feel it with a stronger sort of intensity. Seriously, I’ve had to endure stories about how awesome a guy’s ex Korean girlfriend was or how many dates with Korean women they’ve had or are going to have. While most people will say “Everyone is entitled to their preferences” or “It’s really not as bad as you make it out to be”, I say “Well, do you want to constantly be considered a last resort for romantic relationships?”

None of this is to say that I’m bitter for being single in Korea. I am just pointing out what I’ve seen here. My main goal for coming to Korea was to teach English and I’m happy I’ve been able to do that this long. As a 25 year old person, however, I do expect to be able to date sometimes and being in a place where that isn’t really possible is frustrating. If I was planning to stick around Korea for another year or so, I’d consider moving to a bigger city where there are more options for friendship and dating.

Tips:

So if you are a Black woman planning to come to Korea, don’t let this be a discouragement. Be aware of the issues you may face and also know that if you live in a bigger city (Daegu, Seoul, Busan, etc) your dating prospects will most likely be more open. Also, consider learning Korean, because that will also open up more possibilities for you. Don’t simply come to Korea because you want to date here. Come here with a purpose so that if the dating game proves to be dead, you still want to be in Korea! Also know that you are valuable simply as a human being and remind yourself of this every single day and surround yourself with people who do the same! 

What Teaching Has Taught Me

I’ve always talked about what South Korea (or Korean culture) have taught me since arriving in this country in July 2014, but I haven’t really reflected on what teaching has taught me.

So here are a few things that teaching has taught me:

  1. Kids are kids, no matter where you go- I’ve heard many English teachers say that when they decided to come to Korea to teach family and friends said something like “Oh you’re going to Asia? The kids are going to be quiet, smart, and well behaved all the time,”. Okay, truth time- Korean children are just like the children you’ve observed in your home country and culture. They are loud and energetic and they want to have FUN! Luckily, I came into a teaching program that told me “You’re going to teach in the country/rural area. The kids will have big personalities,”- and for me, that has been a wonderful experience.
  2. Teaching is hard but it’s awesomely rewarding too- Teaching children to speak English is difficult sometimes. Since I don’t speak Korean, I have to rely on examples, repetition, acting, making silly sounds, singing silly songs, and anything else I can come up with. I also have to rely on the help of my Korean co-teacher, who assists with translations and class management.  There are challenges in the classroom. A kid may not understand the material or they’re tired and don’t want to participate. I’ve dealt with tears, angry outbursts, and meltdowns too. But for all the difficulty teaching has presented, I can say that it’s a wonderful feeling when your students actually understand something new or you see their ability to speak and understand in English begin to grow overtime. It’s the days when you say something in English to a kid, thinking that they won’t understand, only for them to answer you. As one of my most energetic third graders has said (in Korean to my co-teacher) “I understood what Tabitha teacher told me to do”. He couldn’t respond in English but he comprehended enough to follow my directions with no help or translation. And trust me, for a kid who jumps off desks and runs laps in my classroom at 9 am, that made me feel great!
  3. When you teach, you will feel OLD!- My students are the MASTERS of making me feel old! I keep telling myself “I am NOT old! I just graduated high school 7 years ago! Things haven’t changed that much right?” Well, turns out things have changed that much. I asked my 5th and 6th graders when they thought the very first IPhone was made and they said “2002”. These kids think smartphones have been in existence for as long as they have been. They have no idea that Spongebob Squarepants has been on air longer than all of them have been alive (whereas, I still remember its debut on Nickelodeon). They don’t understand why old flip phones did nothing but call people. They also don’t understand why I’m outraged at them having smartphones in the 1st grade (I didn’t get a flip phone until 16!). And most of all EVEN THOUGH THEY HAVE SO MUCH TECHNOLOGY, THEY STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH IT.  I still have to say “Hey why don’t you use that translator app on your phone to help you write in English,”- they understand smartphones are for playing games and texting friends, but they’re still kids. They still don’t understand the amazing technological capabilities they carry around in their pockets every single day.
  4. Teaching has taught me to love the “little kids”- Before coming to Korea, I was extremely concerned about teaching elementary school students. Before even applying, I always saw myself working with high schoolers because, in my mind, little kids where just not much fun. Now, I love the little kids. I love teaching the ABCs and shapes and colors and watching my students learn to say their first English phrase and be able to answer their first questions in English. It’s amazing! The enthusiasm of a first grader is contagious! It MAKES you want to work hard to teach and engage them! And hey, they’re also the only students who tell me they love me on a regular basis. AWWWW <3!
  5. Teaching and education make you a critical thinker– I’m always considering the “why” of things- it comes naturally to me. Teaching makes you consider the very purpose of education. You find yourself wondering why what you are teaching is important and how will it help your students throughout their lives. You are constantly thinking about your lessons and how they will help your students learn the material, and even why that material is important in the first place. Teaching is very much a field for critical thinking and learning new skills and new ways to help your students.

So there they are. These are a few things I’ve learned from teaching English in South Korea over the last 15 months!

Sit down with a teen/tween (and some adults too) in your life and watch a couple of episodes of Teen Mom 2

This post probably sounds silly. You’re probably thinking “Why would I ever watch that show? It just glorifies teen motherhood and made celebrities out of a few young women for having kids before they were prepared to,”.

Well, you’re right! The 16 and Pregnant/Teen Mom franchise that has been produced by MTV for more than 5 years now HAS indeed created celebrities out of young, mostly white women for having children when they were still children themselves. This, however, does not mean you can’t use this show as an educational tool.

I’ve watched the recent season of Teen Mom 2 online mostly and with every single episode I watched I kept thinking “My GOD how could anyone watching this want to get pregnant or put themselves in any of these situations?!” I’m 25 years old and some of the things these young women are dealing with (for instance, being married and divorced twice, all while raising three kids and struggling with depression in her early 20’s) scare me!

Take some time to sit down with a teen/tween or even a young adult in your life and really analyze one of these episodes. Look at the problems these young women are dealing with and really, REALLY discuss why they are problems and how they could be avoided!  Even the mother who is doing the best on the show at any given time is probably having “baby daddy drama”, whether it’s about custody arrangement or child support.

My main point is this: Teem Mom and 16 and Pregnant can illustrate something a lot of teen don’t really think about- the very, very, very, very long term consequences of our actions. These young women participating in these shows have no idea that parenthood is a LIFETIME commitment and so is the person you choose to have a baby with, whether you stay with them romantically or not.

I can’t say that simply watching Teen Mom/16 and Pregnant can completely convince young people to not have sex or at least not have children before they are good and ready, but I think the shows can concretely illustrate the complexities and consequences of choices and relationships. We’re always talking to kids about sex, and less often relationships, but this show can help a young person really see how different choices can play out across time.

If you don’t believe me, I challenge you to just watch an episode of one of these shows and at the end, try naming two or three things you learned from the episode and think if you would have liked to have learned those things when you were a teenager.  If your answer is yes, which I really think it will be, you’ll see my point.