Wednesday was a holiday here in Korea. It was an election day (local elections) and most people were off work in order to have time to vote because business hours in this country are from the time you wake up until you get your work done. So Keun Ha and I headed over to the Coex Mall to spend some of my first paycheck on good food and maybe a few t-shirts I could wear to work. I need t-shirts because when I packed my bags I was under the impression that it was really, really cold here. And in the mornings, it’s a bit chilly. But my commute is so hot and stuffy, that it’s ridiculous to wear anything other than a t-shirt and light jacket. And I also produce a fair amount of perspiration at school what with all the dancing, singing, and yelling at my kids. So t-shirts are in order. (I don’t know what I thought I would do when the weather turned warm. I seriously only packed 3 t-shirts. What was I thinking? Ah, the beauty of packing the day before…)
Anyhow, I went to the mall with high hopes of coming home with some ultra-stylish and cool Korean t-shirts. However, when we actually started looking at clothes, all I could find were smalls and a few mediums here and there. I found a t-shirt I really liked and Keun Ha asked the saleswoman if they had any other sizes and she replied, “We don’t sell larges.” Which holds true for the entire mall. However, the style right this moment is a baggier top with layers and weird graphics. So, I refuse to be thrown into the pit of despair by my not being a tiny Korean doll. I make up my mind that I will try on Mediums! I look at the Mediums. I hold them up to me and attempt to stretch them across my huge boobs. Most of them will not make it. Even if I could fit The Belly in the shirt, The Boobs would not find a home there. But I finally get the idea that I could get away with a zip-up type shirt. I find this short-sleeved incredibly thin and light grey sweater top. It is long and has cute pockets in the front and a hood. Totally my style. Will go over any t-shirt because I don’t have an issue with ‘matching’ or ‘coordinating’. Lucky me! I try it on. I don’t zip it because it’s not really the kind of thing that should be zipped. It fits me. Keun Ha says I look “so cool.” So I buy it. And then I rejoice. I BOUGHT A MEDIUM!
I don’t remember the last time I bought anything in a medium. I don’t even order my Starbucks in medium! I go Venti all the way (which definitely explains the lack of mediums elsewhere!). So I was excited. I had bright hopes for my future here. We had looked at a gym earlier before heading to the mall and I could see myself running and working out and buying lots of mediums that don’t have to zip up. I had images of my ultimate self— the size 6 I was in high school— walking down the street in an “outfit” rather than the pants I wore yesterday and the only shirt I could find that didn’t smell like my armpits. Yes, a bright and cheery future was in the works.
So we ate some lunch and then headed back out into the big world of style possibilities that had just opened up to me. We stopped in another store and I pick out yet another medium (this time that doesn’t zip- I was becoming more bold. I mean, what could it hurt to just try it on?) and Keun Ha picked out something to try on as well. We head back to the dressing rooms. I open the door and hang my shirt on the hook. There is a small platform that you step up on, but first you must take off your shoes (of course, we ARE living in Korea). I don’t realize this and Keun Ha says, “Oh, take off your shoes.” So I grab hold of the doorposts and begin to slip my shoes off and he starts to close the door.
“STOP!” I scared him I screamed so loud. I pushed the door open, pulled my thumb back from where it had been trapped between the door and the doorframe, pushed Keun Ha out of the way and then slammed the door shut. I fell to my knees and held my thumb and tried really hard not to cry. But I cried anyway. Keun Ha opened the door and knelt down beside me. By this time, my thumb had begun to bleed, blood flowing out from beneath the cuticle, circling around the skin on my knuckle that had been peeled back. I watched as my thumb grew a size and a half and turned purple. It made me feel sick. I started to cry even harder. Not only was I embarrassed because I was crying in the floor of a fitting room in a foreign country, but now I thought I was going to throw up in said fitting room and who knew how that would play out. Keun Ha ran to get a bandaid and came back in a few minutes with Hydrogen Peroxide, which made me cry even more!
So I finally recover a bit, start taking some deep breaths, and Keun Ha says, “So, you wanna try on your shirt?” He’s so cute. And I say, “Why not?” So I step back into the dressing room to try on the shirt. It fits okay. But it’s a little bit snug in the back-fat area, so I decide it’s not the one for me. I now have a killer headache from all the trying not to cry and then the crying and my thumb is also throbbing with my pulse. I’m not feeling so well. We find a pharmacy and buy some ibuprofen. We find a café and buy some juice and coffee. I’m okay. I’m not dying. But I’m not really happy either. My mood has been dialed down from “I’m so excited” to “well, I’m here.” We finish the juice and the coffee and I try not to be too depressing, because it’s our first holiday together.
So we’re walking out of the mall and passing all these shops and suddenly I stop and say, “I think I need some chocolate.” So Keun Ha promptly wheels me around and propels me towards the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts. “Will this make you happy?” I purchase my chocolate-covered, crème-filled donut. We are walking out of the Dunkin’ Donuts and Keun Ha says to me, “Wow. You’re so much happier now. It makes me want to buy you a donut store.”
My boyfriend wants to buy me a donut store so I can be happy. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is all you need to know to fully understand my love relationship with food. And why I will probably never be able to shop in Korea.
P.S. My thumb has healed nicely.