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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Our Turbulent Engagement, Part 1

This is the first post in a series of long and detailed posts about our engagement. I'm sure you women out there will be able to follow the labyrinthine story with much enthusiasm, while the men out there will vaguely be able to recall something about an engagement. The only reason I know the story so well is because I lived through it. I admit to false advertising, as this post will not actually cover any part of our "official" engagment.

Background: I went off to Georgia Tech for college in August 2001. I ended up joining Harmony's campus ministry group. Harmony and I were, at first, acquaintances. Then around the spring semester of 2003, I noticed that I found myself unconsciously looking forward to seeing her at lunch on campus. Many of our group would gather in the food court to have lunch together, and it was always a more enjoyable experience for me when she was there. Anyways, after asking permission from both my parents and her's, we became a couple on September 27, 2003.

My parents thought we were too young to be in a committed relationship and assume that we would break up eventually..Sometime within a year later, both of us had realized that we might be right for each other. As time went on, we became more and more certain of it. All this and we had not even officially become engaged. Unfortunately, my parents' idea of being a couple and our's were completely different. In our minds, we were in a very committed relationship, headed towards marriage. We were of the opinion that young people should not enter into relationships lightly. My parents, on the other hand, thought that I was too young to be in a committed relationship and probably assumed that we would break up eventually. Neither side communicated this to the other, and that ended up causing a lot of troubles down the road.

Enter the Korean parents and culture. While in the southern U.S., daughters might be considered the prize "possessions," it's the opposite in Korea. Sons are of extremely high value, because the sons are the ones that are supposed to support the parents in their old age. Also, when children marry in Korea, sons remain in the family line and carry on the family name, while married daughters are crossed off the family tree (interestingly, Korean married women usually keep their maiden family name). Daughters "officially" become part of their husband's family. So the fact that I am the firstborn and only son in my family just added to the troubles.

For reasons that are beyond my comprehension, past and present Korean culture says that sons and daughters are obligated to obey their parents in EVERYTHING, no matter how old or mature they are. So if some dashing young man were to meet his maiden in his early 20's, the parents could say "Wait until you're 28," and the culturally Korean young man should subserviently listen to what his parents said, without question and debate. Well, that young man is me, and my parents told me that I was too young and dumb and not of the right mind to make a decision to get married like this.

That was August of 2005. To make matters worse, I had decided to have this talk with them while I was visiting home, which happened to be about 500 miles away from Harmony. I had gone home intending to get their approval and blessing to propose. I had wanted to get engaged before going off to graduate school, which was what I had been planning on doing at the time. In what I can describe as being totally my fault, I had already told Harmony that I planned to propose, but when I went home I bowed to my parents' will (for the time being, I might add), and then had to tell her that I thought we should wait six more years. It was quite a dumb thing for me to have done. I should have just not mentioned it to Harmony at all and not have gotten her hopes up. In fact, my dad was very mad at me when I revealed that I had talked about this to her, since he said this would just cause a lot of stress for her. Being 500 miles away, I couldn't even be there for her to console her. Her primary Love Language (tm) is physical touch, and no amount of MSN Messenger talk could compare to me being able to be there with her and hug her. August 2005 is one of the months in my life that I would love for God to strike from my memory.

In spite of That Horrible Month (tm), we prevailed, and somehow moved forward with life. In September I changed my mind about grad school and decided that I wanted to get a job right out of college. Maybe that would help change my parents mind. Maybe they had just freaked out because they didn't think we should be married while I was in grad school. Maybe things would be okay if I told them that I was going to get a job and be able to support her. So I plunged into the job search, with the idea that if/when I got a job offer, I would talk to my parents again and say "Hey, look, I have secured a job and will soon become totally financially independent from you and Umma (Korean term for "mom"). Don't you think I'm ready to get married now?"

Supplemental I
Part 2
Supplemental II
Part 3

Related Posts:

3 have poured out their souls in electronic text:

  • Iris

    Oooh, I'm really enjoying your blog so far. I love how you both are contributing to it. Will keep it on the dl, don't worry.

  • j-pokey

    I'm so amazed to have found your blog... I'd love to get in touch... Let's just say for now, I'm a mixed race (Australian/Chinese) guy going out with a wonderful, beautiful S. Korean MK/PK young woman... read every word of your engagement story... and yes, I'm male... but yeah, love to get in touch and discuss some of the stuff you went through. I thank God for finding your blog! Wooohooo!

  • JunkMale

    Thanks j-pokey. Glad we could be of some encouragement to you. I've updated my profile to include my e-mail address. Look for it under the "random question" section. We'd love to help out or sympathize in any way.