Kyopos and / or the people who know and live with us might want to read it: To know and live with us with an understanding of why we live in mortal terror of ajooma.
When among acquaintances and casual friends, I am vigilant to string up white lies like police tape around my personal details. But a nod from any woman born earlier than 1970 on our Asian peninsula flanked by the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea, however, awakens pre-programmed behaviors I can’t control. I answer every question to the best of my ability, and make my own polite inquiries, always careful to employ deferential syntax, the doily-lined, dustier version of the language that rarely appears in pop songs or the revenge trilogies I stream from the Internet.
I remember when I worked briefly at a maternity clothes store (as part of anthropological research), a well-heeled Asian woman about my mother's age, carrying a nice purse, came in with her pregnant daughter, who was about my age, and like me, wearing no make-up. Ajooma looked me up and down, addressed me in Korean, and asked me oh-so-sweetly to do a good job taking care of her daughter, who was a doctor, and had no time to shop, but needed new clothes. The daughter looked at me pleadingly: Can we do this quickly? My mother is embarrassing me. Please do not hate me. When I was in high school, I dyed my hair blond and ran around with a white boyfriend with a Flock of Seagulls haircut. My mother, though she never speaks of it, has not forgotten. Or so I thought I could hear her trying to tell me...
Unfortunately, both the daughter and myself were much. too. weak. to counter ajooma. Even the non-Korean store manager was powerless to do much other than fetch additional sizes and colors.
BTW, author Mary H.K. Choi is spot-on about David Chang. When StraightMan and I had my celebratory 40th birthday lunch at Momofuku, part of the enjoyment, I felt, was being "in" on the joke: I liken it to Ding Dongs made "upscale" with molten Valrona chocolate and creme freche. There we sat, eating Korean comfort food made with ingredients whose organicity / sustainability / provenance would register no response from my mother. "Heirloom pig? Who care? Just more expensive," I can hear her saying now. Is she wrong?
As I get older, I sometimes wish I were a bit more Korean because then I, too, could become an ajooma.