WE WERE sitting by the side of the river near City Hall when my friend Yujin paid me an apparent compliment.
"You have a small face."
"Uh. . .thanks?"
Yes, that indeed was a good thing, she told me. Westerners, many Koreans seem to think at least, generally have smaller faces than Koreans, a point of envy for folks here. Small faces are considered attractive. So she wasn't just calling me a munchkin in a round about way, then. Good.
Yujin teaches at the Korean classes I go to. She is fun and one of the least flaky people I've met here. She keeps her "appointments" as she calls them. I like her. Today she had brought along one of her friends, Peter. He has a Korean name, but he told me simply that I wouldn't be able to pronounce it.
I'm all for blunt honesty.
Peter said he wished he had a high-bridged, western-looking nose and green eyes. He was also "in love" with the gym because, according to him, he was fat. He was no more fat than Gwyneth Paltrow. I sucked in my stomach and continued to nod attentively. Peter then asked me one of the strangest questions I'd ever heard.
"Can I photograph your eye? I'm sorry, I know it sounds weird. I'd just like to."
"Um. . .OK. . ."
He held up his slick-looking camera phone -- Korean phones are the biz and typically have a small microwave oven and tractor beam attached -- and brought it right up to my eye. This was uncomfortable. Was he trying to take an imprint of my retina? Use my identity for financial gain? If so, all he was going to get was enough dosh for a Happy Meal and the subway ticket home.
After what seemed like an age, I heard the click. I still don't know quite why he wanted a photo. Maybe blue was in this season. He had other pictures of eyes in his phone, though. I wasn't even special.
While writing this, I have been texting "R Q" (as I affectionately now refer to her), she of "R Q R Q R Q R Q R Q" and 8a.m. "are you awake" texts fame. I still haven't met her in person. She just found out I was white and told me she wishes she was too.
What was wrong with being Asian? I asked.
"almost korean people like a white skin like white people so ~ . . .kkk do use suncream!"
No fear there, my dear.
I tan like a lobster.