Monday, November 11, 2013

Making Peace with Your Genes

My favorite Disney princess is and always will be Pocahontas. I don't know what it is, but there's just something about the exotic that has always appealed to me. What's different than me is beautiful. During my study abroad in Europe, I saw that the most gorgeous women were shaped just like me. I learned to love my heritage.

But that swiftly changed during my mission. I love the Korean people. Some of the most beautiful women I know are Korean. But it is a culture obsessed with bodies and faces and image. Clothes must be neat and tailored. Of course I'm speaking in stereotypes and generalities, BUT it's still pretty true none the less. I mean, there's a reason that plastic surgery is one of the fastest growing industries in South Korea.

With a red-headed trainer as my guide to the land of the morning calm, I always stuck out. But it was in a good way. People were fascinated by the way her hair looked. They liked to touch it, and often took our pictures. We even decided one p-day to dye my hair "red". We quickly realized that was a very bad mistake. But I think the culminating moment for how different I was from these beautiful people was right before I left. We met one of my favorite members to say goodbye and thank her for all of her help, and take pictures. I looked at the pictures afterwards and saw that I was twice her size!!! She was maybe three years young than me, but I towered over her. I still feel like a monstrous ogre every time I see that picture. The more I've embraced Korean culture, the more I've measured myself against their standards of beauty.

The extreme irony is that they measure their beauty against western standards. They get surgeries to get lids in their eyes, more defined chins and noses. And this is a problem pretty prevalent in the church too.

Late one night I was texting one of my old investigators. I had just texted something along the lines of wanting to be just like a Korean person. To which she responded with a "Why!?! I want to be just like an American. They are so pretty."

We talked more. And I realized how skewed my standards of beauty have become. I don't fit into Korean clothing all that well because DUH I'm not Korean. My genes come from hardy European stock of the immigrant kind. So maybe I'm monstrously huge next to a Korean. That's ok. Because I fit right in with my own family.
Ok.  So maybe I'm not twice her size
Koreans... Oh, how I love them. 

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