I guess I should give Buzzfeed some credit for trying to post something with depth, but this article by Ashley Perez is still doggy-paddling in the shallow end of the pool. As a personal narrative, this piece lacks self-scrutiny; there is no dynamic change in the author’s attitude or approach to life. Her solution to her “problem” was to leave the country altogether, rather than seeking understanding and enlightening readers as to the socio-economic conditions of Korean ideals of beauty.
Ms. Perez complains that she had to leave South Korea after a year because clothing stores made her feel fat:
And so at some point I gave up, tired of living in a culture I literally couldn’t fit into, despite my best efforts.
I would not be accepted as a true fellow Korean.
The author’s conflict comes with her claim to a Korean genetic background — she wants to be considered a true Korean (She does not clarify her Korean lineage, nor her level of familiarity with Korean cultural traits like language.) A fair enough desire, but her “best efforts” at “fitting in” only seem to include trying on a pair of jeans in a Korean clothing store. By her logic, you can only fit into a culture if its community accepts you as unequivocally beautiful.
If that’s the only facet of a culture you care about,
maybe you have no business traveling in the first place you really need to get out more.
Ms. Perez is eager to blame others for what appears to be her own lack of self confidence:
… I found it almost impossible to find anything that fit me. Whereas in the United States I’m smaller than the average woman — size 8 bottoms, medium tops, and a size 8.5 shoe — in Korea, I truly felt like a whale … Nothing will destroy your confidence faster than a store clerk shouting at you from across a crowded store, “no, no — very, very big” as you hold a dress up to your body in the mirror.
“Waaaah, this store doesn’t carry clothes to fit a small minority of its target sales demographic! That stranger I will never see again made me feel like a whale with her matter-of-fact explanation given to me in my own foreign language.”
Ms. Perez may also want to consider whether the opinions of children deserve so much priority in her self-estimations.
I was sick of my students calling me “plain face” or “tired teacher” on the days when I wore no makeup …
“Oh noes! The kids are judging my looks! Now I’ll never be a true Korean!”
Lamenting the kids’ lack of understanding when it comes to the concept of “inner beauty,” I wonder whether she bothered to make herself an example of it. I’m guessing not, since she decided to just bitch about them to Buzzfeed.
Ms. Perez closes with a Helen Lovejoy-esque appeal to “please think of the children,” and the admittedly sad truth that many will feel the need to get cosmetic surgery at some point in their lives. Still, it rings hollow after reading an entire piece devoted to her personal “hardships” buying clothes and feeling crappy about herself.
In my experience here, with many friends of various Asian ethnicities and citizenships, they are usually treated as Koreans on sight. Shopkeepers address them in Korean first, and usually speak to them assuming they are translators for their social group. This would have been a perfect way for Ms. Perez to fit in. She is just too image-obsessed to notice it. Maybe she fits in here after all!