Since I’m not originally from Korea, I want to preface that all the observations of Korean society commented on in this post are seen through the outsider’s lens of a hapa, Korean-American.
Living in Korea for the last several years has made me super aware of the graduate-get-a-job-get-a-partner-get-married-have-kids-track that many people live.
A handful of friends back in the states are getting married too, but their path is a bit more meandering, so it doesn’t feel quite so in my face as it does in Korea.
Perhaps, it is just my particular friend group, coupled with the fact that when working in a company, I’m surrounded mostly by people who are more likely than me or my friends to be at the age for getting married. Although, that assumes the existence of an ideal “target age” for marriage, in the first place.
Or perhaps, in a company, I’m just surrounded by people who are in a stable place in their lives who feel ready to settle down, and have the desire to do so. I currently lack both the stability and the desire to get married. Although those aren’t necessarily correlated feelings. I also have friends who do have a high desire for marriage, even if they currently lack the stability for it.
Regardless, observing this track to marriage and kids feels like watching a conveyer belt in a factory, kind of like the scene with the chocolates in I Love Lucy. The chocolates are just going by so fast I can’t keep up anymore. Plus, the problem is- I don’t even want to eat the chocolate in the first place. I wish I could just opt out of participating in the assembly line entirely.
I haven’t come out to many people about my asexuality. Some close friends and family know, but it’s not something I’ve announced to the world, especially not strangers or my former Korean co-workers.
There are several reasons for this. One being- it’s still new to me, so I’m not yet ready to share. Another being- it’s not necessarily a commonly known term even among native English speakers, so explaining it to someone whose first language is not English would require lots of effort that just feels daunting.
For me, telling people that I’m not planning to get married is my way of coming out publicly as asexual without actually coming out. It’s my way of owning my asexual and wtfromantic orientation by taking control of the narrative I live by.
For women in Korea, even if they don’t join the marriage fast track, they are constantly bombarded with the expectation to get married eventually. Family members pester them with questionnaires to fill out for prospective blind dates. As they get older, all their siblings, cousins, and friends start falling off the singlehood-wagon around them. Aunts, grandparents, and parents then focus all their attention on the singletons in the family, doubling their efforts at matchmaking, and increasing the frequency of inquires into not-yet-married statuses.
“Do you have a boyfriend?” and “When are you going to get married?” are very common small talk questions in Korea.
I have just begun saying, “I’m not.”
And the next response is usually, “Oh, don’t worry you’ll meet someone some day” or “You’ll change your mind when you meet the right person.”
I get this same response even from fellow single women who haven’t yet been matched up. I just smile politely because they don’t realize I’m not even looking for the right person. And besides, their version of the right person definitely does not match mine.
When I was first coming to terms with my own asexuality, I began to question everything. I was confused about how to understand my romantic orientation, attractions, and gender identity and how those experiences all intersected with my asexuality.
I decided the first step in taking ownership over my own story, was to start actively rejecting the cisnormative/ heteronormative narrative that I’ve been mindlessly digesting all my life.
The one that says someday my prince charming will come, sweep me off my feet, and we will live happily ever after. The one that says my prince is of course going to be male, and that the living-happily-ever-after will include a romantic/sexual relationship, marriage, and kids.
What if I want my prince to be a princess? What if I don’t want to be saved but I want to save myself? What if I want my happily-ever-after to be a friendship or a QPR or two separate castle condos side by side so we can be neighbors rather than have a bed that we share?
I don’t know yet what my happily-ever-after is going to be. I am aware that I can’t predict the future, so it could be that I change my mind and decide to get married someday. Or even if I don’t get married, I might chose to enter a committed relationship of some other form. (Although, if I do follow through with either of those things, it will likely be with someone female or non-binary).
“I’m not going to get married” is simply my subversive way to say- I’m certainly not going to get married to who you think, and on top of that, I have no interest in what marriage traditionally represents.