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It’s an old battle: fighting against the chasm, between the expectations of South Korean men (and even women who embrace these expectations) and the real, live selves of South Korean women.As a young woman, I kept wondering about how I should act, and how much of myself I should show men.It dawns on me that my battle isn’t just about fighting South Korean men’s expectations of how women ought to behave.I learned that I need to fight my own expectations for myself, too.You can see this contradictory expectation in female heroines of many K-dramas.The beautiful female protagonist is independent and savvy at her office, but in front of a guy she likes, she’s one step behind, submissive and gentle.Maybe I had been trying to prove something, in this society where people expect girls to be quiet and submissive. I wish I could say my realization brought me complete freedom from gender norms or expectations of others, but it didn’t.
I realized that I might have forced myself until then to be this independent, outgoing girl with an “optimistic character,” fixing problems by myself without relying on my man.She should be resilient but needs to be rescued when hardship arises. I could concede that independent and dependent tendencies might coexist in a person, certainly, but often they don’t go together.I thought it more a fantasy of men who craved unequal power relations with their girlfriends than a reality.I stopped going on different social gatherings because I wanted to be like him — being considerate and focusing on our relationship.Through him, I learned relationship is like a mirror that reflects one another, because I realized it was he who had first engaged in some form of in reality had been a part of my nature all along.