안습 (anseup) – Watery eyeballs (from an embarrassing situation)

oops did I really do/say that? (old drawing. I’m better now.)
I am beyond ridiculous.

I seem to have an endless reserve of embarrassing moments that I have no qualms about sharing on this blog. So here it is: the Anseup scale from 1-10, 10 being the height of humiliation. (After reading this, it may become readily apparent that I am easily embarrassed or you will agree that I’m a total clown).


One memory is from more than a decade ago when I lived with my infant son and husband in a shabby but cozy apartment in midtown West. A stunning Korean-American couple lived in our building with their son who was a few months older than ours. The mother, a petite woman with a classic, perfectly aligned face had quit her finance job to parent and devote her time to achieving physical perfection (two worthy ventures). She was at all times resplendent, be it Sunday morning in her apartment or on her way to an opera; I marveled at her matte skin, painted lips and designer clothing– nary a wrinkle or stain in sight. I may have envied her hard-earned radiance for it was a miracle if my hair was fully combed every morning. Her husband, also in finance, was a smooth-skinned looker with a dizzying array of expensive-looking narrow-hipped suits, shiny shoes and commanding watches that surely a connoisseur would recognize. In the elevator, he would smile at me polite and curt, his lips closed and his head in bow. A high-school girl Isabelle (who used to babysit my son) and I once anointed this dashing couple “best dressed.” (You might think this was a wide open field in a dinky pre-war building but there were a surprising number of stylish tenants including the arrogant actor who played Blake Lively’s father in Gossip Girl. He took newsboy hats/fedoras and jeans to new heights in our elevator every morning).

My few exchanges with the mother (for drama’s sake let’s call her my nemesis) always ruffled me. Stumbling home from work, I — my hair whip-lashed, my skin wan and perspiring from the subway crush–sometimes bumped into my nemesis on her way out for the evening. She’d look up at me–for she was a shorty–with a pitying gaze and say ” you look soooooo tired!” Fighting words! I once asked her if our boys could have a play date to which she responded ” Isn’t your son two months younger than mine?” –her peculiar way of saying no. Another time, I saw her at Nixon In China, a purposefully unique opera, and she saw me at intermission and said “it was so, uh..different” and scrunched her nose in distaste. I, of course, had to mock her to my husband; for, duh, being different was very much the point! How fun to hold her in contempt for once.

But my flash of arrogance/feeling of superiority was short lived. When my son was around five-months old, I locked both of us out of our apartment on a weeknight around 6 p.m. Some details are obscured in memory, e.g., why I was in the hallway in this vulnerable state. I’m guessing I was dumping my garbage in the hallway bins. My son, not yet walking, was in my arms either half naked in a diaper or fully naked. I wore nothing but underwear and a terry cloth bathrobe that had an impish belt that never stayed tied. (My husband, was on a three-day work trip and my phone was inside). In retrospect, I could have knocked on a neighbor’s door and asked them to call our doorman John on their intercom but my post-natal mind was euphemistically adrift. Holding my son to my chest for dear life to assume a measure of modesty and to keep me warm (It was a blustery winter), I chanced to get an empty elevator. When the door opened at the lobby, I stuck my head out–lemming style– hoping to wave John down discretely without subjecting anyone to my own version of American Gothic. He was, of course, MIA. I had to hold the lurching door open with one hand and clutch my bulbous son with the other hand. I realized, grimacing, that with each passing second, the likelihood of someone eyeballing my fleshy child and an-in-the works- half naked me, increased significantly. My son, perhaps sensing my heightened state, took this moment to squirm wildly in my arms and let out an urgent wail, which forced me to hysterically clutch the folds of my robe and those of my progeny while jamming one foot against the door to keep it open. When I looked up, no doubt flushed, I faced the unthinkable: John, seated behind his desk by the lobby door grinning at me, and by his side– the impeccably dressed Korean couple from apartment 5A with their mouths wide open. I am not imagining that one look at me made the husband bow his head to his shoes–his chin tightly tucked to his chest. Needless to say, my mortification, and therefore my memory of this moment, is forever etched in my mind.

3: Once on a romantic night out with my husband at a fancy restaurant in Hong Kong, I greedily slurped a bowl of spicy brown soup only to be politely (but incredulously) told by the server that I was, in fact, guzzling the sauce meant for the chicken dish.

2: In college, I wrote a final paper for a political science class called “Poverty and Public Policy.” I discussed The Tyranny of Kindness by author Theresa Funicello and other books. Seemingly oblivious to the concept of editing my work, over thirty times I misnamed the author and referred to her as Annette Funicello–the famed brunette Mouseketeer. My professor drew a smiley face next to all 33 misnomers.

1: I have major geographical amnesia, which I blame on going to so many different schools growing up.( I like to think in the year they taught geography, I moved to another school). I recently referred to Scandinavia as the Netherlands to my husband and was corrected, to minor embarrassment. (I do know the difference but with some regularity, I mix up these white people territories). After almost twenty years of marriage, he perhaps now sees my kinship to those pedestrians you see on Tik Tok/Instagram videos who are shown commonly known national flags only to draw a blank or more comically, mistake it for an equally iconic flag. (I’m no flag expert but egads, mistaking Canada’s maple leaf flag for France’s? I judge).

Tell me your anseup memories!

2 responses to “안습 (anseup) – Watery eyeballs (from an embarrassing situation)”

  1. Maria Avatar

    These are hilarious and very relatable! When I lived in Boston two decades ago, I once lost my wallet and had to literally beg for money from strangers, together with a few other panhandlers) to get home from Downton Boston on the commuter rail. I told everyone I asked that I would mailed a check promptly and finally, after having about a dozen people hurry away from me, someone took pity on me.

    Another time, about a decade ago, I was looking for a sublet I lost school and I found an ad for an apartment on Carmine Street for $1,000. I was so amazed by this low price that I emailed the owner and rushed over with a check for the deposit, but to my dismay, the primary tenant let know the rent was $1,000 a week, not per month. However, they were about to leave the city for a month and I guess they were pretty desperate because they rented it to me for the $1,000! But it turned out to be too good to be true. The first week, I saw two mice in the kitchen and on the second week, the ceiling above the bed came down on me (the upstairs neighbor had a flood).

    Lastly, once I was in St Petersburg at Petergoff (sp?) Palace with some locals. They told me that no self-respecting Russians paid the exorbitant fee that they charged hapless tourists at the front gate and that we just need to hop over an 8 ft iron fence bordering one of the palace gardens. I stepped on one guy’s clasped hand, then onto his shoulder, swung my leg between the sharp spires and jumped down on the other side, but to my horror, my tank top got caught on one of the spires. And so I ended up dangling about 2 ft from the ground on the other side, with my tank top caught by my arms and covering my head (and having made the bad decision not to wear anything at all underneath). I couldn’t see anything but I heard lots of gasps and shocked laughter, and possibly the sound of people falling on the ground laughing. I had to dangle there for a bit until two of the boys in our group hopped over the fence and rescued me. I couldn’t look either of them in the eye for the rest of the day, but occasionally, I would see one of the guests touring the palace grounds point at me and whisper something to their companions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. CrazyMiddleClassAsian Avatar

      OMG I love your stories, especially that last one. Hilarious!


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