vixen, part one

My doll of the villainous mother from my favorite old K-drama, Boys over Flowers, who was played by actress Kang Hee Soo (Lee Hye Young), It’s a flip doll, just lift up her skirt and there’s the other mom on the show. I am pretty proud of her because she looks a lot like the character.
See, it flips! Thanks to my amazing artist friend Michelle who gave me the idea of making K-drama flip dolls. She’s such a mind!
The goofy, nice mom from Boys over Flowers. She had a clown-like presence, so this kinda captures her.

As I’m watching a dizzying number of Korean dramas at night, I’ve noticed there are typically two camps of mothers: remarkably well-preserved, ambitious wretches, or clownish women who devote their lives narrowly to the task of motherhood and could really use a salon visit. (See the dolls above).

With the increased cooking, cleaning and supervising Zoom education during Covid times, motherhood is at full mast. Dabbling in domesticity is difficult so more than ever we’re all expected to be Clowns. (As someone who has been known to let dust gather in my house and dishes pile, this has been a sore point). Understanding that this is a cartoonish analysis–let’s call it Clown v. Vixen–I present it to you as a fun way to assess our motherhood. Besides, who doesn’t like a personality quiz?

I wasn’t sure how I’d fare before doing the quiz below; my number put me on team Clown but closer to the Vixen line than I’d imagined. (though it should be obvious who I am; I do have a current haircut shorn by my eager neighbor Joyce on Thanksgiving by putting my hair in a ponytail and cutting in a circular direction for five minutes as demonstrated on YouTube. The resultant layers give me an unraveled vibe not unlike the second doll above).

For fun’s sake, take this quiz I’ve very scientifically devised to determine which mother you are. The assumption is you are answering these questions when COVID is not the horrid pandemic it is now.

  1. Have you ever been away from your children on a major holiday? (Boys Over Flower’s (BOF’s) Vixen mom left her son alone every Christmas so he could eat with the maids). +10 points
  2. Do you regularly cook for your children without complaining? (BOF’s clown mom made kimchi and banchan with the family and seems to cook nonstop, never whining about it.) +2
  3. Do you regularly cook but resent it sometimes or do you never/rarely cook? +9 (Vixen is never seen handling food. Other people cook.)
  4. Do you do crafts with the kids? +1 (Clown mom makes mass neon pink stuffed animal cats for no known reason with her family).
  5. Do you wear foundation/ a full face of makeup Monday through Friday? +8 (Vixen has layers at all times.)
  6. Do you dye your own hair (not in COVID times) to save time? -4 (Clown mom clearly does that).
  7. Do you follow current clothing trends and shop regularly for yourself? +9 (Clown mom is a mess fashion-wise. She loves stretched out looking lime green wool sweater vests and plaid.)
  8. Do you let your young kids share your parental bed regularly? +1 (BOF’s clown mom and dad sleep on the floor with their kids.)
  9. Do you have a paid job in an office? +5 (Vixen mom wears power suits and sits behind a hulking desk most scenes.) +5
  10. Do you like working outside the home to get a break from mundane parental duties? +6
  11. Does the idea of a long vacation without the kids appeal to you? +6
  12. Have you ever uttered the words “I can’t have fun when I’m out to dinner without the kids?” -8
  13. Have you ever fed any of your children ages 8 and up food with chopsticks or any utensil? -2 (Clown mom is often infantilizing.)
  14. Do you have a specific career/job goal for your child that you hint at and/or openly discourage certain jobs? +10 (Many of the villainous K-drama mothers want their children to carry on the family businesses. My own mother, as much as I love her, has always told me not to go into anything remotely creative, so she gets some points here).

Now what can you do with this number you’ve calculated? Absolutely nothing. You’re welcome. Stay tuned for Vixen, part two.

No More Banana

drawing of me years ago volunteering to hold a baby at a Korean social services agency.

As a Korean-American adoptee raised by a single Jewish woman in Manhattan, I can’t speak Korean. It’s a stretch to say I have three Korean friends. My reasonable fear is that I’m a “banana” (a derogatory term for Asians who look Asian on the outside but are white inside).

There is evidence I’m on Team Banana; see me, the middle-aged mother planning a Korean New Year’s party– grilling my weary friend Jin Sun on what Koreans eat, play and otherwise do on said occasion. See me in the strange position of reminding my five year old daughter that we are Korean only to be told “but I want to be Chinese.”

Then occasionally something happens that shakes my certainty that I am in fact, even Asian at all. Take the time I was seated in my progressive legal services office minding my business, only to be accosted by a Chinese coworker bearing a box of primly wrapped rice cakes. She peered into my office to offer a treat to me for the New Year. Before I had a chance to respond, she stopped a few steps from my chair and asked “are you Asian?”

This caused me to laugh so riotously and unceremoniously, I had to press my stomach with one hand so as not to tip out of my chair. In my politically correct office, was she worried I, of the round-faced, narrow-eyed and black-haired variety, would not identify as Asian and would take offense? At the time the incident made a good story about my unique workplace. But deep down, I was unsettled. Had I lost my Asian-ness? Was it something that needed to be nurtured and could fade at any moment if it was not?

So what gives me, at age 47, the audacity to start a blog celebrating all things Korean- drama, music, food, stationary, clothing and beauty trends? Consider my exuberant, galloping love of Korean pop culture and my sometimes weird, outsider perspective. As a witch of a classmate from my snotty high school once said, “Elissa is an enigma.” Enigmas, Liz, DOMINATE.

Aside from the K-pop and K-dramas, which we devour as a family, there’s so much to admire in terms of Korean artists, writers and directors, and I want to unroot it all. For fun and quite possibly ego’s sake, I’ll post my art, drawings and homemade dolls/figurines mostly of Koreans (as shown in below photos). As a family, we’ll try making Korean street food and food from our favorite K-dramas, watching Korean films we’re not familiar with, interviewing Koreans we admire and hope this culminates in a triumphant trip to Korea once COVID has faded.

What else can this site offer? My 11.5 year old son who is trans, autistic and loves to write wants to unpack Korean identity and other topics. No doubt his posts will lend some weight/seriousness to this blog to counter my disjointed levity. I’m hoping my cousin Leah will share her Korean recipes on this site. We eventually aim to sell wonderful things made by Koreans. I hope you’ll bear with me if I digress; I have an overflowing barrel of ADHD interests (e.g., treehouses/mini homes, creative writing, collecting journals, drawing, making stuff, art history, war movies, politics, making creative parties and starting activity clubs). Finally, this blog is a tribute to my therapist who always encourages me to develop my creative side because that’s where I am most at peace.

Maybe by loving Korea, rolling around, and blindly snorting my way through the culture, I can reach this mantel of Korean-hood and at the same time amuse and inform others. No more Banana!

My Korean zombie drawing. I took photos while watching tons of zombie shows and then started putting them together in a big drawing/collage.
Geum Jandi and Gu Jun Pyo, Boys over Flowers dolls made by my hands and very homemade looking. I hope to get better over time!
Kpop BlackPink’s Rose in Ice Cream video
Sculpies of some of the Kim’s Convenience characters

Bruce Lee the D.J (no, he’s not Korean i know)