I’ve written so many blogs in my head but didn’t have access to laptop or pen at the time, so poof! they are all gone…so this is going to be a jumbled mess as I try and grasp for those thoughts once again.
I’ve tried to be good and live with what I have, but upon the demise of my only pair of jeans and the onset of spring and all the teachers abandoning their suits and professional clothing for jeans, I nearly was going out of my mind. Seems all my clothing is extremely dressy and warm, and if not the remainder was brought with Thai tropical weather in mind. So this weekend I went and actually tried to buy pants in Korea.
OK. That doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, but actually it was frightening as hell. The malls here are really set up mostly like markets. And in this market culture, people walk up to you the second you look like you’re interested in something and put on the hard sell – they’re like flies to poop, I kid you not. Talking flies. Then, they have sale things up front and the display things not on sale towards the back. But very little is available for you to paw your way through, as it is mostly folded up as back-stock below or hidden behind something. Which is infuriating, because if you’re like me you don’t really care about the front of the jeans that are displayed half as much as you want to see the back, because those pocket details can make or break a pair of jeans.
So you must suffer and anything you touch they want to know “size-ee” before you’ve even decided whether you hate it or not. Then, you find something you might like to try on – only you don’t know what size you are. AND, to top it off, there are no fitting rooms. So you take a stab in the dark. And if you look like you don’t know, a complete stranger will be spanning your hips with her hands and using her calibrated eyes to tell you what size you are. (there is no such thing as personal space in Korea) In lieu of a fitting room, they have a giant one-size-covers-all full skirt to change under. If you are trying on a shirt, they will hold the skirt in front of you like a screen. And if you are trying on skinny pants, like myself, you will have this clown skirt around you and you must shimmy into the pants underneath while a complete stranger pantses you in one swift, strong motion to speed up the process, (and of course they have a pair of stilletto heels you’re supposed to try on as well, so your legs will look longer in their pants they’re trying to sell you) as well as stripping them off of you. “Hold panty! Hold panty!” Good advice…she must have got a beaver shot in the past or something…
Anyway, I found out that Korean women’s pants sizes run from 23 to 40 (I have no clue what this measurement system is based upon) At $10-$20 a pair, I bought three pairs. The first one I stupidly didn’t listen to the shop lady who thought the skin tight jeans I’d tried fit fine. I insisted on the larger pair, and they now drive me nuts as they slide down my hips and sag in the crotch. Not enough for anyone to notice – just enough to drive me crazy. That was a size 29. (I don’t even want to imagine what a girl who wears a size 23 looks like…For reference, I wear a size 2 in the states, so a 23 must be something like a negative 2 or 000…) The next two pairs I got were a size 28 and they fit like a dream – except of course, even in Korea they are six inches too long. So actually, I semi trust the shop keepers about the fit. But I also found pants that were too long-waisted and the shopkeepers trying to convince me that they fit fine, ignoring the extra fabric sag I was pinching up front.
The next sizing adventure was bras. My white staple bra had turned a nasty shade of gray and was pilled and out of shape. The other white bra I had is see-through and actually, it’s always been worthless because of that. And of the two black bras, one has a tear in it big enough for my fist to go through, and the other one is all stretched out of shape. Stupid mammary glands. I miss the days when I was firm enough to always go braless, but seeing as how that’s been over two decades, I should get over that, right?
Anyway, the bra sizes here are different as well. They run from size 75 to 90, in increments of 5. The only plain white bra I found after covering an entire mall was in a store – A real store – not a market stall – and it had NO FITTING ROOM. So the shopkeeper did that putting her hands around my body thing, and told me what size I was. Only I came back and tried to convince her to let me go into her stock room and try one on and she refused, so I tried it on over my clothes and it was too small. So I went home with the next size up, and of course it is too big and that mall was too far away to ever go back to and return.
So back to the drawing board, I went to E-mart and tried on their bras. There absolutely doesn’t seem to be any difference between a size A and a AA. And it’s really weird, because in the States I wear a B. The annoying thing is I hate padded bras, but that’s pretty much all you can buy here. So I just resigned myselt to buying the least padded I can find. It’s really weird for me to see a bra lying in my drawer, all perky without any body in it. It’s kind of weird wearing them too. Yes, they are very comfortable – but really, this everyone the same shape kind of bra is really no different than those all cotton bullet bras from the early 60’s. We women really haven’t progressed as much as we think we have…
Something weird has happened since being in Korea: I have become a cheapskate. Before, I was always thrifty, but never a cheapskate. I mean, my clothes were all second hand and I definitely wasn’t fancy or high maintenance – but hell, if I wanted to eat a steak or something exotic – who cares, it’s only money! But now – now I am not only comparing Korean prices to American prices, but I am also comparing Korean prices to Korean prices. Like yesterday I ate spaghetti, salad, and orange juice at S’barro in the mall – and I was so upset that I could have bought a pair of jeans with what I spent on that meal. I’d been pining for a real pair of Levi’s, but a pair of Levi’s at the Levi’s store cost 160,000 won. That’s 6-8 pair of jeans at the market malls. See what I mean? It’s not that Levi’s cost that much more here – it’s that you just can’t justify that kind of comparative expense unless you are really status conscious. And the cheap clothing here looks pretty good.
But maybe that’s just because I’m new here. I have a feeling that may change. But also, there’s just too much to buy. It’s just overwhelming. And the fashions are so trendy, it makes me just want to be as basic and comfortable as possible.
So that’s the shopping part. The dropping part is I was sweating buckets the entire time and nearly passing out. Kind of reminded me of the time I had heat stroke at the organic farm. I just kept sweating way beyond whatever moisture I could possibly have in my body, and then there was nothing left and I was drenched but not cooling off, unable to form a thought, disoriented.
Later, after several hours of sleep, I realized there was no food in the house, and then I had to go shopping again. And it was sweaty and feverish. Hope I don’t have to go to a doctor and get antibiotics. I’m sure it’s bronchitis from those harsh Korean cigarettes I bought. And as payback for being smug for managing to avoid the spring cold going around.