Wednesday, September 29, 2010

*the* incident.

so, here's how it went down with the waitress at the korean restaurant:

christy, sandra, and i were enjoying our dinner and conversation when one of the waitresses walked by, trying to catch my eye and attention. peter and i eat at this restaurant on a semi-frequent basis, and peter comes often with other members of the church staff, so a good number of the waitresses are familiar with us.

i politely bowed my head with an "anyoung ha sae yo" and she said hello back and said in korean,

"oh, you gained a lot of weight! are you pregnant?"

i'm pretty sure i turned a nice shade of red and i quickly responded, "no."

and her response? "so, how many months along are you?"

by this time, not only was i red in the face, but i was totally seeing red. lay off, lady! i looked at her, said, "i'm NOT pregant." and quickly turned away from her and back to the comfort of my food and friends.

i was so angry, but had to hold it together because a) i was in public and b) i was in the company of lovely ladies that know me, but don't *know* me quite yet and i didn't want them to think i had anger management issues. ;)

comments like this have been a source of vivid pain, and to be on the receiving end of a double whammy was rough.

okay, so yes, i've gained some weight in the past year. i attribute it to three things: 1. my slowing metabolism (hello, 30!) 2. the anxiety and distress of waiting in this adoption process and 3. dc's snowmageddon 2009/2010.

sure, i should really make a better effort to shed some of this extra padding. but, still, HOW RUDE.

and people, it's 2010, don't ask someone if they're pregnant unless they're going into labor. in front of you. seriously.

now before we get all cujo on this lady, let me explain something to you. korean people are rude. especially when it comes to issues like weight.

wait, wait, hear me out.

and understand that i say that in the way that i can make fun of my family, but you can't. the same way you can make fun of your family, but i can't.

and understand that i'm saying this based on my upbringing here in the US as a korean american. i've only been to korea once (when i was 9) and my parents have been here for 40 years. so really, i guess i'm saying that koreans i've met are rude. and not all koreans, mostly first generation older koreans. and again, this is what i'm saying based on my experience.

and the thing is, they don't think they're being rude.

i think there are two very distinct reasons why they act this way.

the first is because in relatively recent history, korea was a war-torn country. food was sparse and people were very skinny and often malnourished. so, when someone commented on your weight gain, it was, in a sense, a way of them recognizing that you were doing well. granted we are far from this now, but i think some of the older generation has this mentality still ingrained in their minds and for some, always will.

the second reason is that koreans have a lot of national pride, and with this comes the feeling that all koreans are connected. in other words, they are all fellow countrymen, and even family. so, much like your family might criticize you for something, it's not unusual for one (older) korean person to say to another: "wow, you gained some weight!" or "man, your skin looks bad!" and other gems of the like.

case in point? a few weeks ago, my mom and dad had a housewarming party and several of my mom's friends saw a picture of my parents on a date when they were in college (my dad has it displayed in his office -- isn't that sweet??). after seeing the picture, each of my mom's friends came over (on SEPARATE occasions) and said variations of the following: "gosh, you looked so great when you were skinny! you should try to lose 10 pounds. you'd look so much better."

nice, right?

so, while i was definitely fuming and hurt, i had to take the waitress' comments with a grain of salt. and while the hurt was very real, i know that her intentions were not cruel. but, i'll say it again,


oh, and p.s. bingsoo or bingsu is a yummy concoction of shaved ice, ice cream, flavored syrup and different toppings. there are different types of bingsoo and the traditional kind is served with sweet red bean paste, fruit, and mini pieces of rice cake (mochi). i like strawberry bingsoo -- shaved ice, strawberry ice cream, strawberry syrup, strawberries and mochi pieces. yum-o!


  1. Oh jeesh! You handled yourself so well. I think I'd have booked it into the bathroom for a good cry. What an awful thing to say to someone! Even if she didn't mean to make you feel bad. UGH! Seriously, a comment like that would have sent me into a week-long funk at least. I think Nia Vardalos said it best, you don't ask a woman if she's pregnant unless her water breaks on your feet! LOL!

    And I have to say, I think you look perfectly thin in all your photos.

  2. ouch. that's the WORST. seriously? how unbelievably rude and embarrassing! you handled it with utter grace, my friend. i think i would have cried in my banchan.
    you're right, though, that Koreans are quite... blunt. in the few days we had Ingrid while we were still in Seoul, i can't even begin to count how many people grabbed her skinny little arms and told us to fatten her up. and if they didn't do that, they just scowled at us as though we were child abusers. it was uncomfortable.
    and honey, put on all the stress-weight you want. adoption is freakin' stressful. you gotta get through it. once Choi boy is home, the pounds will melt away as you're chasing him around. NOT that i'm saying you've gained weight. seriously, how would i know?
    ok, i'm stopping now.

  3. A lady at the store one day asked me "Have you gained 10 pounds or are you pregnant?" Yikes situations like this suck BIG TIME! You were amazing though and I think you are beautiful!

    I still will not talk to this customer and it was over 2 years ago. Words hurt. I am not sure why people think it is there business because it is not!

    Thirdly where do people like that come from - I would never even think to say that to someone. If I think a lady is pregnant I either wait for her to tell me or it is glaringly obvious!

    Have a great night!

  4. Unfortunate beacuse that hits home on two levels...coming from someone who struggles with her weight constantly you look amazing. Oh, and *if* you think you need to lose, you will have no time to eat when your darling boy is home...I lost 5 pounds in a week. I asked Jim if he thought we would ever eat again!

  5. Oh my goodness. What an awful thing to hear! I can totally understand your feelings about it. And for her to continue to ask even after you said you weren't pregnant is even more incredible! For what it's worth, I think you look beautiful and thin in all the photos I've seen of you. :)

  6. no way!! okay so i really had to read the rest of your post because i was red for you with my mouth open..thinking..oh no she didn'! so glad you explained it all..but grandma used to do this to all of us girls if we looked like we gained some weight. not the whole pregnant part but more of what your mom's friends said to her. nothing like a little slap on the self esteem. so sorry...i personally think you look awesome!!

  7. Seriously!?!??!?! Geez, what do you even say to a thing like that? I think you handled yourself very well. Sorry you had to deal with this!

  8. oh no i'm so sorry. lotsa chinese-culture types are similar too. i have had a very similar experience! i'm not sure what it is. i hate it too. makes my skin crawl... often it is my relatives that hurt me with remarks about weight/body stuff. ugh... feel your pain!

  9. Wow! How rude and hurtful! I agree with everyone that you handled it gracefully.

  10. WOW... you handled that quite well. I guess knowing a little more information about how Koreans are is helpful to understand why you did not lash back. Good job! I probably would have started crying!!!

  11. You held it together really well. And don't ever worry about losing it in front of me.

    Germans are rude people too, and yes, I do tell my friends when they look crappy, but asking someone if they are pregnant is a big no-no.

    I have no idea if you've gained weight, but you look fabulous and that's all that matters. And like everyone else said you will lose weight when little man is home. So better to have extra pounds now!

  12. Not fun! I'm sure you were totally taken aback as you should have been...since you look great! I will say I gained some weight before G came home. But I lost 10lbs the week he came home and have kept it off.
    And though I'm not Korean, my aunt has these same blunt tendencies. She puts A LOT of importance on appearance. From grooming, to fancy labels, to weight, and healthy eating. I guess I'm like you that I don't get THAT offended, cuz I know that's just her and there is some cultural history to it.

  13. Grace,

    So sorry this sounds like you handled yourself with dignity, though! Kudos to you, as I am sure it would have been easy for anyone in that situation to get rude...or worse.

    I love all of your posts...not only all of the emotion you throw into them, but the tons 'o stuff I learn from you.

    You ROCK ;0)

  14. Grace, sorry about that encounter...but I totally get you about the rudeness of Korean people. I was just in Korea this past May to visit my son and of course meet the reletives and they all had their 2 cents to say about how I had gained weight from the last time they saw me 10 years ago. When I went there 10 years ago, my aunt asked me if I wanted to go to a weight loss camp? What the ??? I may not be Korean model super skinny, but I'm not overweight! But kudos to you to be able to endure that situation with such grace...

  15. So sorry that this happened to you...of course you felt hurt and sad about it! I would've for sure!

    Here's a comment to replace those hurtful ones: You are a gorgeous lady with a great heart! And one wonderful mama!

  16. Hi there---- I've been reading your blog for a little while now and I just felt compelled to write back a comment this time around!

    I'm also Korean American ( and live in NoVa) and I SO SO get this whole post!!! I've also dealt with infertility/years of IVF/miscarriages and gained a ton of weight throughout my was a few years but seemed like a decade!
    And I remember a waitress at a korean restaurant asking me if i was pregnant--and of course I wasn't. I'd just suffered my first of three miscarriages at that point and I was kinda pissed...but more just sad.
    But this "oh, you've gained weight" or "hey, I know how you can lose a few pounds" sort of comments starting being thrown around me.... and these were all by complete strangers!
    I've learned from many many years of experience that Koreans are just quite blunt and discussing someone's weight is not a taboo subject and they certainly don't care about your level of sensitivity on this topic. This is where I much prefer American sentiments... Lay off on anything weight related! :)

    I just thought your whole story was quite interesting and I just had to comment!

    I hope your baby comes home soon and the best of luck to you...!


  17. I agree with everyone else that you handled this situation with grace ... your parents named you very appropriately! And I hear ya when you say that Koreans can be blunt/rude about such things ... but come on! That is NOT cool to say that and to persist even after you said you weren't preggers. Dude. And my goodness, you look absolutely fabulous to me!!!

  18. ack! Grace! This entry ripped my heart out!! Seriously, we ugly cry together....

    I can totally relate to the Korean image stuff... you and I are definitely kindred spirits. We're not short or tiny, and our husbands are not tall or tiny! When we ordered hanboks for our wedding, my mom measured us and called Korea with the measurements. Because of the time difference, she left a message. They called back asking her to measure again because the measurements for both of us seemed wrong. My mom re-measured us, and called back with the same measurements. They went back and forth like this for several days and finally the place made the hanboks and sent them to us two weeks before the wedding. They were HUGE!!! I could literally fit both me and Rob in my hanbok and tie it. And Rob looked like the Jet Puff Marshmallow Man in his. Thankfully we got a Korean tailor to alter them in time for the wedding. Glad we spent thousands of dollars for custom hanboks that basically had to be ripped apart and made all over again here because the Ko-reans thought we were monsters.

    Anyway. Of course that is nothing compared to what you must have felt when that waitress said that. Ugh. And don't worry about the "extra padding"-- you gotta have that little bit of mommy weight! You'll lose it all running around after Carson (and take it from a fellow food lover-- when you're worrying about what baby is gonna eat all day, you think MUCH less about what you're eating!) and besides, from what I can see in your pics, you look gorgeous as always :)

  19. Ugh. I had someone I knew but hadn't seen me in a while congratulate me on being pregnant! I was mortified. That reminds me that I need to join Weight Watchers again.

  20. I agree with Sandra - you look awesome! You don't look like you need to lose weight first of all. Secondly, I was shocked at how well you held it together when she made a comment that was rude and beyond. You were amazing and I can't be sure I would have done as well in your shoes - don't worry about losing it in front of me either.
    Hoping Choi boy is home soon. Then you'll really confuse the waitress!

  21. Okay, that just sucks. yay for you for not bursting into tears and/or throwing your plate.

    and if it makes you feel any better, that post you did about the book fair, the one where you posted a pic of yourself that you thought was horrible...I have a dress just like the one you were wearing and I thought "gosh, I wish I looked as skinny as her in that dress".

  22. so sorry to hear about that waitress. you handled that well. i remember when i was a teenager and wore an A-line dress to a church activity. An asian lady came up to me and asked if I was pregnant. Um, no, but thanks for making me feel super fat and self conscious. Needless to say, I never wore that dress again. Some people just never learn.
    So i don't think you need to worry about how you look, she needs to worry about being insensitive and hurting people's feelings.

  23. I'm so sorry that happened to you!!! How VERY rude - it's hard when it is somewhat a cultural thing - but still - not an excuse. You look fabulous to me! And you don't look pregnant at all.
    I ususally get "have you lost weight?" I've always been underweight, teased as a child (chicken legs) and very self conscious about my weight. And that hurts just as much as if I was being asked if I had gained weight. Just shouldn't be done. That being said - I did gain weight during "the wait" - chips were a wonderful comfort :)

  24. First, I *love* the cultural explanation. That's just something you don't get from books or k*dramas.

    Second, WHAT?! You just don't EVER say anything to a woman about her weight. Like Krista, I was always underweight (not now though) and people were constantly questioning me on/about food. Sore subject then, sore subject now. Oh, and I put on 22 pounds waiting for S's referral, it happens to the best of us! ;-) I lost 12 when he came home and another 5 last winter.

    Third, I love bingsoo and could use some of that now... mmmm...

    Lastly, YOU LOOK AMAZING!!!

  25. Of course that would happen when you meet your "bloggy friends". That was pretty rude. I gained a lot of weight during the whole waiting process. You handled it well girl!

  26. sigh. i could write a book about all the times i've been told something like that. growing up korean is definitely a joy, isn't it? well, my dear, i concur with everyone else--you are gorgeous and do NOT look pregnant or fat at all. :)

  27. Ick. So sorry for that crappy situation! The IF weight is so tough to deal with--and no one wants a reminder! I NEVER ask someone if they are pregnant until I know they are about ready to pop!!

  28. I had that happen about 5 years ago at the grocery store (from the cashier) and was TOTALLY mortified. Girl, I think you look fab!!

  29. I need to find me some of that bingsoo.

    Ummm...what? Never, EVER should someone ask if a woman is pregnant...or say she has gained weight. WOW...double no-no!

    This reminds me a lot of Deaf Culture...very (!!!) blunt and just says whatever...even if others might perceive it as rude. Gulp!

    I think you look fabulous!! Like some of the other ladies I also lost 10 or so pounds when Little D first came home. Constantly chasing after a toddler and not really having time to eat (which previously I always thought sounded insane when people would say it) just led to it. I think I've kept most of it off...but who knows. Our scale broke and I certainly wasn't buying another one. As long as my clothes fit, that's good enough for me.


why, hello there! do you have something to say? 'cause i'd so love to hear it!