Thursday, August 18, 2005

Oppa

Rod gave me the best explanation I've received to date about what happened with Traci and me. The recurring question has been, how did I completely misread the developing dynamic between us. How was it that doing my best and doing what I thought was right, with such good intentions, only drove her further away? It was a nightmarish sequence. For 5 years, I've wanted to know. I had to know how I could be that wrong when she felt (emotionally) so right. I rely on my intuition (see INFP profile) and if I can't trust my innate judgement, then I can't operate.

I've told him about Traci before. Maybe it's because Rod knows I've practically given up on romantic relationships due to Traci that he took a closer review of her and my history together. His conclusion is that the strongest indicators, both the ones I interpreted as promising and those I glossed over, all pointed to a classic misunderstanding of romantic interest versus the oppa. Furthermore, I likely exacerbated the process by trying to do my 'best' with her. The nature of my 'best' would have bolstered her approach towards me as an oppa.

The phenomenon of Oppa, an anglicized pronunciation for "big brother" in Korean and a term used exclusively by females, is special to Korean girls. Traci, of course, is half-Korean on her mother's side. It's a process by which Korean girls view a male of equal or a few years older age (i.e., within the brother range) as a surrogate brother. Not a sexual, not a romantic relationship, it's very much a platonic relationship. She views the oppa as a mentor, a guardian and/or an advisor. This male is valued for his wisdom and intelligence, maturity, stability and dependability.

Evidence she viewed me as a potential oppa is Traci asking me at Namsam Tower how I was so - I forget the wording she used - self-possessed, self-controlled, wise, something admiring my apparently superior awareness and maturity. That question moved me to give Traci a copy of my pre-Army journal. I answered Traci's question because I had fallen in love and I wanted her to know me so we would bond and share life's journey. The effect, instead, was I pulled back the curtain and revealed the wizard was an ordinary man. If at Namsam Tower Traci thought of me as a potential oppa, then my journal likely disillusioned her and set off a TCAS warning alarm.

Rod explained that mistaking oppa-oriented treatment by a Korean girl as romantic potential is a common misinterpretation for those unaware of it, and it appears I fell into that trap with Traci. In fact, a similar occurrence happened to Rod in college.

So . . . is that what happened between Traci and me? She was setting me up as an oppa while I was setting her up as a serious girlfriend and possibly more? Rod thinks it's a typical case, but I can't know for sure unless Traci admits it, which isn't likely at this point. Anyway, it's a working explanation and it helps. How? I haven't decided yet, but it helps.

An irony, well, not a very big irony, is that while I was attracted to Traci from the moment I watched her walk late into the 1st day of Mr. Norris' English 101 class and sit in the back of the row of seats by the door, and I became more attracted to her when we spoke later that night while we waited to cross the street between the Yongsan gates, when we started interacting, I had decided platonic friendship with Traci and acceptance into her family life would be a very good thing for me, certainly during my time in Korea and perhaps even longer than that. In other words, if Traci initially considered me an oppa, the irony is that I initially was prepared to be an oppa.

I won't apologize for, diminish nor deny the feelings I had for Traci, nor do I regret acting upon them, but even so, if I hadn't been romantically interested in her, I'm confident we would have been friends and I would have been a good 'big brother'. A related irony is that I've wanted a little sister. Traci and I had chemistry. I believe the 'click' together was real enough, even if I was clicking for Traci only as an oppa, and not a romantic partner.

Well. Here's to the fiery of younger days, unrequited love, the innocence of passion and our pure dreams.

- Eric

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