Monday, May 14, 2012

Wack and white and red all over

Well, I had an active weekend. Saturday marked my home Yongsan Kimchi hash's biggest annual event, the Red Dress Run, as well as the departure of Katy, our former GM (and maybe my favoritest hasher of them all.) Yesterday, I did a 10K training run in the morning, turning around at the Gwacheon soccer field's track, where much to my surprise I crashed some church event where a few thousand people were sitting in neat rows on the field. In the afternoon, I hiked on a steep, steep trail on a new hountain near the Costco. (Well, it's not literally new, it's probably a million years old, but it's new to me... funny how I've lived so close to it for three years and never walked it before.)

But mostly I want to write about the RDR and what it means to me.

I've always been pitifully self-conscious. I can still remember, after 54 years, that I was so nervous on the stage  that I struck my triangle a second too early at the beginning of my kindergarten class' song and nearly died of humiliation. On my first day as a teaching intern, a mere 27 years ago, my hand shook as if there were an earthquake when I had to give a spelling quiz to sixth graders.

"But, Steve," you say, "you went on Millionaire in front of tens of millions of people. It can't be that bad." Yeah, but first, that was so weird, with the lights and music and bizarre set--and Regis(!)--that it was totally surreal, and second, shut up, you're hypothetical.

Here in Korea, at first I was always embarrassed to be the only Western (a.k.a. white) person in my neighborhood, in the subway, naked in the health club showers, wherever. Once I got used to having the subway seat next to me always be the last one occupied, I was okay. Then, when I started running with the hashers, it took a long time to be okay with running around shouting "On on!" and "True trail!" and "RU?", sometimes carrying a plunger or a bedpan, while the locals goggled.

But the Red Dress Run is something else entirely. It's the wackiest thing we do all year... everyone who can find one, both men and women, wears a red dress. Last year, I found a sequined, spaghetti-strap dress at a Halloween costume shop. It was so long, almost to my ankles, that I ended up tucking the hem into my shorts.

This year, my Korean friend Gloria, the school counselor, explained my situation to a seamstress, who cut the dress to mid-thigh. (As the saying goes, "As you climb the ladder to success, don't let the boys look up your dress.") It's pretty short, so I wore my pretty shorts, too.

It's a real flapper dress now, which is appropriate since I'm teaching Gatsby with my seniors--but I've decided not to wear it to school.
I'm not in this picture. (I have a good closeup shot of me in my flapper dress and pearls, but I'm not putting it on the Internet with my name attached. Email me and if you follow this blog and promise not to share it, I'll forward you a copy. It's worth the cost of an email.)

Anyway, running through Itaewon, Korea's premier international neighborhood, and up Namsan Mountain, past hundreds of locals on some sort of charity walk, with 35 other wacky waegookin, mostly men, in red dresses is so... liberating. Smiles and laughter from Koreans, dozens of people whipping out their cellphone cameras, a scowl from a Muslim lady in a hijab, even a US soldier calling out a highly indecent and highly descriptive proposition ("That'll be twenty bucks!", I shouted back)... it's so freeing to not care what other people think.

I will admit I felt more comfortable when I had a couple of dozen other men in red dresses with me than when I lost the pack and ran alone, but I survived even that. It's nice to throw off the crippling, self-imposed fear of what people think.

Doesn't the First Amendment say something about petitioning for a red dress of grievances?

1 comment:

George Kozak said...

Thanks, Steve...
But I'll pass on the picture or you "Red Dress"ing Wrongs.

= 좋은 하루 되세요. (joh-eun halu doeseyo.)

Your buddy,