I wonder what my mother is saying about my situation.
My sister was divorced for over two years and remarried for almost 6 months when my mother finally shared the information with her immediate family. Of course, it is easier for her to keep our secrets when we live on different continents.
Although, from this 2003 NY Times article, I get the sense that divorces are not that taboo any more... yet they are. It is a uniquely cultural paradox, don't you think?
The article mentions that unmarried couples cohabiting is also no longer taboo... yet they still keep it a secret from family and co-workers.
In a way, I am glad that my mother lives in Seoul. Where she can interact with like-minded peers, her friends and family, and socially progress forward along with the others. Too often, when surrounded by other cultures, an immigrant can almost obstinately refuse to make any social changes within him/herself.
While my parents were in Bangladesh, the 80's came and went. After they moved back and my mother decided to remain in Korea, I went to visit her every few years to find her initially more old-fashioned than any of her friends. It was an odd thing to note since I recall her friends looking toward her for modern ideas and thoughts. Even her friends would tease her a little, telling her she was far too strict and old fashioned with me. When I last visited her as a single woman, I was 27 year-old; my curfew was 9pm. If someone offered a shot of soju my way, she would intercept and declare that her daughters are too proper to be drinking alcohol. And her friends would cluck their tongues and inform her that all young girls nowadays drink a little soju here and there.
During that time, I renewed a friendship with one of my mother's friend's daughters, YR. YR was an aspiring actress and was previously too busy to make time for me. That year was different. She had recently divorced.
It was a familiar story. She married an older successful man who married a young 'starlet' to spite his on-and-off-again girlfriend. After she had a baby, her husband was back 'on' again with his girlfriend. That prompted her to go back to work which, in turn, won her the wrath of her Korean MIL. In the end, she asked the husband to stop humiliating her with his very public affair, he refused, she asked for a divorce... and she gave up her baby daughter to get that divorce.
I am not judging. I don't know how bad it was. And yes, I do have moments when I wonder what it takes to leave your baby daughter... as many of you know, I am quite attached to mine. (Perhaps a little too much... I'm working on my OWN separation anxiety issues whenever soon-to-be-ex hubby has Daddy-days with Little Nabi...)
Neither here nor there. The point is. My mother was wonderful to her. YR's own mother was showing signs of early onset of Alzheimer's and was no support for her. So apparently YR would turn to my mother for advice, for a shoulder to cry on...
Imagine my surprise when, one evening, my mother objected to my spending too much time with YR. Then she blurted out, "There must be something amiss with her - how can anyone divorce the father of her child?" She also brought up the fact that YR is in the entertainment business, was secretly dating a movie star... you know, those kind of people.
My mother's support was lukewarm in the beginning. She knew how stubborn I could be so, instead of trying to change my mind, she'd give me tips on how to be more tolerant. And she always said, "IF you get a divorce...", not "WHEN".
Lately, however, she's starting to understand. I think she may have finally been talking to some of her peers. You know, the ones who also keep deep dark secrets about their divorcee daughters. Her tone is different. She is finally indignant that her daughter and her granddaughter could be treated in such a way... that it is better to walk away. She has even wished out loud that PN would simply do the right thing and either shape up or quietly disappear from our lives.
... I sometimes chuckle. We sure have come a long way from 1995... a winter night, between 3am-4am. The phone rang... I was groggy. I slapped a palm across my then boyfriend's mouth, lest he dare make a peep and picked up the phone. (That boyfriend was my five-year-old secret... I figured why get my mom all riled up over a boyfriend especially since there was no talk of marriage. I guess I learned how to keep secrets as well.) It was always my mom at that time of the night. And this was before I had caller-ID... I think this was during the *69 era...?
Anyway. I had bared said hello when my mom demanded to know why I didn't clue her in about my sister and her husband living together. I stammered and reminded her that they were married. "No, not now," my mother hysterically explained, "BEFORE they got married." "Um, I thought you knew... didn't you know?" "No, I didn't. I just figured it out."
FYI, my sister and her first hubby had been married for 4 years at the time of this phone call. My mom was deeply humiliated and embarrassed that a daughter of hers would even consider being in a room alone with a man she has yet to marry...
I glanced over at the now irate boyfriend who was NOT pleased about my palm over his mouth and agreed with her... "That's just terrible... I had thought she had your permission." Tsk, tsk.
Ah, yes. I'll bet my mother longs for the days when her biggest lie was NOT revealing that her daughter, her pride and joy, had lived with a man before she married him.
I do have to give her credit, though. She's on board and fully supports my decision to divorce. She's counting the days, in fact.
Now, if I can just get her to divorce my father who lives half the world away, who still yells at her... just so that she can finally tell him to shove it.