“Do you ever wish you came to Korea single?” I’ll never forget the first time I asked. I mean fair play, he didn’t even stop chopping the vegetables. I was sitting at the kitchen table in our tiny apartment in Seoul sipping a glass of wine, and watching him prepare dinner. He had his back to me when I said it, and he didn’t as much as flinch. You might be fooled into thinking he hadn’t heard me. Oh, he’d heard me alright, but after six and a half years of dating he knew how to play it cool, and he wasn’t falling for this one.
In my defence I wasn't trying to trick him, but Chris knows me well enough to know that being lured into a 'candid' conversation under the protective umbrella of 'it's all in the name of research' won't necessarily save him from my wrath if I decide to bring it up at a later date in order to prove my point, and win an argument. Suffice to say, he can be somewhat reticent when I attempt to raise certain subjects.
But this one had been on my mind for a while. I wasn't really asking him if he'd have preferred to have come to Korea without me; I was asking whether or not in an alternate reality where I had never existed would he have liked to have gone to Korea on his own. Alas, the chopping continued. I couldn't get an in! But a good writer will always get her story, so I decided on a different approach. I asked him whether he found it difficult to talk to girls before we met, and he replied that he did. “But you don't seem to find it difficult now, what's changed?” I asked. A moment of silence and the hint of a smile, I had him and he knew it.
He told me what's different is that he no longer feels any pressure when he talks to girls. Now that he's in a loving, committed relationship, and feels totally accepted by another person, he no longer feels the need to impress anyone. In short, he doesn't care what girls think of him anymore. According to Chris, the most nerve-wracking situations are those when you are a single guy in the presence of a girl you think is pretty. He described the angst guys feel when they approach a girl in a club. “But, why?” I asked. I mean how hard is it to say, hi? According to him, you have minutes, maybe seconds to impress the girl, or at least say something that doesn't result in her turning away and rolling her eyes at her friends leaving you feeling completely deflated. And then, when you do find one who is willing to talk to you it's almost worse because you have to be funny or interesting, and with time not on your side you end up trying too hard. Then in a desperate effort to peacock and make her aware of your awesome 'hooking up' potential, you simply crash and burn. Sounds awful!
Luckily for men, however, there is nothing more attractive to a female than a man who is already in a committed relationship. I began noticing it after about a year living in Korea. It had never been an issue in Ireland, not that it was a problem in Seoul, it's just that in Ireland we were part of a much smaller social network. But in Korea, life was different. The nature of the ESL industry is that new teachers arrive every three months. It wasn't something I had ever thought about in Ireland, but all of a sudden I was beginning to notice girls noticing my boyfriend. And what's more, he seemed clueless, or was he? And why all of a sudden was he cat-nip?
Apparently one of the great things about getting a girlfriend is that you no longer have to worry about being funny and interesting. Lucky me, right? Talking to girls sans the desire to impress means you can simply relax and be yourself. And it turns out that when 'yourself' is a sweet, charming, and sensitive man; you never had to try that hard in the first place. During the four years we lived in Seoul I'd sometimes find myself glancing around at girls I knew he could hook up with if he was that type, and I wondered whether my wonderful boyfriend would have been so desirable if he had gone to Korea alone, or would he have ended up in the corner of a bar tripping over his words, and nervously twitching? I take responsibility for how happy and content he is now, but is the price of his new found self-assurance that there will always be some girl lurking and eyeing him up? If so, I'll live with it. The blog post next week discusses the very concept of monogamy, social and sexual, only one of which I believe is natural.
Chris' new and apparent 'sex appeal' made me wonder about the types of girls who are attracted to men with wives or girlfriends. The topic of 'mate poaching' is certainly a hot one, you can barely turn on a television or open a magazine without reading about someone who has been caught cheating. Practically all of 2005's entertainment news was dedicated to the 'Brangelina' scandal, the public divided into 'Team Aniston' and 'Team Jolie'. Labelled everything from a 'home wrecker' to a 'praying mantis', women hated Jolie with a fiery passion. And why? Because she seduced another woman's husband.
So what is it about men who are attached that makes them so attractive to women? There doesn't seem to be one simple answer. Is it that another woman has already pre-screened him and therefore he is more desirable? Perhaps it's simply the thrill of the chase, we all know sex tends to be more exciting when the circumstances are somewhat clandestine; the forbidden is always that bit lustier. A deep-rooted sense of low self-esteem, maybe? There will always be women who rely on the attention of men to raise their confidence. Or perhaps they do it for the ego boost because stealing attention from another woman's partner really is the mother lode, and the hotter the rival, the hotter she is for poaching him. In this situation, the act of stealing another woman's partner is less about the man in question and more about one woman's need to feel superior over another.
Whatever the reason, one thing is for sure, once a man has committed to another woman his sex appeal increases; I like to think of it as God's way of having a joke at the expense of men. Chris never did give me a straight answer about whether he would have liked to have been single in Korea, he does, however, give me a nudge every time he sees a man in his forties on the arm of a twenty-year-old.
“That'll be me, someday”, he says. It's then my job to remind him that he couldn't get a twenty-year-old when he was one, so I don't think I've too much to worry about. For better or worse it's just the two of us from here on out.
Next week's blog post, on Tuesday 5th April from Two Peas in a Foreign Pod: Monogamy: Which side of the fence are you on?