When I was 16 I was talking in name brands. I didn’t know it then, but I am acknowledging it now, I think it is in my DNA to do so. My Korean DNA. At 16 I was an awkward, very skinny, very gangly albeit graceful ugly duckling. I hid in baggy clothes too busy trying to hide the violated, teased, mislabeled shell of a body but I was thinking brands and styles that I had no name for. For the longest time, I thought it was a remnant of my issues with class and arrogantly belittled the notion of succumbing to pop culture and being a slave to fashion. I think I need to reconsider.
I had one Korean friend in high school who always wore the latest trends and was comfortable in black in a way I wished. It took going to college and meeting more Korean American kids to realize that there was a dress code I was longing for and by sophomore year, I was fully immersed in the black code of dress. My long black hair and pale skin and gangly parts were beginning to make sense.
By the time I was in my mid twenties, all my girlfriends were Korean and adopted. One would think that our common Americanized culture would have come through in our attire, but what happened was that I found girls who spoke my language of labels, trends and yearnings. In fact, we laughed and cried about all the ways we tried to make ourselves look American and failed miserably. I believe in our quest to try and assimilate, we were practicing the art of defining our DNA, the part that looks at dress code and accessorizing as diligently as we look at character. It took “Sex and the City” to teach me the words like, Manolo Blahnik, Birkin, Prada, Jimmy Choo, Gucci and the like but in reality, it was my girls who loved this show so much who gave me words to describe the trappings that accessorized my body. It is a wonder that we Korean adoptees actually have sessions at conferences and gatherings where we learned about make up and how to apply it. I have hosted and facilitated those very same glamor girl sessions for my younger Asian adoptee girls to grand success.
I am not a label whore, but I know them. I know them like it is important things to know. Hang around enough Korean women and you will well appreciate the language of labels as not just gossip material or symbols of status or class, but also the language of commonality, humor, glee and yes, even joy. My Americanized semblances scoff at the dropping of a brand, but in my heart, I understand it…I appreciate it, and for damn sure – if I like it – I am online looking at it when I get home.
Pulling the lens back a little, I would widen my community beyond the Korean or Asian adoptees I know. I have heard parents say their Latin American adopted child is super label conscious much to their dismay and slight confusion. I have oft heard the comments that they can’t understand why it matters so much. These parents, so busy trying to build the inner core of their child but so comfortably sitting in their privilege of looking mainstream have a hard time realizing that there is more to labels than a high price tag. I would offer that for many of us international, transracial, transcultural adoptees, it is a way to fit into the very bodies that look and feel like no one else in our families. We are a group of people who have been stared at, examined, pointed at so often, it is making sense to me that we would have a slight obsession of how we look without a clue as to HOW we look. Clothes make a man….perhaps clothes make a human too?
So, in my writing of this post, I am mindful I am up way too late into the night thinking about one of the most superficial things a person can think of. Why am I wasting my time justifying the perpetuation of an industry so vacuous? Well, it’s the holidays and I am still online shopping for my Korean family and I am laughing at myself as I click on gifts that have certain names as if it truly matters. Because the care in which I am examining such items is equal to the love I have for these people. I am thinking of things I never felt I had a right to think about for people I never felt I had a right to yearn for or love. Does one have to connect with the other? As insanely superficial as it sounds, well? For tonight, yes. yes it does.
Happy Holidays to you! Hope your shopping went well and your kids are as happy as mine are today and STILL believe! Oh Magic!