They were up at eight to go with mother-in-law, granny, and sister-in-law to the beauty shop. “Bob” had already left the apartment and wouldn’t be seen until the wedding in the early evening. Mother-in-law had insisted that Aunty Kat come along as well. Sister-in-law drove them all to a little parlour next to a 7-Eleven. An older woman with purple highlights and a flaming, middle-aged man with dyed-blonde hair and tight pants were there to greet them with green tea. The two immediately started fussing over Sara. She hated it. She wore makeup once in a blue moon, and often cut her own hair. There were only three barbershop chairs in the little shop, and mother-in-law and Colleen were seated in the other two. Sister-in-law and Kat sat on a couch near the front door.
“I really don’t think I need to do anything with my hair, do you Colleen?” Kat queried. The bouffant had been the same since the 1960s so it was doubtful that it ever would change.
“Just get it washed and set. That should be fine.”
“You’re probably right. MI-YOUNG? YOU CAN TELL THEM JUST WASH AND SET. OKAY?”
“YA KNOW, JUST WASH AND SET.”
“Set? Set where?”
“NO…SET…DO YOU KNOW THAT WORD? LIKE STYLE!”
“ Aaaah! Style! You onry want washee and style.”
“YES! DO YOU AND YOUR MOTHER COME TO THIS SHOP OFTEN?”
“Yes. This our shop. We are coming many times. Owner is mother priend.”
“OH! YOU MEAN FRIEND! I SEE. IS HER FRIEND THE WOMAN OR THE HOMOSEXUAL MAN?”
Kat motioned to the woman who was brushing out Sara’s hair and the man who was tying a cover around mother-in-law’s neck. “YOUR MOTHER’S FRIEND IS THAT LADY OR THE HOMOSEXUAL MAN?”
“I don’ understand.”
“Sara, I don’t think she can speak English very well.”
“I’m solly. My Englishee no good.” Mi-Young covered her mouth in embarrassment.
But it seemed the woman with purple tints had understood something, and she quickly translated to everyone else.
“Yaka yaka yaka. Yaka yaka homo yaka yaka yaka.”
All the Koreans burst out laughing, apart from the “homosexual” man.
“YAKA! YAKAYAKAYAKAYKAYKAYKAYKAYAKYAKYKAYAKYAA!” He shouted.
“WHAT? WHAT’S WRONG?”
“You thinking Mr. Park is homo?”
“WELL, THAT’S NOT REALLY A PC TERM NOWADAYS, IS IT?”
“Mr. Park no homo. I think he angry. Yaka yaka yaka!” All the Korean women laughed again. Mr. Park was not amused, and flung his faux-blonde locks in protest.
Suddenly Sara noticed that Ms. Purple-tints had placed a strip of white cloth on her forearm. With one graceful swoop, the cloth was ripped off her arm, pulling out every single hair with it.
“Whaaaaa! MOTHER FUCKER! WHAT THE FUCKING HELL!” This made Mr. Park laugh. Mi-Young came running. Mother-in-law kept on asking “Yaka yaka yaka?”
“Sa-La! What is wrong?”
“What the HELL was that? My God!” She cradled her stinging arm up to her chest.
“Oh, Mrs. Lee do waxing. Foreigner woman have many hair. She take it out. Now she do other arm.”
“Well, honey you will look rather silly if you have one hairy arm and the other hairless.” Mom patted her on the shoulder, also grinning slightly at her daughter’s misfortune.
“I don’t care!”
“Sara? You should do it for your wedding day.” Kat added.
“Okay. Okay. Just give me a minute to prepare. Mi-Young, don’t let her do it until I’m ready.”
“Yes. I tell her. Then after we can do other part.”
“What other part?”
Mi-Young smiled. “Yaka yaka yaka,” she said to the others. They all laughed. Mr. Park pointed to his own crotch area and winked.
“NO!” Sara’s response was heard all the way to China.
Two hours later they left the beauty parlour. Kat was thrilled with the little “pearls” Mr. Park had glued into her bouffant. Sara had thought that for a ‘straight man’ he had seemed a bit too enthusiastic about doing it. Mother-in-law had insisted that Sara put her hair up saying something that sounded like “Tea-Ah-La!” Somehow Ms. Purple-tints had managed to convince mom to lose the red streaks, and her hair was no a pleasant tint of mocha. Sister-in-law looked like a vestal virgin with her hair pulled up and back, and falling in ringlets down her neck. They all climbed into sister-in-law’s car. Well, Sara had hobbled.
“Sara, you hardly look like an excited bride. It wouldn’t hurt you to smile,” mom whispered.
“You try smiling after someone has ripped every hair off your pussy!”
“What am I supposed to call it then?”
“You can just say something like ‘my private area.’”
In the front seat, mother-in-law and sister were deeply involved in a discussion. It seemed like a very serious matter. Sister-in-law then turned back to face Sara.
“My mudder has thing to speak you.”
“Solly my Englishee no good. But I try speak por my mudder.”
“Yaka? Yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka.”
“Mudder say many woman scare of wedding night.”
“Yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka sex-uh yaka yaka yaka.”
“She say make the sex uncomportable some woman.”
“Yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka.”
“But you must to do it, even though the pain.”
“Yaka yaka yaka.”
“Yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka sex-uh yaka yaka yaka sex-uh yaka yaka.”
“Even if peeling is very torture, you must endure. Man need a sex or he go to prostitute. And sex make a baby.”
“Yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka, sex-uh yaka yaka yaka yaka.”
“But if your peeling is can’t survive the sex because pain…”
“…yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka.”
“You can try the mouse pressure.”
“Excuse me?” Sara asked.
“Uh…bery embarrass I am peeling. You can try mouse pressure.” Mi Young covered her face with her hands and giggled. Granny cackled too. But mother-in-law seemed quite serious about the whole issue.
“MI-YOUNG, SHE DOESN’T UNDERSTAND YOU! CAN YOU SPEAK IN ENGLISH?” Kat hollered.
“Oh my God.” It was mom. Mom never used profanity…well, almost never.
“What?” Sara asked, turning to face Colleen.
Mom whispered in her hear “I think what she’s saying is that you can always give ‘mouth pleasure.’ And you thought our family was nuts.”
“I get it!” Kat exclaimed. “She means a blow job!” Colleen and Sara’s necks whipped around to stare at Aunty Kat.
“But don’t do that Sara. I tell Wesley just on birthdays and at Christmas-time. Or just when he gets really cranky. It calms him right down. What? Why are you staring at me like that? Tack-Spoon told me about it. He says it always lifts Joe’s spirits right up.”
Sara looked to her mother, “Yeah, well I still think our family gets the gold medal for nut-jobs.”
The wedding ceremony was over within 30 minutes. All the preparation of hair, dresses, photographs, flowers, instructions…and everything was over in 30 minutes. The minister spoke in Korean, so Sara didn’t understand a word. “Bob” had to nod at her when she was supposed to say “I do.” Her husband was very dashing in his tuxedo. Well, apart from the makeup. Why did they put makeup on him? And the white gloves? Okay, so the truth was, he looked like a valet. But his smile was the most important thing. Aunty Kat bawled softly. Even dad had whispered “if he ever does anything to hurt you I’ll cut off his balls” as he walked her down the aisle. Everything was perfect. Mom looked stunning in her Korean hanbok of lilac. The wedding dress was still hideous, and Sara had learned in the afternoon that “tea-ah-la” had meant even tackier tiara. But mother-in-law and granny had cooed in admiration when they saw her in it for the first time. In the mirror Sara thought she looked like Jean Benet Ramsay.
When they were finally pronounced husband and wife “Bob” lightly brushed her lips with his and they turned to face the guests. The Bells were to the left. Dad wore a navy suit and deep red tie, obviously purchased for him by the Angel who was a vision of beige crepe. Uncle Wes had polished off his silver bolo-tie and looked like a dashing sheriff sitting next to…well, what can only be described as a fat Benazir Bhutto. Kat was wearing a full-on Shalwar Kameez. Mom said that Kat explained to her that she was going to wear “traditional Asian clothes” because it was an Asian wedding. It wouldn’t have been so bad, apart from the fact that the dress was lime green and the pantaloons were yellow…and she had sewn pink, silk flowers across the front. Before the ceremony in the dressing room, Rupa had started to explain to her aunt that the outfit was from Pakistan…but then she stopped and just shook her head and said “you look nice.”
Rupa and Ryan smiled at her from the audience and Tiffany held up a camera to take a picture. Uncle Joe beamed with joy and Tak-Sin looked like he had been crying. Sara held onto “Bob’s” hand even more tightly then turned to him.
“We did it.”
“I know. We are married.”
“I mean we survived two whole days with our families. When can we leave?”
There was no honeymoon. “Bob” had taken another job at a marketing firm and so he was not eligible yet for long vacations. His boss had promised him a week in January so they could go to Bali. Sara took three extra days off as Uncle Joe and Tak-Sin were going to travel around Asia a bit and wanted to visit for a couple days in Osaka.
They all spent one more day in Seoul. The in-laws took them all to the palaces in Seoul which Uncle Wes declared to be “nothin’ but a bunch of brightly coloured barns” and to a temple. Of course Aunty Kat wouldn’t go into the temple as “My God is a jealous God and I don’t think he’d want a member of his flock in a place filled with idols.” She pouted when nobody else agreed to stand up for her religious convictions. And throughout the day Tak-Sin was in a foul mood and kept punching Uncle Joe in the ribs from time to time as they toured around the city.
“Why are you doing that?” Sara asked after she saw him jab Joe in the side while they were walking through the art district.
“He is a dirty old man. I see him looking all these cute Asian boys!”
“Whatever. It’s okay for me to look at the menu as long as I don’t order anything.” Joe defended himself.
“No! You don’t look at the menu either!”
“What the heck? You haven’t cared before. In fact we even look at guys together at home!”
“That’s different. Here there are too many cute Asian guys. Korean guys are tall and handsome…too many handsome guys here. I don’t like it.”
“You’re just jealous.”
“Of course I am jealous! When I am NOT jealous then maybe there is a problem.”
“Ouch! What the Hell?”
“You were looking at that tall boy’s bum. I saw!”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Seems to me YOU were looking at the tall boy’s bum.”
“See Sara? Your uncle is dirty old man. I think he was even looking at Bob. You should be careful.”
Sara laughed. Tiffany called Tak-Sin to come and see some hair accessories that a woman was selling on the street.
“You guys really inspired me, ya know?” she said to her uncle.
“Well, after all these years you’re still so much in love with each other.”
“Of course. Why wouldn’t we be? We loved each other from the beginning.”
“But you guys have been the one constant for me. The couple that I could look up to and see that relationships do last.”
“Oh good grief. Don’t get all mushy on me. You know, I never give people advice. I don’t think anyone listens anyway, and usually it comes off as condescending to give others advice. But I will tell you one thing. There is one thing that everyone can do to make sure a relationship will work. Of course it is only my experience. Are you ready for it? The magic advice?”
“What, are you expecting a drum roll?”
“That would be nice. Anyway, it’s very simple. Don’t hurt your partner. That’s it. Don’t do anything that you know would hurt him. Sure, unintentionally we may do things that are hurtful. But if you ever find yourself in a position where you know that something you are about to do or say would hurt them…don’t.”
“You get that from Oprah Winfrey?”
“Oh no, my dear. Someone much older and wiser. Joan Rivers.”