Student introductions are always fun. I'd say that a very clear majority will offer up the same core tidbits: name, age, university/major, job/title and maybe the occasional marital status or reason for studying English. They offer those facts to establish the nature and structure of the relationship. For those of us who have been in Korea for awhile, there is nothing usual about this type of introduction. The other day, however, I got a new one.
I had had second thoughts about opening this particular course up as I didn't like the time and the subject. I had also heard that this student is a little unusual and, honestly, I didn't want to mess with it. However, he begged me to open the class for him, so I agreed. It's been a little over a week now and I'm not sure if it was good idea, especially because every class seems to get a little more odd as he feels more comfortable to reveal more personal stories to me.
Let's take the first class and first introduction. I welcomed him into the classroom as usual and he took a seat. Since he had begged for this class to be opened in the first place and the 9am class start time doesn't appeal to business people (too late) or students (too early), he had a choice of thirty empty seats. Oddly enough, he sat right in the middle causing me to have to raise my voice. I eventually coaxed him to the front, but like many Korean students, there is an inborn fear of teachers. I asked him to give an brief introduction. I didn't want much, but something to get him thinking in English.
He started, "Well, I'm straight."It didn't really sink in at first. I was only half listening since I rarely listen to intro anyways. I guess my perceived indifference to his statement jolted him a bit, so he repeated it. This time I heard it loud and clear. My first thought was, of course, that this guy was totally gay. I gave him a quick look over and decided that it must be true. He was wearing a multi-colored polka-dot shirt under a brown suede vest covered with a black velvet sports coat. I stopped there and decided to give him the benefit of the doubt since acceptable Korean male fashion sometimes gives off the air of homosexuality, as written about here.
Still, I couldn't get past his unprovoked declaration of heterosexuality. No matter how you slice it, there's something odd about that. As class continued, this guy seemed to go out of his way to talk about absurdly straight things. He talked about visiting hookers at massage parlors; dancing with girls all night long at the clubs and visiting a certain area of Seoul where all the girls wear "hot pants". Now I'm not qualified much in this area, but I do think that using the word "hot pants" reduces ones manliness significantly. As an added bonus, he gave me the oddest answer when I asked him if he had ever been to Cold Mountain (a popular ice cream parlor in Korea). His response? "I'm not gay." To top off his heterosexual conquests, he added that he has a girlfriend. I guess he thought that I would be thinking of him as some sex-crazed bad boy. I'm pretty sure he thinks he's a bad boy, but more like this kind of bad boy.
Class continued that way for the rest of the day. Over the next few days, he showed no interest in learning English at all and chose to continue dispelling his self-inflicted gay rumors by telling more and more stories confirming his sexuality. To him, he was making a strong case for heterosexuality. To me, he was cementing my suspicions. Yesterday, he was off on one of his rants about hookers and started steering the conversation towards his performance. In most cases, I'll let students just flow as long as they are using proper English, but I really tried to derail this one. He didn't care, ignored my pressure and continued on to his next prove-to-everyone-how-NOT-gay-I-am rant and thought it was time to talk about Viagra. He pushed on past his story quickly and let me know that he could get me Viagra anytime. I started laughing. Besides the fact that I might need just the opposite of that, he had gone from weird closet homosexual to pusherman. I've been offered what I thought was just about everything under the sun in my younger days, but this was new. AND it was from a Korean
Yesterday was by far the most blatant example of what was becoming his glaring preference in men. He was in the middle of another seemingly endless tirade of how popular he is in nightclubs and decided to fill me in on how he picks up his countless hot panted women. He does this.
(Check out that website by the way. It's a real find.)
Like Richard Gere's Gerbil, most American's know this to be a gay gesture. While not anything close to an official source, Urban Dictionary's definition of "Gay Handshake" is as follows:
"A social faux pas in which you stroke the other party's palm with your index finger during a normal handshake. Can be seen as a sexual advance and it just feels really creepy. Go ahead, try it on someone."
So, I wasn't alone in my thinking that this guy just revealed something, but as I've said before, there is a lot of straight Korean behavior that would be viewed as gay Western behavior. I needed to ask some other Koreans though and who better than one of my classes with mostly Korean women aged 19-31. They would know if this was normal flirting or as UD said just "really creepy."
Turns out that this is not normal behavior in the least. In fact, when I told the class about this, all of the girls --in typical Korean fashion-- screamed "어떻게" and the men laughed. The female response did not surprise me since that's what I hear them say 90% of time while on the street. The men, however, were all shocked. They had never heard of such an approach.
Is this fellow gay? It doesn't matter, but I wonder why he's going to such lengths to prove he is straight.