There's a restaurant I often go to whenever I get the craving for sweet-and-sour-chicken (닭도리땅). I don't know if the chef/owner noticed me as a regular customer. But after serving me my chicken and kept the kitchen clean (she was alone for the first time that night), she got herself a cup of coffee, sat on a table across mine, and started making a conversation.
Let's call her "Her" and I as "Me". The following is a translation (there's a chance its inaccurate) of our small talk. I tried to keep it as close to direct translation while keeping it grammatically acceptable to make readers understand.
Her: Where are you from?
Her: Oh Philippines. I've been there 3 times.
Me: ... (I was thinking, please take the hint. I don't care.)
Her: I was there when the volcano erupted. What do they call that place again? I forgot.
Me: I'm not sure. We had a couple of volcano incidents over the past decade.
... (a couple of confusing talk figuring out which volcano she was talking about)
Her: Are you married?
Me: No. (And don't ask me why.)
Her: My son, he's 29 years old. But he hasn't married yet. And I'm worried. I know there's so many beautiful women out there in the Philippines. I find Vietnam women and Filipinas pretty. But not Thai women.
Me: That's nice to hear. (Now leave me alone.)
Her: How does one get to marry a Filipina? I'm interested to hear 'cause my son's not getting any younger and I'm desperate.
Me: You can check online. (Try Craigslist... lol)
Her: Online. I see... You won't be working hard with my son. He had invested enough all his life. It's all he has done. And I know there's so many pretty ladies out there but he has chosen no one.
Me: A better way would be to send him to the Philippines. (That way, you can help giving my country some money.)
Her: What happens then?
Me: He could make friends out there. Make him say what women he likes. If the friend knows someone that fits, he/she could recommend. I'm a bit doubtful when it comes to online dating. Most of the women you'll meet are scammers.
Her: I see. And there should be no problem because Filipinas are pretty. (Did you say you find Thai people ugly? We kinda have similar features)
Me: It's not just about the pretty face. Just my opinion but pretty face would be 20% criterion for me. She also needs to be able to work. Work at the house. There's no use having a pretty wife if she won't wash my clothes "because she's pretty." But that's just me. (Call me sexist, I don't care.)
Her: But why haven't you married yet? (I knew you'd ask this.)
Me: My mom and dad have a house. Once I get married, they'll demand I go back home and stay there. Be a family. But I don't want that yet. I like it here. (Anyone who know me knows I lied. Now I hate myself.)
Her: There's money here.
Me: There's work here. True, almost everything back home is cheap when compared to prices here. But I can't afford cheap if I don't have work. Things here are expensive but I can afford it because I have a job. So in a sense, things here are cheaper than in the Philippines.
Her: But why has my son not married yet? I kept sending him really good-looking girls but nothing happened.
Me: Did you ask him why yourself at least?
Her: I don't know his reason why.
Me: Send him to other places.
Me: I have a theory. Your chicken is delicious and that's why I keep coming back here whenever I can. But imagine if this delicious chicken, will be my breakfast, lunch, and dinner, everyday. Eventually I won't find them delicious anymore. Just normal and ignore-able. It's probably the same with your son. He sees pretty Korean ladies everywhere and all the time. Send him to where he finds the ladies are exotic. That might spark something.
Also, there's a chance he'll end up to a country he likes. That could also make him think of building a life I have there. And that includes getting married.
In my mind I have another guess; he could be gay. But that's something I can't tell a parent, especially Koreans. Gay talk is still taboo in this country. A good percentage of the population are traditional people. At a certain age, they're expected to get married. If not, there's something wrong with them. Either they're physically abnormal or just plain ugly. For a traditional Korean guy saying he just enjoys the single life, people will assume he's a loser. The old folks (the homosexual ones) play it safe. They get married and live a closeted life (I've met plenty of them). But with exposure to western culture, some younglings don't comply much with the traditional rules/concept. Some of them simply refuse to get married, come up with excuses, but do not speak whether they're gay or not.
My problem is, I came to the restaurant to enjoy a meal. Not to have a heart-to-heart talk with a mother. A desperate mother. Desperate enough to talk to a stranger about her (and her son's) personal issues. I feel sorry for her but I'd rather have my meal alone in the corner, unbothered.