I consider myself to be a pretty average-looking girl.
I’ve got the deathly pale skin that comes naturally with my blue eyes and red hair. My entire body, from my eyelids to my knees, is speckled with hundreds of orangey freckles. I’m very short, skinny, and have a pointy nose.
My sister once told me I could be a six if I tried, but as it stands, I’m about a four. I wasn’t offended by this. I had accepted my average looks by the time I was about thirteen. I had braces and glasses and bad allergies that left me clutching tissues wherever I went. To top it all off, my chest remained as flat as the covers of a the books I lugged around with me, nerd that I was (and am).
I was not real popular with the lads, but librarians loved me.
That was fine with me, really. I went through my teenage years (and early twenties) relatively unbothered. I didn’t get asked out much. Instead, I stayed in and studied and plotted for the day when I would leave the US behind and begin the glamorous life of adventure that I had spent my youth reading about.
I moved to Korea when I was twenty-two, teetering on the edge of twenty-three. I knew it would change my life – and by consequence, change me in some strange, vital ways – but I was caught off guard by how much.
Much like a normal person dipped in a radioactive substance, I was transformed into a new creature virtually overnight. I went from being average to being super – super model, that is.
Essentially, I became a total babe in Asia.
Men’s eyes latch onto me as I go about my life, whereas before they had slid off of me as easily as though we were two opposing magnets. They flock to me as fiercely now, as though the currencies have been switched. I’m begged for my number and dates and my immediate hand in marriage, all while riding the bus or shopping for eggplants.
It gets infinitely worse if I go out for a night on the town.
I, as a (former) Very-Average-Girl-Who-Did-Not-Get-Asked-Out-Much, did not know how to deal with this very well at first, so I did things like show them pictures of my cat. (This, strangely enough, did very little to dissuade their idolizing fervor.) Now, I favor swan-diving out of the nearest exit when this happens. I have come to firmly believe that there’s an age where you get used to dealing with this kind of attention, and I, at twenty-two, was approximately seven years or so past it.
These incidents – reactions to my apparent beauty – aren’t just limited to men. My elementary-aged students marvel at my corpse-like skin enviously. Middle-aged women sigh “pretty” when they meet me. Old ladies sometimes touch my red hair and tell me they have an eligible son. On one very memorable occasion, a bunch of drunk girls in a bathroom asked me what color my eyes are. They clapped wildly when I told them blue, embraced me fiercely, and then they took selfies with me in the mirror.
I’m much better at dealing with these incidents. I normally smile awkwardly and tell them my sister is actually much prettier and only occasionally show pictures of my cat.
I’ve had over two years to ponder my sudden metamorphosis from average into unconditional fox. The most plausible explanation I’ve come up with is simply that I, as a Caucasian, am a rarity here. It’s simple economics. Supply is extremely low, but demand is constant. With a market like that, prices can soar on even the most generic items.
I also fit into the east Asian beauty standard a lot better than I did the American one. I’m pale (that’s desirable here); I’m short and skinny (actually, I’m about average sized); I’m flat-chested (so is everyone else). And, on top of all that, I have big blue eyes, without the aid of eyelid surgery or contact lenses.
I doubt that I’ll ever get used to the attention that I receive here in Asia, but I’m comforted at least a little by the thought that, as soon as I leave for the West, I’ll revert back to my post-midnight Cinderella state. Quite simply, there’s been a little too much light on me in the Land of the Rising Sun for me to ever be comfortable with. And, to be honest, I think I preferred my time in the library.
Has anything like this ever happened to you? I’m curious about your experiences! Let me know in the comments.