Wednesday, April 29, 2009


The Foreign Husband's Greatest Hits

There are many types of Korean medicine: Those that involve taking large quantities of pills of questionable efficacy, those that require one to sit still while needles are inserted into their various regions, and others that require nothing more than drinking the most horrendously awful-tasting beverage you could ever imagine.

But, before resorting to these methods, what kinds of home remedies to Koreans like to employ? I’ll never forget being introduced to one of them while I was in church in Seoul one weekend, sitting next to a student of mine. As the effects of the week’s teaching activities began to bear down upon me, my eyelids grew heavy and my posture slumped.

She, however, had a remedial solution available at all times: Making a fist, she drove her knuckles repeatedly into my back, starting in the middle but working her way upward. It did have the desired effect, in that my eyelid weight grew drastically more manageable and my posture began to better resemble a utility pole.

Being 5’2 and weighing no more than 110 pounds, the amount of damage she could do was thankfully limited. Still, it was the first time anyone sought to offer me assistance through punching, at least since public high school.

I know for a fact that there was a cultural difference at play here, but I’m not going to say this more pugilistic-style of medicine is never practiced in America. I only know that I grew up in the American South and was raised by Midwesterners. If I said it’s never done in the entire U.S. of A, a Dear Reader might drop me a line saying, “But they do that all the time in Oregon!”

So let’s just say that it came as a surprise to me. I’m getting more and more used to it, though, particularly now that my Korean wife has reached the third trimester. The next time there’s a move to reclassify the stages of pregnancy, I would suggest calling the first three months the “I’m Tired and My Stomach Hurts!” stage; the next three-month period could be the “I’m Tired and My Back Hurts!” phase, and the final portion would be the “I’m Really Tired and Everything Hurts!” epoch.

My wife’s wedding ring no longer fits well because her hand is swollen. She wakes up multiple times at night because she can’t sleep in a position that doesn’t make her lower back ache. The first thing she says when I wake her in the morning is that she doesn’t want to get up, and the second is usually that her stomach hurts.

The biggest problem area, though, is definitely that located below the knees. This region bears all of her increased weight, and she must use this area to support her throughout the day while she works as a nurse. With areas such as her head, she can often be found striking herself with the palm of her hand, which, paradoxical as it sounds, is intended to improve her condition.

However, her legs are outside of range for her to land any blows that would have any force behind them. In response to her ailments, my giving foot massages as become almost as daily a part of my routine as teeth-brushing and breakfast. That I’m okay with, but sometimes she has less Tennessean forms of treatment in mind.

“Rub my calves,” she’ll say, and I oblige despite knowing what the next phase is. “Now, hit my calves.”

Perhaps it’s the Southern manners or Midwestern values getting in the way, but I’m really not comfortable with hitting any part of my wife. I make a fist nonetheless, and try to give her what she craves. What results would probably be better described as “enthusiastic fist-touching” than “hitting,” however.

“Harder!” she cries, and I know a bit of psychological misdirection is required. Maybe I should pretend these lower extremities aren’t actually attached to someone I know (and who isn’t a foot shorter than me). Maybe I should instead pretend that they belong to someone who owes me money, or perhaps those Americans who don’t read newspapers because the articles are too long.

I know I’ve found just the right amount of force when she says, “Ahhhh.” Soon I can ask, “Can I stop hitting you now?” and she’ll answer in the affirmative. Then she can return to searching for a sleeping position that will allow her 30 minutes of uninterrupted rest.

Perhaps if this more physical style of medicine is brought to America (just not Oregon) it will be revolutionary. Years after leaving the boxing ring, Mike Tyson can start a second career. If his acting career further sours (assuming that’s possible), Russell Crowe can have a backup plan. In states where they are legally allowed, brass knuckles will soon be found beside stethoscopes in doctor’s offices.

Okay, maybe not.

ah yes, i know exactly what you mean. my wife is due any day now. congrats man! do you know what you're having?
It'll be a boy! What is your wife's due date and what are you guys having?
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