HORRORS & HOOTS: Beer in Class

 

When I signed up for beauty school I didn’t really plan on making any new friends. I was 25 years old with plenty of great friendships and frankly, I just wanted to learn about the skin. However, showing up that first day of class changed everything…
Jeong was a 48 year old woman from Korea. Her husband was teaching a semester at the U of M and so decided to make the most out of her stay in America and go to school. At 4’11”, Jeong was nearly a foot shorter than me. She also didn’t speak much English.  She struggled through American words like “hypertrichosis” and “subcutaneous” and always sat with a look of pure terror and fear on her face. She was constantly scared out of her mind, she always kept her eyes to the ground, never making eye contact with others, and she was so painfully shy that she never whispered a word.
I sat by Jeong everyday. Mostly I would watch her frantically type American words into her hand held electronic translator. I would always smile at her and say “hi”, but she rarely spoke a word. One day with tears in her eyes, she looked at me and said, “Why you so nice?” We became facial partners and practiced on one another during labs to which she would stare up at me and say with tears literally filling her eyes, “You so beautiful. I not.” and then hang her head in shame. To women in Korea, having white skin is coveted. To women in Korea, having silky and fine hair was envied. My heart just melted towards this woman. I was so broken that she actually believed that she was inferior to Americans…namely the rich, blonde, loud and forceful. She honestly believed they were better than she was. I get sad just thinking about it…
Jeong cracked me up. She was funny because she was so moldable. I took her under my wing and asked her to teach me to write my name in Korean. In turn, I taught her how to hold up her pointer finger and thumb in the shape of an “L” on her forehead, which stands for “loser”. We had a laugh, as she thought this was hysterical. …I realized I had maybe made a mistake when she showed up to class the next day and told me in broken English that she gave her husband the “L” loser sign and he frantically said to her, “What that mean? What that mean!?” Ooopsies!
Jeong and I became two peas in a pod. Arriving late to class one day, I sat down in my usual spot next to her. As I unloaded my books during the lecture I noticed Jeong had an Evian water bottle that was NOT the color of water. We got in big trouble for having any drink besides water or coffee, so I leaned over and whispered to her, “Pssst! Psssst, Jeong! You can’t have apple juice in class!!!” She gave me a puzzled look and then said, “This no apple juice. This beer!” My eyes widened, “JEONG! You can’t have BEER in class!!!” She just smiled and took a swig. All I could do was laugh…

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