Boring entry warning.

When I was young, I was really shy. I’ve told this story countless times, but I’ll tell it again. There was this one time a bunch of families got together and by circumstance I was the youngest kid.

This actually happened a lot because my parents waited quite a while before they had me. Like, my dad was 31 and my mom 29, which is relatively old for Koreans to have their first kid. So like, all of their contemporaries had older kids. Especially when we went to these class reunions for Seoul National. I dunno why this is, but like, at least with my dad’s generation, they were super big on class reunions, and his Kyunggi and Seoul classes were really tight with each other and met regularly, dunno if this was a Bay Area thing, but I don’t think so. Kathy Yung once told me it’s the same way with her dad. But anyway, yeah, especially at these I was among the younger ones.

Anyway, this one time it was a bunch of older guys and me. No idea where the girls were. But yeah, they played, and I was too shy to ask them so I’d wait for a while and then go to my mom when I couldn’t take it anymore and tell her they wouldn’t let me play with them. She’d go to them and ask them why and they’d tell her, all I need to do is ask. And she says that to me, but I’m too shy to ask. And the cycle repeats until finally near the end of the night I ask them if I can play with them and I do. I still remember the first game I played: Perfection.

Anyway, sorry for telling the story again, but that’s exactly how I was, just super shy.

Because of this, I was really socially awkward, especially with girls. Luckily, my family didn’t move around much so I had the same friends since I was a little kid. I have no idea what I would have done or how I would have turned out otherwise. Like, my church friends, I pretty much have known since I was 6 or so. In school, throughout elementary school I was close with this Indian guy and this Japanese guy. I went to junior high and high school with the Indian guy.

Side note. I just want to emphasize that I was born a dorky loser; it wasn’t Stanford that made me that way. Like, the three of us called ourselves the “Three Burritos” (after the Three Amigos, the seminal Steve Martin / Chevy Chase / Martin Short film). And all our games were dorky. Like, we played Around The World (basketball) but we’d change it so the next person had to catch a miss before it landed or it would explode. If it went through the hoop it was defused; otherwise, it would explode in the country of their origin unless they caught it. So if Jeremy dropped it, it would be like, “there goes Japan”. If Yash dropped it, “Kaboom! There goes India!” and me, Korea. The other people were like Whiteland or something. (The sad truth is, I think we said America. If you were white, you were American, otherwise, you were something else. That’s just the way it was.)

We did tons of other dorky things as well like research the Army in Encyclopedias so that we could form a club where Tim Dey was 4-star general, I was Lieutenant General, Jeremy was Major General, Yash was Brigadier General, and everyone else were Privates. We also memorized commercials, like the one for Chargertron:

Switch on, Chargertron

Robots like you’ve never seen

Switch on, Chargertron

Supersonic machine

Rev the meter till it’s red (ch ch ch)
Launch on the tracker
Switch on, Chargertron
Now it’s an attacker (ch ch ch ch ch)

Switch on, Chargertron
Robots like you’ve never seen
Switch on, Chargertron
Supersonic machine (from Buddy L)

Not sure about the Buddy L. It’s either them or Galoob.

So yeah, all the dorky things I do now like super get into random things or memorizing random pop culture things I’ve been doing all my life.

None of this was bad at all, I don’t think. I mean, all of us in our group I think were totally happy. It just meant two things, though. One, we were never “cool”, and two, we were completely awkward with girls.

Those things actually were related. I don’t know how it was at your elementary school, but at ours, only the “cool” guys and girls interacted with each other and went together and whatever. In elementary school. The rest of us were relegated to this awkward teasing and pretending that the other gender is gross even though by the sixth grade, none of us really wanted it to be like that anymore. But what could we do. We were the socially immature.

Side note. At my school, the Asians were never cool. I mean, there were exceptions to the rule, but they were exactly that – exceptions. If you were Asian, you were assumed to be nerdy and/or dorky, and for the most part, it was a good rule of thumb. It went both ways, also: it was just as shocking to find a cool Asian as it was to find an Asian in the “dumb” class.

It’s amazing how much this influenced my thinking. For the longest time I thought that one, Asians cannot be cool, and two, smart people aren’t athletic and/or cool (which in large part went hand in hand in elementary school) and vice versa: athletic/cool people aren’t smart. I don’t think it’s until I reached Stanford that I got rid of this thinking.

Seriously, I was shocked when I came to Stanford and found all these Asians that had gone to super Asians schools and had been cool and popular there, being like homecoming queen or student body president or stuff like that. I mean, I knew people from super Asians schools up here, but the ones I knew (e.g. Paul Lee, Kevin Lee) were just as nerdy as I was. And then seeing at Stanford all these people who were both smart and athletic, and also “cool”. I was honestly expecting just a bunch of nerds like myself and was truly shocked. Yeah, Bellarmine sent a variety of people but they were mostly like me and Ravi Belani – nerds.

Why the heck am I writing this? Dunno. But, I think to understand me, you have to understand how indelible a mark those two things (not being “cool” and being totally awkward with girls) left on me. I talk about “cool” a lot and I’m pretty sure about 80% of the people out there have no idea what I’m talking about because they were always well adjusted and popular and whatever. But for me, I’m just hypersensitive to it because for the majority of my life, I knew I wasn’t “cool”, I was always on the outside looking in, knowing what was hip, popular and admired and knowing I wasn’t a part of that. I always had my friends, but I always knew I wasn’t “cool”, and there’s something about being on the fringe for so long that just stays with you.

So anyway, to this day, I react violently to things/people that are too “cool”. I wish I could define what that is, but I really can’t. I think it’s partly, but not limited to, being a little too slick, a little too confident. It just makes me feel like a little kid again, awkward and unsure in the face of such popularity and self-confidence.

Related to that is the whole girl thing. I just always relate to those stories where there’s this socially awkward guy who’s not too attractive that longs for this girl that’s unattainable because she is popular and attractive, and he is dorky and ugly. It always gets me.

Like that speech Tobey Maguire gives at the beginning of Pleasantville. That’s where the movie started to get me, because that exactly expressed how I felt for a lot of my life. Just, liking a girl who is unattainable because she’s cool, and knowing he’s too dorky, unattractive and socially awkward, and thus left to just a fantasy realm. That’s exactly me.

By the way, one of my favorite books as a kid was The Revenge Of The Incredible Dr. Rancid And His Youthful Assistant, Jeffrey. Kind of obscure. But it’s about this skinny dorky kid who likes a girl but is too dorky so he copes through his imagination world. It’s like the only book at the public library I read multiple times. Anyway, that character was exactly me. Read it and you’ll know exactly how I thought and viewed myself in elementary school.

So yeah, I’m hypersensitive to being uncool and too dorky / unattractive / socially awkward for the opposite sex. So it was startling in junior high when I found out that girls liked me. Dunno if you know this but I had my first girlfriend in junior high. It lasted about a month, which consisted mostly of us avoiding each other at school. But for most of it, I was convinced that it was just a big joke put on by her group of annoying female friends, a trick on me. Couldn’t believe that anyone would find me attractive.

Side note. I think I’m charming. Seriously, it’s the only logical conclusion. Henry was once telling me how it blew his mind that anyone could have liked me freshman year at Stanford. Because I was seriously this emaciated weakling with ridiculous glasses and horrendous posture. Of course, back then Henry had his absurd haircut. Dave likes to say how me and Henry have become attractive men. I think he’s just comparing us to how we looked when he met us frosh year. Hideous, piteous men. Compared to that, yeah, we’re a couple of Cary Grants. We’ve come a long way, but that doesn’t make us handsome.

But anyway, Henry is right, I was just a super dorky looking creature frosh year. Now imagine that and multiply it 10 fold, and that’s me in junior high. Even more skinny and awkward with a bowl haircut to boot. And questionable fashion sense (I owned and wore frequently a bunch of black T-shirts. Random). And yet, someone liked me. So yeah, the only logical conclusion is that I’m charming.

Anyway, I have no idea why I wrote this. I think I was just thinking about what kind of stories I empathize with most, identify with. And it’s the loser stories, the guys who are a little socially inept, kind of undesirable, uncool. Who, like, all guys, want a girl but can’t get her because his social standing/unattractiveness/awkwardness get in the way. It’s weird how these random experiences and emotions as a child stay with me.

Sorry for the boring entry. I was working on Game of Death and lost track of time.

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