Today may be April 1st, but trust me, this story, like all the other stories in this blog, is no joke. And even if it had been a joke, it would have been too mean, even for April Fool’s.
Back in Korea when I had a boyfriend, my dad—who didn’t like said boyfriend—decided to play love doctor. It started innocuously enough:
Dad: Irene! Come here.
Dad: Are you free Thursday night?
Me: I think so. What’s up?
Dad: I’m having dinner with a friend. Can you come along?
Me: Um, sure. Why not.
Dad: Look pretty.
In hindsight, I realize that I was the idiot for not seeing through my dad’s slick act. But I was (undeservedly) giving my dad the benefit of the doubt. Even after all the pressure my dad had been putting on me to get married, and all the times my dad had offered to set me up with someone before.
Oh, how I rued the slip when I showed up at the café at the Intercontinental Hotel a few days later and saw not just my dad and his friend, but also a twenty-something boy waiting for me there. He looked strangely familiar. But before I could figure out who he resembled, my heart plunged with the sudden realization of what this arrangement was.
This was not just a blind date. This was not just a date set up for me by my father. This was not just a bad date.
No: this was a surprise blind date set up by my father despite the fact that I was most definitely not single.
Out of politeness, I gritted my teeth and resisted the nearly overwhelming urge to glare at my dad. But one glance at his face after I had managed to subdue my initial irritation told me I didn’t have to rub it in my dad’s face. His mouth was drawn tight as his eyes gave the boy the once over. He was still technically smiling, but by the veins bulging in his forehead, I could tell he was trying hard not to furrow his brows.
Laughing silently, I turned back to our company. I sighed in preparation for the undoubtedly long, awkward night ahead. Now, I’d never been on one of these parent-produced dates before, but I knew the basic drill. The breakdown:
Step 1) Parents make small talk for a while with each other.
Step 2) Parents order coffee/tea/food.
Step 3) Parents make small talk with the child of the other parent, respectively.
Step 4) Parents begin initiating conversation between the two children.
Step 5) Parents find some convenient excuse to leave.
Step 6) Children make small talk.
My dad is a straightforward man. Idle small talk not being one of his fortes, my dad decided to effectively skip Steps 2-5 and also while he was at it botch Step 1. Almost as soon as I had sat down at the table, my dad cleared his throat loudly.
“Alright,” he began, “we all know what we’re here for, don’t we?”
I felt my face redden, and felt the sincere desire to die. Even my dad’s friend had shock written across his face. My dad blissfully ignored all of us.
“Let’s cut the BS. You,” he said, pointing to his friend, “We’re leaving now. You kids talk now, you hear?”
With that, he grabbed his friend by the arm and dragged him off, not allowing him even a moment of protest. Still cursing my dad, I looked up at my date. His face hadn’t changed shade at all, but that was because his cheeks and nose were already peppered with enough red to keep them rouged up to begin with. I finally knew who he reminded me of. He looked just like Anpanman.
While Anpanman struggled to think of something to say to me, picking up the menus in front of us and mumbling something about ordering food on his father’s tab, I stared longingly over at the table next to us, where a beautiful, perfectly mannered girl was being courted by her mother’s friend’s tall, gorgeous, and impeccably dressed son. Then I looked back at my company. Strange cropped hair. Ill-fitting, wrinkled khakis. Some plaid shirt he’d probably considered throwing in the laundry hamper but then decided he’d try and stretch out the mileage on.
* * * * * * * *
Two days later, as I was passing by my dad’s study, I heard his voice calling. I backtracked and stopped in the doorway.
My dad was reading at his desk. Without looking up from his book, he asked how my night with Anpanman had turned out. I shrugged and replied with a noncommittal, “It was fine, why?”
Dad kept his eyes on his book. He was silent for a moment. Then: “My friend said his son had fun with you. He was asking for your email.” Another pause. “Should I give it to him…?”
I smirked, but quickly wiped my smug look off my face as my father finally looked up at me. A look of panic flashed across his earnest eyes.
I quickly shook my head before he could doubt my taste in men any longer. “No, dad. No thanks.”
My dad’s sigh of relief as it echoed out from the room resounded louder than even my own.