kim photo of jeanhee kim

February 25, 2004


Yesterday a close member of my “family” died. In Korea, your cousins are your brothers and sisters, older people, even strangers on the street, are grandma and grandpa. So Auntie Han, though an old friend of my parents, was family.

I was talking to my dad about her just yesterday — she might have already passed away by then. I called him again today when I heard the news. I said, “Dad, I don’t have any pictures of her.” He said, “I don’t either. I just have the pictures in my mind.”

Auntie Han, who signed her paintings Moon Mi Ae, was particular about things like getting her picture taken, or being visited during her long illness. I did once convince her to pose for a photo — at my dad’s 60th birthday party — and ironically, the photo came out washed in red and overexposed. I figured that her dislike of cameras somehow destroyed the film! Nevertheless, as it was the only photo of them I had, I displayed it on top of my piano for several years. I think I’ll find it again and frame it on the wall.

Years ago, Auntie and Uncle Han were traveling in Venice, Italy when they arrived at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, where I was an intern. For some reason, I don’t think I knew they were coming — or at least I wasn’t sure when to expect them. But one of the other interns, an Asian-American woman, stopped me and said in an admiring voice, “I just saw the most striking, beautiful couple in the main gallery.” Curious, I said I would check out the gallery, too. And when I went, there they were, Auntie and Uncle Han!

Both artists, they did make a striking, beautiful pair. Uncle Han is tall — especially for a Korean man. He played volleyball — attacker — in college! He has smooth, dark skin and prominent cheekbones. He has a full head of black, wavy hair that’s now turned gray. His eyes are really shiny and he dresses in artfully casual clothes — lots of corduroy sports jackets with black turtlenecks and the like. Auntie Han was much shorter, probably my 5′ 4″ height or less. In all the years I’ve known her she had the same dramatic wedge-shaped bob. At first, it was salt-and-pepper, but about 10 years ago it went totally white, and it always looked fabulous. She also had prominent cheekbones, never wore makeup, and wore layers of earthtone, comfortable clothes with simple jewelry.

But aside from her distinctive hairstyle, Auntie Han also had an unforgettable voice. It was gravelly, from years of smoking. It was deep. And it was resonant. “Jeanhee,” she would always begin, pronouncing the second syllable as though it were “eh,” but really, more like, “ehhhhhhhhh,” dragging the sound. “Are you making jewelry.” Even though it was a question, it always sounded declarative. Everything she said sounded declarative, instead of inquisitive and unsure, the way many women speak.

Whenever I saw Auntie and Uncle Han, they always asked me how my jewelrymaking was going. They would encourage me to continue. And then, inevitably, they would recall a painting I made in high school that hung in my parents’ sunny kitchen. Or, how once when I visited their home as a child, I drew the same exact picture on sheet after sheet of brown paper towel — the kind they dispense in public school bathrooms. It was a sunrise peeking through mountains. Over and over I drew the same picture. I don’t remember why.

Auntie Han died of lung cancer. She refused visitors and didn’t come to the phone when I called. She was particular, like I said, and I do understand. I will keep the picture of her in my mind. They are mostly fragments, though: the shape of her hair, the way her skin stretched over her cheekbones, how she could wear pants like no one’s business! I will remember the art galleries she accompanied me to. The restaurants that she and Uncle Han would take us to. And mostly, I will remember how every visit with Uncle and Aunti Han felt like a celebration, an event, a happening.

They never had children of their own, but somehow, I feel they had many children.

jeanhee @ 12:11 am

February 24, 2004

Hot Potato

I should have started my web log much earlier, but for one, I couldn’t figure out what I wanted the web site to look like — and still am not sure — but finally took the plunge. And for another, I was afraid I would write things that would make people mad, incite criticism, draw attention to me and I wasn’t sure I was up for it.

But, deep breath, I have to write — and the web is it because for some reason, my spiral journal notebook is not doing it for me anymore. Must be a sign of the times.

Today I was reading Naomi Wolf’s New York magazine expose of Yale University’s brush-it-under-the-rug attitude on sexual assault by professors, The Silent Treatment.

On many points, Wolf’s reporting was an indictment of the University, particularly the account of a grad law student’s rape by her professor. There was an insinuation that he may have drugged her drink causing her to pass out after one glass of wine (the professor resigned for another tenured position elsewhere and Yale offered the victim $30,000, which she says she refused). Damning, as well, are the repeated descriptions of Wolf’s attempts to get someone, anyone, in the administration to even answer her phone call, or call back when they said they would, and basically, be accountable for the school’s policy. Over all, Yale has a lot of soul-searching to do and I support Wolf’s efforts, in general, to call Yale to take responsibility.

But the actual account of Wolf’s own sexual assault left me — well, laughing.

“The next thing I knew, his heavy, boneless hand was hot on my thigh.”

Hot on my thigh? Oh my! This is the stuff of gothic novels! I was expecting some bodice-ripping action and breathy whispers that caused ripples through the heroine’s veins. And I wasn’t disappointed!

“‘You have the aura of election upon you,” he breathed.'” (!!!)

Soon thereafter, though, it all ended with a thud. She vomited. He re-capped the bottle of sherry he had brought to dinner and left with it (!) and these parting words, “You are a deeply troubled girl.”

Oh Rhett, where are you when we need you?

jeanhee @ 1:23 pm

February 23, 2004

A Gorgeous Day

What a beautiful day today — clear and sunny. Luke and I contacted our wedding caterer with a ton of questions and requests. Maybe we’ll hear from her in about a week after she gets out from under the load!

I’ve been obsessed with the Martha Stewart trial and today came news that Bill Cosby was in the courtroom — with sunglasses — “here for a friend.” He also joked that he brought Jell-O pudding for the defense attorneys.

Hmmmm. Earlier this month, Rosie O’Donnell attended the trial. She brought M&Ms and fake-bribed the prosecution with the candies if they would drop the charges.

HMMMMM. With friends like these…. Are these comedians showing support for their “friend” Martha or just doing product placement?

jeanhee @ 11:31 pm

February 21, 2004

Black is back

I think I’ve established that I’m on the cutting edge of nothing, so it’s no surprise that I’m only now, in February of 2004, getting hooked on Friendster. I had been asked to join by someone I admire tremendously, Val, but I didn’t do much except put up what had to be the world’s grainiest, pixelated picture — black and white, no less. Having a bad picture made me want to avoid Friendster. Like having a bad haircut in high school, a bad photo in cyberspace is totally uncool.

This week I finally had a Friendster-worthy photo (if you’re a member–the site’s conceit–you can find my profile here. How pathetic is it that as a result, I’ve updated my profile? I spent not-inconsiderable time composing a choice few sentences for About Me. I even tried to get Luke to write a testimonial! (so far, he has resisted.)

Friendster is a narcissist’s biggest enabler. And for the vain, me included, a big black hole of endless invention and re-invention of the self. The other day, editing my profile, I wanted to be sexy. So I wrote about tattoos (and I sport a fake one in my photo). Then, after surfing among other profiles, I decided that I should try to be funny and snarky. That will be my next incarnation.

Friendster is the new black.

jeanhee @ 2:17 am

February 18, 2004

The Big Buy

This week I purchased my wedding dress.

I will withhold the details on the dress itself. I have this odd desire to surprise absolutely everyone at the wedding — groom, family and guests (my mom has already seen the dress so she’s grandfathered in).

I hadn’t expected the emotions I experienced. I had bought into the fantasy of brides knowing their dress is The One. How many times have we read that cliché? I was expecting my mom to be in tears when the MOMent came. But in fact, I was hemming and hawing and standing in front of the mirror for an eternity. And my mom said, “I like it,” matter-of-factly. No tears.

What it came down to was this: As an adult, independent woman who with her fiancé is paying for a large part of her own wedding, THE DRESS becomes The Dress At This Price. Knowing my budget and being very aware of how much I had to spend, I think I lost a sense of the fantasy and romance. For a brief moment, a little part of me wished I could be the totally ignorant bride whose dad was paying for everything – bills whisked away without a glance — but on second thought, I really wouldn’t. I have worked too hard to have a level head – why lose it now?

What made the whole wedding gown shopping experience a joy was that I discovered the Bridal Garden, an innovative bridal boutique (thanks, Liz!). All of the dresses are donated, mostly by bridal gown designers, bridal salons (like Bergdorf’s and Saks’), and some, of course, by brides. In turn, the bride’s purchase price goes to the Sheltering Arms charity. It’s brilliant! The donor gets a tax deduction, the bride gets the none-too-small psychic satisfaction of knowing that her cash has gone to children in need.

I could never have made it through this process without Gina, who manages the shop three days a week and has a huge, soft heart. She laughed at all my jokes, which put me instantly at ease. She is also an expert seamstress so she was very frank about what needed work and how complicated and expensive it might be. Since the dresses are donated, some can be in need of dry cleaning and repair. And since they are off-the-rack, there can be some extensive tailoring involved.

Luckily for me, one dress fit beautifully and wasn’t in need of cleaning. Gina’s eyes lit up and she said, “I’m not going to put any pressure on you.” My mom said, “That’s a wedding dress.” (As opposed to another number that I had liked — but looked to her like something I could buy for any occasion.)

I took a moment. I thought about the jaw-dropping, sex-kitten number I tried on at Jeffrey, the beautiful, hand-tatted French lace and corset-tied gown at Kleinfeld, and then I thought about my hard-earned money going to charity. Then I knew. This was The Dress.

jeanhee @ 1:55 am

February 16, 2004

Hi there

Today, on February 16, 2004, I belatedly join the world of blogging. I’m not an early adopter, apparently. I’m a secondary adapter, I guess, also known as a follower. Oh well. As I embark on this private-is-public adventure, let me introduce myself to you. I am:

  • Korean-American
  • born in the Bronx, and proud of it!
  • the middle child and only daughter
  • engaged to marry Luke Melia, a true partner, an extraordinary soul, an optimist, a rational thinker, a light-on-his-feet dancer, a romantic and an awesome beach volleyball spiker.
  • a writer, editor, web director and journalist. But most importantly, I’m a job seeker!
  • a jewelry maker

I trust there’s more, but that’s enough to get started! Please explore my web site — a work-in-progress, but a good start, I think.

jeanhee @ 2:06 am