“I just like my life right now. That’s why I’m single.”
Friendships are forged any number of ways, for ten billion reasons, whether you met a kid your first day at ballet practice, a cool girl while getting your oil changed or a funny lady in the ladies’ room, what counts is the bond that is created after that point. Once a relationship begins, it’s difficult to gauge how long it may last but rather simple to analyze the depth of it’s significance. Friends are hard to come by, but true substantial friends are downright exiguous.
I’m not a man, therefore, I don’t know what they may look for in a mate but for me, as a woman, I’m looking for two things: a friend that will tell me when my breath stinks or my breasts look to big or saggy in a blouse and someone who listens to me rant, waits for me to ask, then helps me solve the problem. However, the highlight of a great friend isn’t always their sound advice or their heeding ear but their own personal thirst for knowledge of themselves and the world around them.
My “FFTWD” is the best of both worlds, knowledgeable, full of wisdom and encouragement yet incessantly inquisitive and examining, daring to say the incorrect things or beleaguer the taboo questions. These women reflect the woman I am, the women I know, and encompass the woman we all aspire to remain.
The Woman Who Still Wants to Marry premiered in January 2010 and with a word like “marry” in the title, I’m sure many were repelled, believing it would be a bunch of career minded spinsters complaining about being unmarried. Though the drama most definitely discussed marriage, the center of the drama was the three ladies and their stance and outlook on life, more than marriage itself. Marriage was addressed in a real way, among real women, grappling with their own thoughts, ideals and ambitions. Most of all it highlighted the gift of friendship: support, encouragement and solidarity.
Kim Bu Ki (Wang Bit-na) and Jung Da Jung (Uhm Ji-won) were two parts of this infamous single woman cocktail, living in a 21st century world with high profile or high demanding careers. I chose the lines of these women due to the inherent truth behind them. During the majority of SMM, Kim Bu-ki was the go-to character for wisdom and a sip of staunch reality joe, for she is the friend that sees life simply for what it is and what it could be, not what societal pressures glamorize. She isn’t daunted by a mysteriously ticking clock, nor has she bought into the wanton woman trajectory, she’s just living, working and hanging out with her friends. Because of these things, she says almost everything I’ve thought and spoken to a few ladies in my time.
“Losing the chance to marry means you’ve lost the chance to divorce, so that’s not all bad. And you can always regain your confidence. It’s simple.” Kim Bu-ki episode 3
Bu-ki isn’t the kind of friend that says what you want to hear. She’s more the person you go to get a fresh perspective, devoid of all the romanticism we like the paint ourselves into. She isn’t a pessimist about relationships, she’s an unapologetic realist. As a character, she was surprising because she truly was so frank and truthful that it felt that she was really a friend giving relevant counsel to a friend. In one of my favorite moments with her she tells Shin Young:
“Lee Shin-young, if there are so many things plaguing you, then just break up with him. Every couple has a mountain they have to climb. If you don’t want to deal with someone ten years younger, you could choose someone your age with a bad personality, or maybe you’d prefer to deal with parents-in-law and siblings. This is your choice. No matter which man you choose, there will always be something you have to overcome in the relationship. Pick something you can accept.” Kim Bu-ki episode 15
She’s most certainly scolding her friend but more than that she’s being brutally honest. Friends listen to us complain but only for so long. They have opinions and direction and a friend that cares for you, will definitely let you have it. Laying out both avenues isn’t cruel just clever, opening Shin Young’s eyes to how she truly feels, what she actually wants. In all honesty a younger man is scary but if you care for him, why even imagine the alternative. The best thing she said was “pick something you can accept.” Bu-ki laid out her situation, gave her real and true ideas, then hands the decision back to her. She didn’t judge her; just gave her a couple visine squirts. Ultimately, she’s not her mother nor does she know Shin Young’s heart but she made her situation as clear as possible so she can then make a choice that she won’t regret, or at least won’t rush into.
If Kim Bu-ki was the goddess of self-reliance and wisdom, Jung Da Jung was the dowager of quizzical introspection. Da Jung is the friend that tries to learn from her mistakes and makes her journey as important to you as it is to her. In the series, she wanted to get married. It was life-long dream. This fact as a woman has always eluded me, so seeing women like Da Jung portrayed in dramas is always interesting to me. Initially, she’s very typical, willing to do anything for marriage but as time passes and blind dating fruitless, she starts to ask questions. These thoughts aren’t birthed out of insecurities but out of concrete bewilderment at her situation, unable to grasp her unlucky bout with love, marriage or relationship longevity.
“Is being over thirty a sin? Are single women over thirty just supposed to die?!” Jung Da Jung episode 9
Sometimes as a woman who isn’t married by a certain age, it feels like you have a disease. All your friends are married, they have kids and sadly life is different for you than it is for them and things shift. You can’t hang out with the friends you had in college or the girls at your church or job, cause now that you’ve jumped from your 20’s to your 30’s somehow all your priorities are supposed to magically saunter to motherhood and marital bliss. If it hasn’t something is wrong with you, if you don’t have any marriage prospects, it’s even worse.
Da Jung was speaking from the point of view that she was past thirty but she wasn’t dead, dried up or breathless. She still wanted sane plausible options for marriage partners and wanted to be considered a human being. Firstly, thirty most definitely isn’t the end of the world, nor is it a black hole for marriage or dating but the reality is, people begin to view “women of a certain age” that are single, in a way wholly different from women younger or even women of the same age (or older) who are married, with or without children.
What is wonderful about Da Jung’s epiphany, if you will, is that it’s not just limited to her side of the planet or even mine. Though it seems that career women in their 40’s and 50’s are accepted and applauded more and more each day, the fact remains that it’s even more admirable to be a woman who “does it all” than just a woman who plainly takes care of herself. So when Da Jung later says:
“I work hard. I try my best. I’m acknowledged. In my own way, I’m successful. What have I done to be treated that way? Marriage? Who needs it? I just won’t get married.” Jung Da jung episode 9
You honestly can’t even blame her. Women today feel like there’s no reason to hold on the their ideals or dreams for fear of not accomplishing them or even worse, your dream laughing in your face because you’re too old, too intimidating or too successful. Having a friend like Da Jung makes you take a look at your own life and begin to value what you have and also begin answering the questions she’s asking herself. It’s important to take cues from your friends and not only help them become comfortable with their process but also evaluate where you are in your own.
Kim Bu-ki and Jung Da Jung were pretty cool friends to Lee Shin Young for the simple fact that they both brought something different into her life. Da Jung was a little neurotic and obsessive, while Bu-ki was chill, easy going and matter-of-fact. Coupled together they are the best ways to view the world: analytical acceptance– assessing how we all fit (what we believe) and ready for any challenges (how we pursue and navigate through those beliefs).
Life doesn’t just happen, it’s given, therefore, it comes down to what you make of it. Asking the hard questions, being willing to face facts and actively make changes is what improves every moment. Being given the opportunity to share it with people who are doing the same, while holding you accountable, makes it that much more enjoyable.
I’ll end with a line that I believe sums up, not only Bu-ki as a character but the message of the drama as a whole. It is also food for thought as well as encouragement for any single woman thinking of her future:
“You didn’t think you’d be thirty-four and single, did you? But life is pretty good, right? Thirty-seven will be the same.” Kim Bu-ki episode 15