You know that you are getting old when ….
The Korean girl stays beside you in the street.
You know the feeling – you are walking along the lonely beach with your young friend, there is nobody in sight and she is beside you, about a foot away, about an inch away, about minus one inch away, she’s holding your hand, she’s … Shortly you are off the dry sand onto the wet sand, now your shoes are getting wet. So you guide her back to a parallel course and the process repeats and repeats again. Repeats, that is, until anyone comes into view. That distant figure might be a Korean man who could rebuke her for degrading herself with a foreigner. In an instant she is back in her place two metres behind. The same walking a girl home at night: she stays so close that you feel about to fall off the kerb, but if anyone appears then back two metres. She does not want to be seen as the mistress of a blue-eyed monster.
Well the other day I was taking a friendly young Korean university student to her first day at a language school in the city. Walking down George Street I felt that something was out of place. There she was: giggling and smiling beside me, not in the standard Korean girl’s public following position. The thought that other Koreans might take her for my mistress had not occurred to her.
Perhaps I am now old enough to be safe.