When I read my friend Aubrey's blog post, Friendly Soju Bottles, I felt an immediate need to write a post of my own, Soju and Me. This was in part because just a few days previously I had posed for a picture with a friendly soju bottle, and partly because I disagreed with her about the gender of soju. Aubrey wrote a rather long comment on my post, which you may have missed. And so I offer to you her comment, together with my responses.
I love that you responded like that to my blog! But I also disagree. Firstly, I did get a picture with the soju bottle (we just have to figure out how to get it off her phone); he made Jen and I give him kisses on his cheeks.
Ah, yes. The picture. I am still waiting to see the picture, not that I have any doubt that this encounter happened.
Note the use of "he." Because soju is a he.
(1) The smell is of paint thinner or some sort of industrial strength solvent. It's so primal and manly, like a guy who's out in his garage.
I would like to apologize to all of our female readers out there who are capable of fixing cars and doing other "manly" things. True, men are more likely to be engaged in this sort of activity, but it is hardly definitive of "male". I'm not sure how I feel about the link between "primal" and "manly", but I'll leave that alone for now.
(2) Soju strong arms itself into a relationship, showing up at every meal and in every sort of juice. He's pushy. Not in a whiny sort of way, but rather one that assumes there's already a depth of relationship and he's entitled to you.
Once again, I would like to apologize to our female readers who happen to not be whiny. I am sure that Aubrey did not intend to imply that "whiny" is strictly a female characteristic. I have found that my male students are every bit as likely to whine as my female students. And it is not my experience that "pushy" is a strictly female trait, for that matter.
I also disagree with the characterization of soju strong arming itself into relationships (which is, incidentally, not an exclusively male behavior). If you go to an establishment in which soju is available, you will know. There are posters, perhaps a calendar. The menu may have pictures of a soju bottle, for our illiterate friends. Attractive packaging. Does that sound more male or female? But it is not automatically served anywhere. Not even in places that specialize in soju and the foods that are served with it. You still have to ask for it.
It is not water. If you want water, all you have to do is ask. If you want soju, you must be willing to pay the price. Perhaps I am taking my turn at playing the stereotype card, but this sounds female to me.
(3) All Korean men will put their arms around each other. But they don't kiss, at least not in public. Our soju bottle demanded kisses from the ladies. Sorry Rob, but soju is definitely male.
You don't see men and women kissing in public, either (here in Korea, that is). Does that mean that they don't? (That's some kind of odd logic pretzel there, isn't it?) And just to clarify, was it a kiss on the cheek, or a kiss on the lips? Because cheek kissing man-to-man and woman-to-woman is very continental. Perhaps soju is going for the international flavor?
OK, I know that I'm grasping at straws on this point, but I refuse to give up the battle. The fact is, you didn't mention the kiss in your original blog post, so I'm kind of winging it. I did not attempt to kiss my soju bottle, and neither did she attempt to kiss me. I just assumed that she noticed my wedding ring.
I think that your misconception comes in part from the association soju has with its bottle. Like most bottles, it is somewhat... longer than it is wide. However, soju, however closely associated with the bottles it comes in, simply is not the bottle it comes in. And so, with tongue firmly in cheek, I take my last shot, fully aware that Horyon may cause me physical harm after reading this:
Soju is served in short glasses. Beer is served in tall glasses.
Korean women are generally short. Korean men are generally tall (compared to their women).
Here are some more things to consider:
1. Anthropomorphizing is foolish. Why do we let soju goad us on like this?
2. My arguments are more poetic than yours.
3. Makeup. Look at the soju picture in my post. Are those eyebrows the untamed growth of the male, or the finely sculpted, mostly painted on decoration of the female?
5. Fashion. Look at the shoes on that soju bottles. Granted, in American culture they would indicate a clown, but in Korea they are definitely girly shoes.
However, in the end none of these factors matter as much as this:
6. Perhaps soju can be all things to all people, invalidating both of our arguments. Is it possible that soju is the RuPaul of Korean alcoholic beverages?
Is it possible that I need more sleep?
Tune in next week for the answers to these, and other questions. Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.