So, I don’t know my mother. It’s not very often that you hear this. But it’s true.
I also do not know anyone on her side of the family. My parents divorced when I was three years old. When my father got custody, he did not keep in touch with her (which meant she wasn’t a part of our lives at all).
Sometimes when I tell people this, they get a very sad look on their face and say, “Oh, I’m so sorry.” But there’s no need to be sorry. I’m not sad about it. It’s just the way life is for me.
I know her name is Min. I know what she looked like when I was a baby, through photos I stole from the trash can and kept. I have a very fuzzy, vague memory of her. It’s actually not even a memory of her. It’s a memory of a dream of her. She was standing over me, handing me a frozen popsicle, but I was unable to grab it because my hand kept going through it. Not sure what that means.
Sometimes people ask me if I would ever try to find her. I’ve definitely thought about it. It’s weird knowing there is a woman somewhere out there that I’m connected to biologically, but don’t know. And I do wonder sometimes if she thinks about me. Her contact information would be pretty easy to find, as she has a public record for when she was paying child support.
About ten years ago, a friend asked me if they could film a documentary about finding my mother. I declined their offer because I wasn’t 100% sure that was something I would want to do. If it all went south, then I’d be filmed going through some pretty emotional stuff. That doesn’t seem very appealing.
When I consider it, I think it’s very likely it could go south. I hear stories of how she was not a good mother, how she chose a life of partying over taking care of my brother and me, how she didn’t really seem to love me, how my brother had gotten really sick and she didn’t visit him in the hospital. If all of that is the case, then why would she be interested in having me in her life now? And yes, I’m only getting one side of the story. But I feel that if she wanted to have me in her life, she’d have reached out to me by now. I’m super easy to find.
She’s interesting to think about, though, when it comes to thinking about me, and who I am. If she had been in my life, I would have had to learn sign language — in Korean and English, I imagine. I also wonder about my preferences and personality, since there’s the whole growing up with out any female influence. I also had no sisters.
I was regularly given dolls by my family, and my room was decorated in pink. Oh, how jealous I was of my brother’s Batman action figures and comic books, and watching my father and my brother put model cars together. I was never given one myself. I did get a few comics though: Barbie comics. They were pretty terrible. I spent a lot of time watching Batman, Spider-Man, X-Men, Power Rangers, and other action shows after school. So I was so happy when I got my first Power Ranger toy. Of course it was the Pink Ranger. I was okay with that.
When I became a teenager, I began to gain control of my own room decor and the gifts I received. I decorated my room in dark blues, blacks, greens, and the walls were covered in planets, the ceiling covered in glow-in-the-dark stars, and I had a rocket-shaped lava lamp, and a black light. Wow, I was so into the 90s hippie resurgence.
I had stopped playing with toys. I turned my attention to rock music, playing cards, theatre, and had a stronger focus on arts & crafts. I wonder how much of that would be different if I had women in my home? Would I have different interests? Different hobbies? Different tastes?
You know, it could have been nice having a woman in my home to talk to about relationships, growing up, and becoming a woman. Puberty surely could have been a lot less awkward. Let’s not talk about how that conversation went. Let’s just say it was incredibly embarrassing.
I wonder if my relationships with friends at school might have been different; my friends were usually boys. When I was in my senior year, I did a lot of thinking about the person I was and who I wanted to be, especially as I was going to be leaving for college soon. I noticed in myself that I had a subconscious bias toward women — I realized that I didn’t really trust them. This was startling to me. I had suddenly realized that my thoughts toward my mother had affected my ability to have meaningful relationships with other women. I wanted to change this. At about that time, I was chosen to give a guest sermon in the youth group at the church I was attending. After a lot of personal reflection on this, I decided to make a change within myself. I gave my guest sermon on forgiveness, and talked about her, the way I thought about her, and how my first step in forgiving her would be a way for me to become a better person and have better relationships with women.
Fast forward to my senior year in art college — I decided to do my senior final project on her. I created a triptych and a three-part book. I used three as a theme since I was that age when the divorce happened. I also figured there are three communication barriers with her. I don’t know Korean — though it’s very likely she’s learned English by now — and of course speaking & hearing. Oh yeah, did I mention that she’s deaf? The artwork was created and written for her, though I knew she’d never see it. It was sort of like writing a message in a bottle and throwing it out to sea. It was a way for me to say what I needed to say and then move on. The only difference is all my fellow students, college staff, and my father saw it. My professor cried. That was awkward.
My father asked me for my final project work, since it was my final college project. I didn’t want to give it to him because it was a very personal project for me; I couldn’t help but think it’d be a little weird for him to have artwork on his walls that’s specifically about her. Though now it’s sitting in my closet, seen by no one. That’s okay. It served it’s purpose.
So now here I am, almost a decade later. I still love Batman. I find myself liking the things I see in men’s shops more than most women’s shops. (Gender-neutral things are better). I still have a ton of guy friends… but I’ve also made a lot of meaningful relationships with women. I’m a lot more open and trusting now. And as I’ve learned that gender is a non-binary spectrum, I realize it really doesn’t matter at all if I grew up without a mother. I’ve become my own woman (who likes boy things) in my own way. And I like it this way.