Here’s what I had for dinner last night: a giant hunk of red meat, a mountain of potatoes drenched in gravy, about a gallon of liquor and three slices of cake. And no, it was not yet Thanksgiving. Last night, I ate like a complete glutton and didn’t feel guilty about it because, after so many years of hard work and discipline, I deserved it. Let me explain.
I was a fat kid. I know this because I have blunt Korean parents, and every day they’d tell me, “You’re a fat kid!” I was picked on at school, laughed at by my peers. Life was tough. So entering adulthood, I developed a complex regarding my weight and physical appearance. Don’t get me wrong—today, I am a stunning individual. I am kind of the Korean Brad Pitt. (My wife’s words, not mine.) But looking this good did not come without hard work.
Cue Rocky theme music. I took to the habit of running. I spent a good part of my teen years at the gym. I stopped eating peanut butter cups and whipped cream straight from the canister. To this day, aside from the crack cocaine, I live a pretty healthy, disciplined life. And then came last night. Last night, I hosted KoreAm’s “Unforgettable” gala. I performed for a roomful of luminaries such as the lovely and distinguished television journalist JuJu Chang, major league hero Chan Ho Park and the absolutely stunning Grace Park of Hawaii Five-O.
We, as a community, shined. And I ate a cow. With cake. Because I deserved it. In a lot of ways, the Korean American community and our larger Asian American brethren started out like I did—as that awkward fat kid. We were laughed at, made fun of, made to feel as if we didn’t belong. Life was tough. Cue Rocky theme music. So as a community, we buckled up, worked hard on our journalism skills, perfected our fastball, and, in due time, we ended up on prime time television.
This is not to say that we’ve “made it.” But every now and then, it is important for us to acknowledge what we’ve accomplished. It is important that we celebrate, and that’s what we did last night. After the ceremony, my wife and I were chatting with JuJu Chang. I congratulated her on her award. She then made it a point to tell my wife that I was quite a handsome man. (Her words, not mine.) With that, JuJu had just handed me my achievement award. Yes, it’s true! I am the Korean Brad Pitt! Then, as JuJu walked away, I asked my wife, “You think we can take home some of that cake?”