[Hey, that’s me] A noona romance of my own
by Guest Beanie
Pretty Noona Who Buys Me Food
I was halfway through college when we met. Flower Boy Ramyun Shop might try to tell you otherwise, but a four-year age difference in the wrong direction when you’re 19-bordering-20 is all kinds of no don’t, especially when one of you is still in freaking high school. I’m with Lee Bo-young in I Hear Your Voice when she just can’t see Lee Jong-seok as anything more than an overgrown beanpole with an uncanny ability to read her. But I’m also with her when, against her will and better judgement, she finally sees him as a man.
My boy—let’s call him Will—was every noona killer you’ve ever met. Clever, intense, charming, and with a way of speaking that could convince you he was more mature than he really was. It’s a trap, and a trap I desperately prayed for Lee Chung-ah not to fall into in the aforementioned Flower Boy Ramyun Shop, when a toxic and temperamental Jung Il-woo starts to play with her, compromising her in every possible way without giving a damn about the consequences for her. I have never found a noona romance so unromantic or so upsetting, but I couldn’t stop watching either, because I saw an earlier, stupider version myself in the heroine.
I grew up with fairly conservative beliefs, and therefore had the romantic experience of a peanut. I believed in marriage, not dating, so while everyone else my age had been in the game for a long time, my “experience” was all borrowed or bought secondhand. I had none of the protective mechanisms that girls my age had already figured out after a bad relationship or four, and I saw that innocence reflected in more than one of dramaland’s noona heroines.
I Hear Your Voice
I think of myself as an extremely rational person, but… he fell for me first, and I was seduced by the attention and fascination of a person I thought of as out of my league. It’s the insecurity every noona has to deal with, like Park Jin-hee in Woman Who Still Wants To Marry. Like Park Jin-hee, I didn’t know what to do with that kind of attention, so I did the thing all sane noonas do: shut it down. I hadn’t discovered K-dramas then, but I know now that I was in good company. Like Uhm Jung-hwa in Witch’s Romance, I didn’t trust his feelings or his attention. I didn’t even trust myself.
I wanted commitment, a future, something that I could hold in my hands. In dramas, you know a guy has to work twice as hard if he wants to convince an older woman, but in dramas, they make promises. Will didn’t. His beliefs about love were different from mine. To him, love was “just” love: nothing more, nothing less. So the idea of “us” didn’t cost him what it cost me. He kept getting closer to me with a single-minded persistence that was either because he couldn’t help it or didn’t want to.
You see, when your age gap is significant, the older one of you takes on the responsibility of it all, and it fell on me to be the one policing our relationship, worrying about consequences and futures and whether I was taking advantage with the oh-so-great power that came with my great, great age. Maybe I could have just enjoyed the moment, but the problem was that the moment only lasted… a moment. And then the real world crowded in. In Boyfriend, Song Hye-gyo’s time with Park Bo-gum is just like this: moments, a string of lovely moments that exist by themselves, but can’t contend with the reality of her real life.
I only watched half the drama so I don’t know how it ended, but Song Hye-gyo and Park Bo-gum had a quiet kind of relationship—a gentle beta-fizz rather than explosive fireworks. Pretty Noona Who Buys Me Food, though. That was punch-drunk and giddy, and exactly how it was with Will. It was a thousand tiny uncertainties, along with a thousand tiny hopes, and so many, many things left unspoken.
I felt it hard when Sohn Ye-jin argues with her mom about marriage, and never ever wins that fight (and never will, because Asian moms). It’s not that they don’t love each other, but they want irreconcilably different things and always will. That whole drama was so wrenching, and a lot of that couple’s relationship reflects the highs and lows of mine.
Will eventually did convince me to fall for him, but he never would have if he hadn’t confessed first, and that’s one of the best things about noona romance dramas. Who doesn’t love to see the guy fall first, and fall hard, for a woman who goes unnoticed by others? Name any noona romance, the guy says it first. He HAS to.
Still, age is a problem solved with time. After a few years, our age differential went from “dangerous” to merely “complicated.” And once you let enough time pass, the problem of age fades away completely.
Romance Is a Bonus Book
Will and I are both in our thirties now. He’s halfway to being a doctor, and I’m halfway to being nothing at all. Now, I relate much more to Lee Na-young in Romance Is a Bonus Book, who feels like she’s fallen behind in an unforgiving world where everyone else is getting ahead, and nobody gets second chances.
Mine was a romance ripped straight from your favorite drama or romance novel. It was conversations without beginnings or ends. It was having the same birthday. It was knowing someone better than I knew myself. It was being seen when no one else saw me. It was hearing his quiet laugh vibrate in my chest. It was delicious, electrifying, epic—spanning years and continents, lives ruined blah blah blah, but… it was also painful. I began to realize that left as we were, we would forever hang between an agonizing something and an empty nothing.
Reader, I broke up with him.
Age is a problem solved with time, but we ended up being separated by other unsolvable things. Even though Song Hye-gyo and Song Joong-ki overcame both an age difference and ideological differences in Descended From The Sun, I stumbled over the latter. Maybe it’s fitting that the Song-Song Couple and I had the same fate in the end. Not every great love can last the test of real life, and I believe that in the end, I chose what I loved most.
I have no regrets, but I have a lot of nostalgia and kinship with my darling unnis who are toughing it out with those terribly wonderful younger men. It’s a hard life, being a noona, but someone’s got to do it!
Descended From the Sun
- [Hey, that’s me] Oh no! They killed Cloggie!
- [Hey, that’s me] Different name, same story
- [Hey, that’s me] The unfavored child
- [Theme of the Month] Hey, that’s me (again)
- [Hey, that’s me] And my dysfunctional family
- [Hey, that’s me] One-sided crush
- [Hey, that’s me] Fangirling inside the closet
- [Hey, that’s me] The plight of the storyteller
- [Hey, that’s me] A college admissions monster
- [Hey, that’s me] To all the women I’ve loved before
- [Hey, that’s me] Hell Joseon international
Tags: Theme of the Month