Yup, I’m talking about ‘Because this is my first Life’. It was definitely one of my firsts. I started watching K-dramas during quarantine and this time of my life – as I am sure for a lot of us, was quite a blur. Despite the haziness of isolation, I distinctly remember absolutely loving this K-drama. It inspired me to write about TV shows, what thoughts came to my mind, or what I learned from them.
Since this was my first time watching a K-drama – a Romantic comedy one at that, I was not ready for the feels, the giggles and the swoon worthiness of such shows. The cuteness, the story, the friendships, struggles, love, confusions, and humor, this show seemed to have it all. There is just so much to talk about this show! Despite the amount of love I have for this show, there were certain times when it did make my logical side and emotional side glitch. I will get to that later, but for now let me start with the characters and what made this show special for me.
Our female lead, Yoon Ji-ho (played by Jung So-min) is a TV drama assistant writer. She is awesome at her job and enjoys writing but has the vibe sucked from her due to overbearing, manipulating, harassing, idea stealing co-workers. Add to that her very patriarchal family – an overbearing, controlling, table flipping dad whose word is the law, a silent mother who tolerates her father and a spoiled, financially unstable brother and his pregnant wife. Oh, I also need to mention that the new house she has been paying instalments for is now occupied by her brother and his wife; a situation she finds out about when she accidently walks in on them ‘doing it’ – talk about emotional scarring.
Despite the BS cocktail life has served our Ji-oh, she decides to not dwell on it and be the writer of her own life. I love how her character is so proactive in taking charge of her life (a trait that is consistent throughout the show). She makes her decision and moves the ‘F’ out, looking for a new place to call her Home. That is it, that is her goal, a place to call ‘Home’. I love Ji-Ho because she is so strong headed and tries her best in spite of all the hardships. She takes risks, tries new things, looks for inspiration wherever she can find it. Even though there are times when she feels like a failure, she just gives it her all. I related hard to that – an unyielding urge to move forward on your path regardless of the boulders in your way – as would, probably, many of us at a certain time in their lives.
Now, let’s talk about the anti-social, stoic software engineer, Nam Se-hee (played by the super cuddle worthy, Lee Min-ki). Se-hee only loves his cat and his apartment and lives a pretty monotonous life – like the way he wants it. He has everything figured out, written down to each cent he earns and spends. All he needs is a good housemate that ranks high on his “Housemate analysis” scale to help with his mortgage. What about love and relationships? Ain’t nobody got time for that.
After complications with his ex-housemate breaking all his house rules, he now needs a new one. Ji-oh is broke after quitting her job and needs a place with low rent that will be available free of deposit. They were put in contact with their friends, but never got a chance to meet each other before signing the contract. With a name that is typically masculine, Ji-oh is mistaken as a man in the rent contract by Se-hee; on the other hand, Ji-oh assumes the house owner/landlord is a woman since Se-hee is considered a feminine name.
Ji-oh is the flat mate of Se-hee’s dreams – all house rules are followed to a T, and he doesn’t have to socialize with his flat mate since they have separate schedules. Se-hee couldn’t have asked for more. However, the identities get revealed on a weekend and they are in a bind. After a lot of deliberation, they come up with a “Housemate contract” based on their individual needs and try to make it work. All is going smoothly until an unexpected clause gets added to the contract after a situation arises.
**The situation being satisfying their orthodox parents demands by getting married (not registered) in order to share the living space since two people of the opposite gender living together did not bode well with their conventional way of thinking. So, the Housemate contract turns into a Marriage contract.**
Now you can imagine all the cute and romantic moments that occur in the close quarters. Not to mention their insane chemistry. Damn!!! All those cute moments that made me all ooey-gooey inside!
THE FRIENDSHIP TRIO
I want to start with how I absolutely love the trio of the women. It felt like such a beautiful friendship. Such different personalities yet they complement each other so well. Despite the differences, they know how to understand and comfort each other during the hard times.
Amongst the three, we’ve talked about Ji-ho, and I obviously love her. Let’s move on to the next.
Woo soo-ji (played by Esom)
Woo Soo-ji had my heart, mainly because of her sheer bad-assness. She is a fighter, doesn’t take shit and doesn’t give a crap about gender roles. She wants to be a leader, not a follower – a trait that is always stressed but comes to shine when she quits her harassing job and decides to do her own thing. She finds her priorities and takes charge. How cool is that?! I could write a whole other blog just on her. It would be remiss if I didn’t mention her man Ma Sang-goo a.k.a. CEO Ma (played by Park Byung-eun), CEO Ma is the epitome of what a feminist partner is. His aim in the relationship is to be someone who can support Soo-ji wholly and be someone she can rely on. He makes her believe that being strong does not mean she has to fight alone. That he has her back no matter what. He is not only supportive of her choices, but it is shown that he truly understands them. He isn’t intimidated by her way of living but is rather completely for it. Soo-ji deserves nothing less.
And then there’s Yang Ho-rang(played by Kim Ga-eun).
She is super cute and is a dedicated and loyal girlfriend, but Yang Ho-rang bothered me. She, I believed, was portrayed as only having the only goal of marriage and baby – , which honestly did not sit well with me. (I know, I know…just hear me out first)
So here’s why I was bothered by Ho-rang:
Having been raised in a patriarchal society myself, being constantly told how a woman should dress, think, talk and behave only made me rebel against all these ideas as a kid. A woman’s purpose of life was to marry and bear kids. Gender norms were forced on me a little too much, so much so that anything “girly” or “feminine” would just annoy me (Hello, internalized misogyny), and I would work hard to reject it. Thankfully, I got out of that whole phase, and am finally able to love, accept myself and other women for who they are and their choices. Therefore, watching Ho-rang really irked me. She wanted the very things that I had rejected! She made me go, “Girl there’s more to life than marriage! Why you crying over a failed relationship?”
So, every time she cried for the boy, or obsessed over marriage or babies, it made me very uneasy. I mean I get being completely absorbed in a relationship, I understand, I’ve been there, but after a few heartbreaks in life, you learn it’s not really worth it and put yourself first. I got mad at her manipulations – using sex as a tool which seemed pretty toxic, and literally having no other goals in life.
Don’t get me wrong, her boyfriend, Sim Won-seo (played by Kim Min-seok) is a super conflicted guy who loves Ho-rang but doesn’t have his life or head figured out. He doesn’t want the status quo to change and while he loves her and is committed to her, he doesn’t want to marry her. He doesn’t want the status quo to change to the point where he unintentionally misleads her and gives her false hope for seven freaking years of a marriage that may happen eventually; only to go ‘I can’t do this, you deserve better, blah blah blah, bye!’. Ughhh!
I was mad at both of them, and I was annnnooyyed! Also, instead of twisting her words Ho-rang could just outright say that “Yo, I wanna get married and you’re wasting my time.”, instead of trying to manipulate him into marrying her using sex and scientific data. Ok the data bit was pretty cool, but still!
When her friends hear about Ho-rang’s relationship troubles, they are mighty pissed – as best friends would be. Later on, when Soo-ji asked Ho-rang while she was obsessing over babies, “Is your fallopian tube your everything? Is your womb your identity?” And I went, “EXACTLY!!!” I wanted to shout at Ho-rang, Both your friends are such badass women, why aren’t you like them? Look at them grabbing their careers by the balls!’
But then something happened. Ji-ho confesses to them that her dream was not really being a writer but was actually “LOVE”. And…I low-key felt betrayed.
I had so many conflicting feelings. It seemed impractical to me. I was attached to the character, her purpose and her never faltering attitude. I started to think why was it bothering me if she said she wanted “Love”. I still supported her though (albeit half-heartedly). I felt, “Yeah you know what, if that’s what you want you go for it, a dream is a dream, no matter what. Who am I to judge?” And that’s when it hit me! I felt guilty for not supporting Ho-rang. Why did I judge her for her dreams of marriage and babies? Just because she didn’t have a career goal like Ji-ho or Soo-ji?
I realized; I just didn’t want to empathize with Ho-rang. Because for some reason I was a little scared, or maybe even embarrassed. It was because deep down I related to her too, but I disliked the part of me that did. It was my resolve. She reminded me when I lost my mind over for who misled me. I just could not give up on him and I cried incessantly over him without being able to figure out why – almost forgetting what I wanted in life for myself.
Don’t worry too much. Just because you lived through yesterday doesn’t mean you know everything about today.–Ji-ho
It was almost like an epiphany that maybe we judge people without knowing about them; it’s often just us projecting our thinking or beliefs or resenting the parts in them that we resent about ourselves. We hate them for the choices we once made. We expect them to have learnt from our mistakes.
It wasn’t that I had to support a particular choice Ho-rang made, it was that I should support the fact she had a choice and she made one. Just because she made a choice I wouldn’t make, doesn’t mean she was wrong.
**Not to mention, she did get a haircut, move out and drove away with another guy which was pretty badass**
Its these small moments where the lines between reel and real blur that that are one of the reasons that I love good TV. I discovered a new perspective, a new way of looking at things. I love moments like these, I live for them – moments that leave lasting impressions – not just on your memories, but on your soul.
“But Neeno, real life isn’t like that, it’s just a TV show.” But maybe it isn’t like that because we say it isn’t. They say art is inspired by life, right? So why not make our life art? Maybe it isn’t that hard. Just add some fake laugh tracks in your head during a sad scene and it’s comedy, (I feel that was the entire basis of the show Friends, seriously take out the laugh tracks and that show is a trauma waiting to happen), spice it up with some background music to the mood and you’re golden. You ARE the freakin’ main character do not let anyone tell you otherwise! Write your own goddamn story!
THE ROOM 19
One of my favorite points in this show was the concept of Room 19. Ji-Ho refers to this one particular book a few times called “The Room Nineteen” by Doris Lessing. The book is about a woman who is a mother and a wife whose life just seems to revolve around her family and her home. She loves them but she realizes she needs a space just for herself, even if it’s just for a couple of hours. So, she rents a room at a cheap hotel and spends some time there whenever she needs space and just wants to be herself. That room becomes her place. A place that is accessible to only her, and she guards it like a dragon. She guards it to such an extent that, when falsely accused of having an affair in the said cheap hotel by her husband, she chooses to lie and agree to the affair instead of telling the truth about her Room 19.
“Everyone has a Room 19 of their own. No matter how close they are with others, they don’t want them to find out about that room. No matter how comfortable they feel around others, they can’t invite them to that room.“-Ji-ho
This concept was so hauntingly beautiful to me, because it seems we, especially women, are always told that your boyfriend or partner is your whole life, your kids are your whole life, your family and home is all you need and all there is, and at some point we begin to accept it. We seem to lose ourselves in them and tend to forget who we are and what we want. Our personal space doesn’t seem to exist and even if we find wanting some time to ourselves it often makes us feel guilty like we are “abandoning” our duties. But this Room 19 is so delicate. It could be the perfect happy place that is all yours, but it can also be a place if you spend too long you begin to feel lonely, or might lose what you actually have. The way you see it depends on who is looking at it. To the person in the room it is calm, but to the person looking in it seems empty. I do believe we all have our own version of Room 19. For some it could be their home after a long day of work, for some it could be a show they re-watch a million times, for some it could be a folder on a computer. It is a place of comfort, but it is far from everything. Not getting too comfortable might be the key here.
Ji-ho’s Self Discovery (Her Room 19)
Now let’s talk about the glitch I went through at almost the end of this show. I couldn’t grasp it.
**Ji-ho related to room 19. For her, the room 19 was the sexual harassment she faced. She realizes Se-hee has his own room 19 as well. For him, it’s his ex-gf and her abortion. She felt like they both needed to let go of their room 19’s.**
By this point it is clear that both Se-hee and Ji-ho have feelings for each other. But cue the misunderstandings. He wants to continue the “relationship contract” because he wants her to be his girlfriend, but she says let’s end it. He thought it was because she didn’t want him, but on the contrary it was because she didn’t want it to be one on a piece of paper, rather she wanted a real relationship with him. Same idea, different execution.
They both want the same thing, but they don’t communicate it properly. So, she decides to go for a little self-discovery journey and he thinks she is leaving him. Now I fully, wholeheartedly support the self-discovery thing, but why does she have to mislead him like that?! I get the point was not to give him false hope, I mean anything could happen on the journey, she could fall for someone else, or realized she didn’t need love after all etc., but if she was so certain that it was him, she could have just told him she needed some time and space. But instead, she left him confused in so much pain and agony missing her while she was eating boiled eggs at a sauna with one of her best friends. And then she pops back in with a cake and is like, “Yo let’s do this!” What? Even though she did mean to cause him agony but COMMUNICATE!!!!! You see the glitch in my brain here?
All’s well that ends well I guess, and yes, it was a beautiful moment of him “dreaming” about her when it really was her next to him but then I thought, maybe that was the point of the show. About living in the moment. Maybe I couldn’t grasp it because my brain is always anxious and I need to overthink everything (as proven by this blog). Maybe, it’s about doing what feels right in the moment even though it may not seem logical to others or even to you.
“The problem is, I just know nothing about the world.”-Ji-ho
After all, we all are living this life for the first time, and honestly, no one knows what they’re doing, do they? I guess the reason I loved this show, even though it gave me so many conflicting feelings, was that all those conflicting feelings made me analyze some hidden feelings in myself. The flaws in the characters made them so human and it resonated wonderfully with the idea if or rather when you mess up, it’s ok, you learn from it, grow from it and that’s beautiful, right? Maybe, it actually isn’t so bad to try living in the moment and doing our best.
So, as Ji-ho said,
“To those living this moment, with all of my sincerity, I wish you the best of luck. Because this is everyone’s first life.”