Men Who Take Baths

Theo Kim

Canada, 2019
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You only see the extremes.

This is the best interview I’ve ever done. It’s so comfortable!

And you brought some Japanese whiskey?

I thought it would be great given the subject matter to have something to relax—and to enjoy it with you!

Cheers! This is our first time meeting and what a great place to start a new friendship.

What does being a man mean to you?

I’m 45. I was young in the 70s and my dad, being an immigrant and having old school South Korean values, I mean, it would have been different if you asked me this question ten or twenty years ago. Now, to me, it’s how to be a good person.

Before, it would be like...okay, I take care of everything in the house, pay the bills, put food on the table. That’s my job. Pound my chest like a gorilla. But that’s not the case. My amazing partner, she’s got a great job and she, on average, works more than me in a day. I was raised with my dad taking care of everything so I thought that’s how I had to be. Now in this modern era and with Vancouver being very expensive, having your partner split a bill shouldn’t affect your ego.

The other thing is that my dad was never an emotional person. He would ask, “how’s your day?” but other than that, as long as I was safe and getting above C’s, his job was done. My current partner and past girlfriends have said that I don’t really communicate or open up. I communicate very well if we’re talking about non-personal stuff. To be a man, I think, is to open up and share. A lot of my friends do that, I just never saw that under my father’s roof. I’ve been trying but it’s been a challenge.

Being a man for you is not a stagnant place but a transition? It’s recognizing what your father was and where you want to be?

And what my partners have told me would make them happy. I fulfill all these other things well except being emotionally available. If you have a bad day at work or something is going wrong, it’s not showing weakness to say something. That was one of the hardest things for me so I’ve been working on it. If I have a stressful day, I can crack some whiskey and tell my gal that something sucks and get her thoughts on it. For the longest time, it was “everything is great,” and I would move on to talking about sports or a movie.

You mentioned that you have a two-year-old daughter. How are you raising her so she views men as equal?

That’s a good question. What would I tell my daughter? I empower her by trusting her, being very open, and letting her know that there are opportunities for her if she...I don’t want to say “fights for it", but just that there are a lot of opportunities out there and to take them. I would say: be like mom. If she is like her mom then she will succeed in whatever it is she chooses to do. She won’t be pushed over. I’m teaching her the words: it’s my turn, I want to do it. I’m not telling her to be forceful, but on the playground or at school, I’ve seen other kids push in and say “this is mine!” Well, I don’t want her to feel timid and go somewhere else. I’d rather she stand up for herself and fight for her right.

I was a shy kid and I see myself in her right now, so I’m telling her to put her foot down, that no one is going to punch her in the face, and if she stands up to bullies, people will respect that and she will get what she wants. A friend had told me that when you see your kid, it’s the first time that you are willing to die. Whether that’s giving up an organ or jumping in front of traffic. Without question, he was totally right. When she was born, I felt way more protective.

I had a near-death experience and I realized that some of the things I had been doing were wrong, well, not wrong, but I wasn't living right. I should have been standing up for myself. 

Can you elaborate?

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The thing that went through my mind when I thought I was dying was that I should call my parents and tell them I love them.

I was super introverted and shy. When I went out during my twenties and I saw a girl I really liked, I had to have five drinks just to have the courage to ask her out. At the age of 30, September 2009, I was almost murdered. At that moment, the thing that went through my mind when I thought I was dying was that I should call my parents and tell them I love them. And when realized I wasn’t dying, I thought, oh my god my parents are going to kill me. I also thought about my life. It played like a movie in my head. What had I been doing?

I was getting a second chance at life. I thought: how do I live this new life? I decided to say what’s on my mind. I have almost no filter. Not that I became an asshole but things changed with business and relationships for the better when I went from a softer guy to a strong individual. A lot of people worry about getting fired or their partner leaving them, and I just thought, well, this is me. If I get fired I get fired. If my partner leaves, they leave. In terms of what I want or how I feel, I’ll just say it.

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How can women include men in the feminist movement?

I think women need to keep an open dialogue with men whether it’s men who are not on the team, or are, or between. They will gather information that makes the movement stronger. Closing out men is...I think when you’re trying to spread equality, fighting other groups is not the right answer. It’s working with them that works. There are great men out there and they will help you. Eventually, the older gentlemen, like the anti-abortion people, will go. 

And just for the record, what happened in 2009 wasn’t because I was some nut-job maniac. It was the wrong place at the wrong time. I’m extremely lucky. I went to university. I worked a 9-5. I was in sales and marketing forever. I liked filmmaking and I wanted to tell stories. I went to film school, changed my career, and make way less money but am way happier. 

What’s the point of us having this conversation? What’s the story?

It’s talking with men. Maybe some aren’t as into it as others. When we talk about feminism, it’s always a feminist talking with their pointed finger debating someone who is usually an asshole. You see the extremes. Here, you’re just talking with men. Women and men who listen and watch this will learn more. 

There are people out there who are not going to respect my daughter for whatever reason. Wait, no. I don’t know why I’m assuming that.

They should respect her right away because she is going to be a bright, sharp, street smart, book smart lady. I always think of the worst-case scenario. As a parent, you should always be prepared. I want to be a great father until I die. If I do a good job, my daughter will be there at that time. I want to give her the opportunities I never had. I’m super happy I have a daughter. 

She will likely read this interview one day!

Cheers to London Ace Kim!

Cheers to you, London!

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When she was born, I felt way more protective.