When Diane Farr first spotted her future Korean American husband from the dance floor, she actually “took both index fingers and pulled on my eyelids, making the international sign for ‘Yes, Charlie Chan…I mean you,’” to signal him over.
This is the first of many cringe-worthy moments in my book review of “Kissing Outside the Lines” between her and a guy she first dubs “the Giant Korean.” (I’m not kidding.)
Who would expect that this same white woman would end up writing about her relationship with a Korean man in her memoir entitled “Kissing Outside the Lines” — one that explores the idea of interracial/interethnic/interfaith relationships as a whole?
Or, for that matter, that she would do it with an intelligence and sensitivity you wouldn’t imagine from a woman who once used a “slant-eye” reference in a pickup scenario. Even before I opened the book “Kissing Outside the Lines” to review, I couldn’t believe that this actress — a woman who once co-hosted MTV’s Loveline with the kind of looks that, at first glance, most guys would call “babelicious” — could pull this off.
But she definitely did it for me.
She writes with an honesty that you come to respect — she is woman enough, after all, to admit to all those missteps with her future husband, and she reveals the kind of vulnerabilities in her relationship that most of us would even fear to say out loud. She also cares deeply for her subject as well as making her own relationship work, and comes away with some thoughtful conclusions. And did I mention she’s often laugh-out-loud hilarious?
At the heart of “Kissing Outside the Lines” is Diane Farr’s story of her relationship with Korean-American Seung Yong Chung, who tells her early on, “I am supposed to marry a Korean girl.” But she also interweaves her experiences with interviews with five other interracial/interethnic/interfaith couples, which broadens the scope of “Kissing Outside the Lines.”
This is not investigative reporting, but rather Diane Farr’s personal quest to understand how other couples like her balance their own choices in love against their families, cultures and countries, and what her own happily ever after might look like. And to be sure, Diane Farr doesn’t shy away from the fact it doesn’t always look or feel 100 percent happy for every couple, or even, at times, herself.
She struggles with family dynamics (from Seung’s aunt who indirectly disapproves of Diane Farr’s divorced parents to the embarrassing “dog meat” jokes her brothers just have to bring up at their first dinner with Seung), Korean culture (such as how there are 16 ways to say “aunt and “uncle” in Korean), prejudice and racism, and even how to eventually plan a wedding that ends up spanning two countries and cultures. The result is an insightful, confessional and funny look at love outside the racial/cultural/ethnic lines and a joy of a book review.
“Kissing Outside The Lines” never did answer one question for me — what was it about Seung that initially attracted Diane Farr? Within one page, she goes from joking about him as her crush to confessing that “I fell for him fast,” and then before you know it they’re already dating. `Still, you do get to know more of him as “Kissing Outside the Lines” progresses, and the resulting portrait of their relationship blasts so many stereotypes about dating Asian men. I mean, who says that Asian men can’t land babelicious former MTV hosts?
In that respect, this “Kissing Outside the Lines” could easily inspire more Asian men to get out there and find their own Diane Farr. But for their sake, I just hope their women never use a “Asian eyes” reference to catch their eyes.