내/복 (neh-bok) - Long Johns, or My Blessing

When we were younger, our mothers dressed us. On winter mornings,

our daily uniform included 내복 — thick, unwieldy layers that made our sweaters bunch,

came up to our bellybuttons, did not agree with the low rise jeans in vogue.

At school, we rushed to the bathroom and tried to pull the patterned

cotton down below our hips, even shed them entirely, hid them in

our backpacks for the day. The sharp cold punished us as we

undressed, wrestling our small bodies against the unforgiving metal

stall. Still, we would have rather died — 얼어 죽을거야!

than be caught in our polkadot-print thermals.

*

In college, I stocked my closet full of HEATTECH from Uniqlo, told my mother on

the phone that Boston winters had taught me a lesson she never

could. My own 내복

except these are not Korean, not authentic, I told her. My mother laughed.

She said, 엄마 말을 그렇게 안듣더니...이제야 좀 철이 들었구나.

She admits, 우리 재인이 다 컸구나.

She means, 엄마 없어도 이제 잘 살수있겠구나.

*

Last winter, I fled San Francisco, leaving temperate weather and

someone’s dreams (not mine) of a good life behind. I decided it was

time to come home. Back in New York, I complained out loud, often,

about the cold.

That Christmas Eve, I found under the tree a 3-pack of nude 내복. Made in Korea. I yelped in

surprise, with joy. But in that moment, I could not bear to look at my mother.

Early Christmas morning, I returned to my childhood room and cried. I

meant to ask, never did: 그날 엄마도 울었죠?


내/복 (neh-bok) - Long Johns, or My Blessing is a photo series that traces identity and inheritance between mothers and daughters through the intimate ritual of dress.

If you are interested in participating, please send an email to projects@gintl.club, subject line: Long Johns.