At sixty-three years of age, I thought my marriage was safe and secure. We love spending time together, trolling Saks for the latest styles, taking long walks, and even playing in our church band; my wife on piano and me on electric guitar.
That was before seven young men from South Korea stole Taeko away.
The men I’m referring to are members of the K-Pop band known as BTS. The abbreviation stands for Bangtan Sonyeondan, which literally means “Bulletproof Boy Scouts.” These young fashion icons have become the face of K-Pop, which is short for Korean popular music, a global phenomenon. They are the first Korean group to receive a certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), in addition to a Grammy nomination in 2021 for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance of their song Dynamite, performed in English.
How can a recently retired businessman compete? Sure, my style and flair for pairing Goorin Bros flat caps with trendy button-downs used to draw my wife’s favor, but recently I realized the tides had turned.
I was sitting on the couch leafing through GQ while my wife was riveted to her phone.
“Did you see this new weekend bag that just came out?” I asked pointing to an ad for a new Louis Vuitton duffel bag.
“That’s nice, but Suga and Jin prefer the Louis Vuitton Litter Bag. It’s inspired by grocery bags.”
I had forgotten BTS was now the face of Louis Vuitton.
“That sounds amazing, but I want to go away for the weekend, not carry my lunch.” I turned another page. “Check out this new Samsung cell phone that folds in half!”
“I know. Haven’t you seen the BTS commercial where they’re all dancing on the train? I just DVR’d it.”
“Oh, I must have missed that.”
I have coined the phrase “BTS Widow” to describe myself, as my wife scrolls endlessly through BTS-related Instagram posts in which the boys strike cool poses in the latest couture.
She can recite the actual names of all seven group members, including their nicknames and how they got them. I discovered this the hard way when I asked her point-blank.
“Of course,” she replied as she ran down the entire list, counting them off on her fingers.
“I have another question,” I said. “What are the names of the twelve apostles of Jesus?” Luckily, I was heading out the door as I fired off this question and the book that sailed toward my head missed its mark.
A few days after that interchange, Taeko paid $80 and woke at 4:00 am to watch a three-hour concert streaming live from Korea and entirely in Korean, which she does not speak nor understand. The following morning, I was jarred awake by the sound of her iPhone alarm at 3:30 am. Whenever I hear a sound that early, I’m thinking it’s some sort of emergency with her father or sister in Japan. Instead, it seemed there was to be a second concert. I reluctantly crawled out of bed to join her.
During our morning walk, which we still managed after the early concert, she was still on a high from the event. “Did you know Min Yoon-gi is called Suga? It’s a contraction of the words Shooting Guard. He used to play basketball.”
My hand strayed to my phone. I wanted to text someone, maybe my best buddy, the counselor, or one of our friends from church so we could commiserate, but who was I kidding? None of our sixty-something friends would have any idea what I’m even talking about. Why would they? They’re focused on their lawns and scrapbooking, not the latest pop sensation out of South Korea.
As I listened to my wife wax on about how V is ambidextrous, and Jimin is a Libra, I wondered why she was so obsessed. My wife is Japanese and has grown up with many J-Pop Japanese boy bands. What made BTS different?
Having spent my entire corporate career in market research, I turned to my usual solution: investigation and analysis. I decided to delve deeper into the group. As I pored over various sites and articles, I grew more impressed. It seems that, unlike your generic K-pop band, BTS own a piece of their production company. Most of their songs are written by the rappers of the group, RM, J-Hope, and Suga. Their music is socially conscious. Specifically, they advocate for mental health with a core message of “being able to love each other only when you care for and respect your own self.”
“Did you know BTS has given three speeches in front of the United Nations General Assembly?” I glanced up from my laptop. It was several days after the morning concert and we were kicking back in the family room.
“What’s that?” My wife held her place in her book.
“Their latest appearance was to promote coronavirus vaccines and discuss how young people are so resilient in the face of the pandemic and climate change.”
“Seriously?” My wife smiled at me. “Looks like the BTS ARMY has another recruit.”
And it’s true. There is no arguing with the band’s message and incredible sense of style. Their harmonies and moves are perfectly in synch, though my back hurts just watching them dance. I defy anyone to listen to one of their well-crafted pop tunes and try to get it out of their head. Yes, I can do without hearing their recent song “Permission To Dance” for the seventh time in a row, but now that it brings my wife and me together, why not?