"Shall we do English tea?" Lisa Vanderpump purrs, her long pink nails fiddling through the tea packets like a Rolodex on a sterling silver tray. In a single graceful motion, she pours the hot water over the tea bag, dunks the tea bag back into the kettle and tops it...
I can't beat myself up about it now, because I'd already fallen for him when he told me about the other boy.
We were in my bed, my cheek on his chest, when he said my name followed by a pause. "Justin..."
And I braced myself, ecstatic stars colliding in...
Much like a butterfly, the life and subsequent metamorphosis of the Unrequited Crush (Amore peribatus) has five life stages: the Hint, the Spark, the Smoke, the Burn, and the Fire.
Its classification has been fiercely debated: Is it a soul-sucking parasite or a symbiotic advocate? Is it a lesser, lower creature than its arguably more evolved cousin, Sex consummatum? Or could it be that the Unrequited Crush is just as essential, if not more so, to its long-suffering host, the Human Experience?
Sirs and madams of the Scientific Counsel of Love, Sex, and Friction, I posit today a bold hypothesis that we will explore in the aforementioned life stages of its main player, Amore peribatus. I will buffer arguments with my personal observations on the field, both amplified and hindered by the constraints and embellishments of my own memory.
The hypothesis, you ask? Some crushes just aren't meant to be banged out.
Let's proceed with...
Stage 1: A Hint of Potential
It begins with a meeting of the eyes. A wayward glance from you locks onto mine, and a jolt of electric potential travels up and down my spine. A laser shoots through and severs the heartstrings. You break it, turning away with the slightest smirk. It isn't fair.
Because, you see, the gym is my private sanctuary, the one place where I can blast music into my head without a worry in the world. And there you are, with your scruffy handsomeness and your guttural grunts every time you lift the 80-pound free weights. A snake in my garden.
We only speak once, near the beginning of the Hint. You come up to me and say something. I pull out my earphones. "Could you spot me?" I nod and help you heave the massive weights into the air. Afterward I say, "Gosh, watching you makes me tired."
The Hint climaxes one day when we happen to be in the locker room at the same time. I'm changing, stripped down to my briefs, and you walk by. I see you in the mirror. And you stop for a long second, scanning my reflection with the eyes. If there was ever a moment, the segue into the next stage, this is it. But I turn away. Sanctuary.
Soon after, you stop coming. At first I think it'll just be a week, but that week turns into a month, and the month is now a year. I am left wondering, wondering about the Hint, and I probably will for the rest of my life.
You were the best relationship I've ever had, and I never knew your name.
Stage 2: The Spark of Attraction
I see you around here a lot. I guess that's one sign of a tough breakup. It's easy to drown your troubles in the welcoming waters of West Hollywood. I used to consume people like you whole. So when you say hello, I always say hello back, and hence the Spark ignites. A good night in WeHo is a night I get a whiff of you.
The Spark is contained, but it glows hot between us. The attraction is affirmed but has been stymied: I am no rebound, and you are no sloppy seconds. If I wanted it, I could have it -- I think. But if we touch, it could all fall apart. So I will tip-toe for now.
Is this maturity? Is fear what we are calling "maturity" nowadays?
Until we figure this out, let's sit on opposite ends of this dark bar with our respective friends and feel the growing warmth of the Spark between us, the Spark with the searing promise of a wildfire, but for now lights up only two faces.
Stage 3: Smoke and Mirrors
Paranoia sets in, because it is here where the Amore peribatus realizes that at any point of its life stages it has the titillating possibility to evolve into Sex consummatum. Or does it? Has the Spark burned too long? Are we blinded by the Smoke?
We know each other well now, or do we? I laugh casually at the funny things you say, but in my mind I am balancing on a tightrope. I'd let myself fall, but I don't know what's beneath.
I'd say you were playing games, but I guard my own hand of cards. Every look between us becomes loaded, overloaded with meaning. The Smoke burns the eyes, it clouds the brain, and what we see and think no longer matters. The Crush now becomes a slope, and the inevitable happens.
Stage 4: A Long, Slow, Sensual, Agonizing Burn
We've known each other for years, and I loved you the moment you smiled at me the first time. This was meant to be our summer, where we fucked our brains out on Matador Beach. I had it all planned out.
But -- shocker! -- at the beginning of summer I meet your new piece. Such a betrayal to look at me that way and then dangle an obstacle between us. I'd be angry if it didn't feel so deliriously good.
Because now the Crush becomes a slow Burn, smoldering like a brand against our skins, and I feel it the most every time we sit next to each other and your arm just barely grazes against mine. It is a sensation so heady that I need to close my eyes, like taking a rip of platinum NorCal sativa.
To call the Burn stage a "friend zone" is to do it a grave injustice. We are not friends. We are unactualized lovers. Every exchange between us is a transcendent form of foreplay. Every time we talk, all that's missing is a soft pillow and your legs between mine.
Near the end of summer, you break up with him, and then you leave L.A. forever. I stay behind with brands on my skin, and I will wear them proudly in our memory.
Stage 5: The Fiery Freedom of Heartbreak
This is the first time I've done this, and I am so stupid: I expected you to leap into my arms, plant your lips onto mine, and ravage me. But instead, the color drains out of your face, and you wince, and then you apologize. For what?
Fire is the ultimate release. The Crush has been called out, like a witch in Salem, and now it must flame, flame, flame.
It doesn't matter that I took you under my wing as a newcomer to this city, that I cooked and cleaned for you, that I let you sleep in my bed and never took advantage of you. You never thanked me, but you did spill red wine all over my MacBook.
Maybe that was my mistake. I shouldn't have let it go on this long. The slow Burn did its course and turned whatever Spark there was into a pile of cold ash. I scream "fire!" at you, but there's nothing left to burn.
So I retreat into the welcoming waters (see Stage 2 and marvel at this ironic circle), and I drown my sorrows in the arms of kinder men who hope and fail to ignite me the way you did. It is rare enough to get to this point, and all the more devastating to be left behind.
Yet, in the end, all I can do is thank you, because it is in this rare moment, when the Unrequited Crush flies out of my clenched grasp into fiery freedom, that I truly feel human.
My heart swells with lust the way my penis swells with blood, but it is only when it breaks with a fissure that spews out all the fragile power of my manhood that I feel most alive. You see, this isn't pain. It is a gloriously liberating enlightenment:
Some crushes just aren't meant to be banged out, and that's OK.
These words are dedicated to You. You know who You are.
--The Unrequited Everywhere
For more musings on the intersections of love, sex, and race in Los Angeles, check out Justin's acclaimed blog I AM YELLOW...
Last month, Curbed LA came out with a somewhat depressing article called What $1,200 A Month Can Rent You In 5 LA Neighborhoods. While it's mercifully not as dire as the living situations in NYC ("What is this, a market-rate housing apartment FOR ANTS???"), it did lead me...
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Whenever I come across a hot Asian couple -- as in a couple that consists of two attractive people of full Asian descent -- it's akin to witnessing a solar eclipse. It doesn't happen much, at least not in my L.A. bubble, but it's always a pleasant surprise.
Now, before I get any further, please allow me to clarify my usage of the term "hot Asian." It is usually heard in the context of Western ethnocentric bullshit, as if it is a shocking thing for an Asian person to be deemed "hot," and hence a noteworthy distinction needs to be made. In this context it becomes the equivalent of saying, "You are hot for an Asian person." It's one of the most backhanded and racist compliments you can say to an Asian person, so don't do it anymore. Just say, "You're hot." Period. Don't be Ja'mie King.
But that said, there are indeed many hot people within the Asian races (as there are hot people in every race), and upon closer inspection, many of these hot Asians don't seem to want each other. Why is that?
I live in Westwood, right next to UCLA (which stands for "U C Lotsa Asians"). Walking to the gym every day, I notice that the campus seems to be coupling grounds for one particular type of interracial pair: the white person and the "hot Asian." This is by far the most common interracial couple that I see in California.
Now, is this wrong? Of course it isn't. Love between consenting adults is always beautiful, and it should be celebrated in all its forms. No one should ever feel ashamed for loving someone, regardless of gender or color. Besides, "hapa" (meaning "half Asian, half white") people tend to be ridiculously attractive, so it's (probably) not an offense against nature.
Personally, I grew up with white uncles and hapa cousins, and I like miscegenation in general. If everyone reproduced with each other until we were all the same lovely shade of brown, the world would be a better place, I guarantee it.
But this is still a trend worth overanalyzing. So let's overanalyze.
Gay culture, of course, has a lot of snarky fun with this phenomenon. A "rice queen" is a white gay man who has a strong proclivity for gay men of Asian descent. A "potato queen" is a gay Asian man who returns this exclusive attraction to his white admirers. But my favorite label has to be "sticky rice," a hilarious title for a gay Asian man who only dates other Asian men. Sticky rice is the forbidden carb of rice queens.
As for me? I like to say I'm "jasmine rice": not exclusively sticky, and happy to mingle with everyone else on the dinner plate. In fact, I prefer not to date rice queens or sticky rice because I like people who are open-minded in general, regardless of whether or not it falls in my favor. In my book, equal-opportunity sexploitation is the way to go.
But it is rare for me to be mutually attracted to another Asian man. I'll approach an Asian hottie in WeHo only to be interjected by his white boyfriend -- who is rarely as hot, it's worth mentioning (or that might just be my sour grapes).
Granted, I myself have been seen with my own share of non-Asian men, and there is heavy judgment from some sticky-rice Asians, as if I'm betraying my own race by opening my Great Wall to outsiders, particularly if the guy is white. In the meanest of contexts, to be labeled a "potato queen" is to be a self-hater, and to be a "rice queen" is to be a fetishist. It's rather unfair. I won't go so far to say that it's a lose-lose situation, because everyone in it is still getting laid.
But there is a certain uncomfortable undertone to all of this, and I need to ask it: Do hot Asians feel like they have to "graduate" to white people?
I'd prefer not to think so. What if there's just a naturally common attraction between Asians and whites? Is that so wrong? When I come across a hot interracial Asian/white couple, my first thought is that I want to join in, not that they're betraying their own races.
We can even approach it from an aesthetic viewpoint. In fashion, interior design, art, and even food plating, we are encouraged to match separates and to embrace juxtapositions of different colors and shapes. Why not do that with race and romance?
But of course it isn't that simple. When I first came out, my most liberal cousin Karen (who is notably one half of a hot Asian couple) told me that I should strongly consider dating only other Asian men. When I asked her why, she told me that there are certain cultural barriers when it comes to dating outside one's race. And that's completely fair and valid.
But that's probably the point, isn't it? Because maybe the complications of an interracial relationship are what make them attractive: a rebellion against societal expectations, a "fuck you" to status quo. Maybe it's even a status symbol: "I'm so baller than I'm dating this hot person who isn't my own race, and what are you going to do about it?"
I'll never forget this: I was in San Francisco several years ago (S.F., by the way, is where gay boys go to get interracial), and I was talking to a hot Asian guy who definitely wasn't interested in me. Instead, his eyes wandered to a handsome white boy who was clearly trying to figure out if we were sticky rice. The two locked eyes and exchanged a knowing look.
Later that night I was having a cigarette outside when the two of them stumbled out, rip-roaring drunk. The white boy had his hand in the Asian guy's back pocket. As they strode past me, the hot Asian, for the briefest of seconds, turned my way and smiled. It wasn't an unfriendly smile, exactly, not cruel or condescending. I pondered over it as they climbed into a taxi together, and as they disappeared up the hill it struck me: His smile was a smile of triumph.
And I couldn't help it: It turned me on.
This essay also appears on I AM YELLOW PERIL, a sociosexual blog about the intersections of race and...
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