I didn't pay much attention to Jeremy Lin until I realized he was getting me laid.
Story of my life: my insecurities take the form of mild to moderate narcissism and I ignore a cultural sensation -- the Asian Obama, if you think about it -- until it directly becomes pertinent to my sex life.
But there this pretty boy, whom I considered far out of my league, stood in front of me, offering to buy me a drink at Akbar, a trendy gay dive in the Silverlake neighborhood of Los Angeles.
The boy, whom I'll call Tim, was, I think, mixed-race, and generally too attractive for me. (I tend to like gruff guys, anyway, the type who look like they can take a punch.) But it's always pleasant when an Adonis turns out to be good conversation, and after a few drinks, I asked him what he was looking for.
"To be honest," Tim replied, taking a swig of Anchor Steam, "I've been on an Asian kick ever since Linsanity. I think he's so hot, and I'm surprised I've never been with an Asian guy before."
Normally I don't like it when guys bring up my race when they're hitting on me. Without question, race is usually a major component of sexual chemistry (and I certainly have my own preferences), but there's no easier way to feel like a piece of meat than when you're being compared to an anime character. But this was different. And it was entirely new to me.
I was being likened to an all-American mainstream superstar, not a niche fetish.
Since then, I've gotten wing-manned by Linsanity on several more occasions. On my Adam4Adam account, I have a picture posted that features me clutching a strategically placed basketball. (I took this picture as one of the subjects of a photography project called Sexy Geeks.) The photo shoot was taken months before Jeremy's Shakespearean rise to meteoric stardom, when the image of an Asian man clutching a basketball was meant to be a critique on societal stereotypes. How quickly things change.
Now, I'd gotten no fewer than 30 messages on Adam4Adam that directly comment on the basketball picture, gushing about Jeremy Lin.
I haven't really paid attention to the NBA since the end of the Golden Age of the Lakers in 2004. And the only reason I paid attention to that was because of the diva bitch fight that was the Kobe/Shaq rivalry. ("Just make out already!" I'd yell at the screen.) But this Jeremy Lin figure was ramping up my sex life, and I was curious as to why. So I Googled him.
On paper, Jeremy Lin and I have a lot in common. We are both American-born. We're both from good Christian families; we both were stellar students in school; we both grew up in California. Like my mom and dad, his parents came from Taiwan with hopes of a better future for their kids. Like my maternal grandparents, his maternal grandparents fled China to Taiwan during Mao Zedong's takeover.
But the similarities end there. I was confused. Was it really just skin deep, this sudden spike in interest? Or is something greater at work here?
You see, I grew up completely devoid of any role models that I could physically identify with. I am a thoroughly Americanized Asian man, but I've always felt that when it comes to my identity, I am an army of one. I feel marginalized by the stereotypes thrust upon me, even defensive. The image I present -- one that I believe makes me a serious contender in my social surroundings -- I've carefully cultivated myself, without a face to base it on.
But now we have Jeremy. He's two years younger than me, and while I'm a bit past the age of having role models, I'm quite happy that the younger generation has him to look up to.
It helps that Jeremy Lin is indeed quite handsome, with a megawatt smile and a killer body, and, even better, in interviews he seems to be a humble and grounded guy. He's also openly Christian, so middle America will eat him right up with extra gravy.
And while the rumors of a fling with Kim Kardashian seem at first to just be eye-roll-worthy tabloid fodder, you've got to realize that she has been linked to a whole roster of male sex icons, from Nick Lachey to Gabriel Aubry to Reggie Bush. In a social context, Jeremy Lin's sexuality is acknowledged in a titillating manner. Whereas before him the sexuality of Asian men had long been ignored or even ridiculed by American pop culture, Jeremy Lin could very well be the first true Asian-American stud.
And what are the implications of this cultural messiah? Yes, first we're going to get all the bad puns, ranging from corny to hilariously offensive. But beyond that, Linsanity could very well redefine the Asian-American man as a sexually acknowledged being. Frankly put, our basketball whiz kid has given the rest of us balls. (Hey, who said I couldn't join the bad pun train?)
Because sex is an aspirational sport. We're hardwired to desire the likeness of success; it's a remnant of our primordial survival skills mixed with pop culture. It's why I have a huge crush on my neighbor who looks just like Ewan McGregor, because I associate his face with that of my favorite movie star. And it's why Tim (the aforementioned pretty boy) suddenly was made aware of my sexual potential as a mate. He's now been given context in the muscled form of an NBA superstar.
In this sense, Linsanity applies not just to me, but to all Asian men, regardless of where they fall on the sexual orientation spectrum. You see, blond twinks have David Beckham, and we have Jeremy Lin.
Linsanity is a welcome phenomenon; I don't think any athlete has gotten this much love since pre-zombie-Ambien-sex Tiger Woods, and I think it foretells a future where the Asian influence on the world extends beyond, "Oh, they're good at math, aren't they?" I'm sure there are many Jeremy Lins out there, and in due time they will emerge, as well.
And the result of these monumental shifts in the tectonic plates of global pop culture? I'll get laid. Progress!
This blog originally appeared on Justin Huang's personal site, I Am Yellow Peril.