From that moment I began looking at Sean in a different light. Instead of seeing everything he did from the assumption that he was incredibly conceited, I began seeing signs of his reserve and shyness. Suddenly I saw him in a completely different light. In class he acted as he always did, ignored me. If anything he seemed to be making a special effort not to look in my direction. But I now knew the truth. It wasn’t that he had no interest -- quite the contrary. It was just that he wasn’t comfortable about showing his feelings, especially in the absence of some sign of interest from me. I had given him precious little encouragement. Having always interpreted his aloofness as conceit, I had generally been cool and aloof toward him.
I began seeing his actions in a new light. The way he never raised his hand to volunteer the answers he obviously knew. The way he always avoided getting involved in discussions about grades though his was usually the highest. I also learned that Sean devoted a lot of time to tutoring friends who were struggling but never made an issue of it in front of others. It wasn’t aloofness but modesty and sensitivity. On top of all that, he spent much of his evenings and weekends helping out at his parent’s greengrocer, yet never made any excuses when he was late or failed to turn in an assignment. It was a quiet kind of manliness that I rarely saw at that age.
Now that my resentment toward Sean had changed into admiration, I let my eyes join in the appreciation. He was always freshly scrubbed and his trim, broad-shouldered frame seemed to exude grace and vitality. And yes, I could now acknowledge, he was cute. I loved his full lips, sexy eyes over cheekbones to die for, and a jawline that exuded masculinity. I was also smitten by the way his short black hair bristled from his well-shaped head with such vitality.
Several days later I bought a bracelet and had Sean’s initials engraved on it. Not being quite so modest or reserved as Sean, I took the presumptuous step of adding another set of initials, mine. "Here’s your bracelet," I told him after class one day. He didn’t give me the rough time I had given him. With barely the flicker of his smiling eyes, he took the bracelet and put it on. Then he slipped his arm around my waist. The kiss didn’t come until some days later, but it was well worth the wait.
If real life were like movies I would be married to Sean. Instead, a dozen years later, I am now deeply committed to another Asian man who shares many of the qualities I discovered in Sean -- modesty, sensitivity, quiet grace and manliness. These are all qualities I might easily have overlooked or mistaken as aloofness or conceit had I not had the great luck to have gotten to know Sean Yoon. Thanks, Sean, for teaching me how to love Asian American men.