In the late nineties, Thorin relocates from England to the United States. In high school, his English accent and boisterous nature help him stand out. His profile rises even higher when he is appointed captain of the football team. Within a short span of time, Thorin effortlessly climbs the social ladder to become one of the most popular guys in high school. He is even crowned prom king.
Fate conspires such that Thorin is seated behind Jason. Unlike Thorin, Jason is quiet and studious. The likeable but ‘invisible’ Asian American that has recently become a staple in teenage rom-coms.
Maybe it’s hormones. Or perhaps just boredom. But Thorin starts poking and tickling Jason from behind. The bickering soon evolves into a full-blown romance.
They become each other’s first love. First kiss. First everything. Over a decade later, they’re still happily together.
As unbelievable as this sounds, this is not the plot of a new Netflix rom-com. This is a true story.
Dear Straight People,
Meet 29-year old Jason Yin and Thorin Duffin – a couple who have been together since they were 17.
The pair first met in 2008. Grouped together for a Spanish project, they were tasked with recording and translating a telenovela. One night while doing translations on Jason’s bed, they gave one another their very first kiss.
Thorin: He said “I’m gonna nap” and then turned off the light. We laid on either side of this massive bed and one of us said they were cold (I think it was me). Then we kinda got closer until our faces were almost touching and he said “f*ck it” and kissed me.
That first kiss eventually culminated in their first relationship. Against all odds, their high school romance endured. 12 years on, Jason and Thorin are still going strong.
But this is not a Netflix rom-com. This is real life. Like any relationship, they had their fair share of challenges to contend with.
The first six months in particular, were rough. Like any new relationship, issues were aplenty.
But the challenge which nearly broke them early in their relationship were the insecurities stemming from the dynamics of their interracial relationship.
Jason: In high school, Thorin always got a lot of attention. I felt like I wasn’t as noticeable. All of my special traits were kind of overshadowed by him.
For a brief period of time, I forced him to adopt an American accent since the English accent really pulled a lot of unwanted attention. I wanted to go into the relationship as an equal, not someone that was inferior.
It turned into several weeks of disagreements and almost break-ups.
Thankfully, Jason and Thorin were able to work through those early challenges.
Jason: Deep down, I still knew I liked him. He never intentionally did anything that made me feel bad. In fact, even when I asked him to do the American accent, he tried to comply to be accommodating.
Having worked their way through those early obstacles, their relationship remained stable over the next couple of years. Together, they navigated their way through college, the gay scene and coming out to their families.
Jason: My parents are divorced, so I have two sets of parents.
My dad and stepmom took it a lot better. If they meet any lesbians or gays in Taiwan (where they’ve moved back to), they will openly talk about their gay son to them. They’ve been to a gay bar with me, and they don’t mind the gay celebrations.
At the end of the day, both sets of parents were supportive.
The next big change to their relationship would come in 2016. After 8 monogamous years together, they decided to open up their relationship while on holiday in Vietnam.
Thorin: We were 26, had just had 4 Vietnamese coffees. It was 2am, and neither could sleep.
We began discussing sexual fantasies and Jason shared the sentiment that we had only ever had sexual experiences with each other, and there had been a lot of hot guys especially that day on the streets of Ho Chih Minh City.
He said something to the effect of “I’d want to have sex with hot guys while I’m still young and attractive” and I think we both shared that sentiment. So we downloaded Grindr.
Open relationships are common in the gay community. Especially among long-term couples.
Jason: At first, it was great for the curiosity. I felt like I was in high school again.
Thorin would go hook up and come back and share about the hookup with me in intimate detail. Then, I had my first one, in some conference room in an office building.
Regardless of your take on polyamory, opening up any relationship would alter the dynamic of the couple. In their case, it renewed old insecurities that they had early on in the relationship.
Jason: In the beginning he met a lot more guys than I did. It almost felt like a competition again.
Because he was going out a lot more and being less choosy in the beginning, I thought he was being too sleazy. That turned into snide remarks. Every time he’d show me a decently hot guy, I’d just give a disinterested comment “Eh, he’s alright”.
I asked him once why we opened it up in the first place, suspecting that he wanted out. But, he couldn’t come up with a decent answer. This happened for the first few months.
After a couple of months, Thorin was finally able to provide an answer that appeased Jason’s insecurities.
Jason: After a few months, he was able to give me a more solid answer – that he just wanted to do it to sleep with hot guys. There was nothing else underlying that.
I changed my mindset about the whole thing, about how it’s not a competition. I was reminded of that time I tried to cover his accent to make him less attractive so that I could feel more attractive myself, and felt ashamed by it. Not only by having that kind of thinking, but holding onto that mentality for so long.
It’s paradoxical to most, but the open relationship made me more confident with rejection and being in my body – if someone didn’t like me for my looks, it’s alright. I still knew who I was, and someone else could appreciate it.
I know for a fact that some of you expecting a fairytale like romance will be disappointed to learn that Jason and Thorin are in an open relationship. That somehow, having an open relationship puts a stain on their long lasting romance.
I too must confess, that I was drawn to their story because of just how unbelievable it seemed. Statistically, only 2% of high school relationships last. For their high school romance to survive as long as it did, it sounded like a Netflix plot that just had to be shared.
But as I delved deeper into their story, it became clear that there was no magic secret to their relationship. From the insecurities to the open relationship, their story bore many similarities to past couples I’ve interviewed. And like most of my ex-interviewees, their advice regarding relationships is the same – love is a choice and a lot of hard work.
Thorin: Dating is tough. Everyone has baggage. Find someone whose baggage you can accommodate, and who can accommodate yours. And communicate about everything.
Once again, Dear Straight People would like to thank Jason and Thorin for sharing their story with us.
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