A Storyby Min Jin Lee
Competence can be a curse. As a capable young woman, Casey Han felt compelled to choose respectability and success. But it was glamour and insight that she craved. A Korean immigrant who’d grown up in a dim, blue-collar neighborhood in Queens, she’d hoped for a bright, glittering life beyond the workhorse struggles of her parents, who managed a Manhattan dry cleaner.
Casey was unusually tall for a Korean, nearly five feet eight, slender, and self-conscious about what she wore. She kept her black hair shoulder length, fastidiously powdered her nose, and wore wine-colored lipstick without variation. To save money, she wore her eyeglasses at home, but outside she wore contact lenses to correct her nearsightedness. She did not believe she was pretty but felt she had something—some sort of workable sex appeal. She admired feminine modesty and looked down at women who tried to appear too sexy. For a girl of only twenty-two, Casey had numerous theories of beauty and sexuality, but the essence of her philosophy was that allure trumped flagrant display. She’d read that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis advised a woman to dress like a column, and Casey never failed to follow that instruction.