A gadfly in training: Guide to politically correct dating

By Susan Bonicillo
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, March 1, 2004

Though the stoned-out-of-my-mind mug shot that runs alongside my column suggests otherwise, I do get asked out on the occasional date, which only goes to show you that personality can make up for a lot of things.

Though I like the idea of someone liking me back, I have to agree with many others out there who hate the whole dating process.

My discontent can be attributed to movies, especially those featuring the ever-debonair Cary Grant, where conversation is turned into a verbal tennis match.

However, life does not imitate art.

In the real world, the date is probably spent shuffling and looking at your feet, desperately trying to start and carry on a conversation that doesn't pertain to the weather or whoever J. Lo is currently dating.

Conversation quality aside, there are even more instances where dating rituals are devoted to making you feel as uncomfortable as humanly possible. They include, but are not limited to, the following: the feminist overtones involved in haggling over the check, feigning interest in your date's family, and whether to kiss or not to kiss. It's enough to make a person envy the asexual life of the starfish.

Then again, the idea of spinsterhood and dying alone while my 50 cats feast on my corpse has even less appeal to me. So I guess I'll just have to subject myself to more of what Jerry Seinfeld calls "a job interview that lasts all night long."

Yet, what seems to be just an awkward stage in the modern mating dance also carries with it some serious social and cultural implications.

Examining the consequences entailed in going out to dinner and a movie started out as one of those late-night conversations with friends. The topic of who we've dated came up, and in my case, save for one Puerto Rican guy, I've only gone out with members of the Caucasian persuasion.

Like Socrates, I believe that self-examination is essential. However, it's always upsetting when forced to face your flaws.

That talk presented the question of whether I was guilty of taking a prejudiced approach as to whom I choose to woo.

Frankly the answer was "yes," but just to make myself feel less bigoted, I know I'm not the only one who feels the same way.

Based on an extremely unscientific survey from friends with ethnicities ranging from Japanese to Filipino to white, everyone has strong feelings regarding the politics of courtship.

Drawing from their responses, there were two camps those who wouldn't even consider dating outside of their ethnicity and those who would date anyone but a fellow member of their race.

Both groups had somewhat legitimate reasons. Dating within your race shows a high level of solidarity. In many ways, it guards against the dreaded threat of assimilation. It's much easier to preserve one's ethnic identity when the person who you're seeing shares the same background.

The allure of something foreign and exotic is what makes the other group explore different races. My African friend who only dates Asian women thinks they are just more exciting by virtue of not sharing his stories, history and cultural idiosyncrasies.

The result of these divergent views leaves little room for reconciliation. They leave one side claiming the other is a traitor to its race, while the other disdains the first for being so ethnically inflexible.

Yet, race shouldn't even be an issue. Who you go out with should be based on more reasonable grounds, like whether you can stand the person. Dating based on the allure of the exotic or whether you share the same background debases the person, making him or her a subordinate to the concept of race rather than an individual. Dating is hard enough without bringing along the political baggage of race.

On this subject, the last word goes to one of my high school buddies. Ever the humanitarian, he welcomes all races not because of the noble stance of racial acceptance, but because your odds are much better if you have a wider pool of possibilities. If nothing else, sheer statistics tell you that you're much better off not excluding an ethnic group, in order to keep from dying desperately lonely surrounded by cats.

Susan Bonicillo is a journalism sophomore who wishes everyone happy hunting in the dating game. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.