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A Life of the Mind as Well as Body? Don't Look Here, Radiologist Says

January 22, 1988|PAMELA MARIN | Pamela Marin writes regularly for Orange County Life.

"I've gone on dates and mentioned that I went to college at Cornell, and women have asked me if that's in Iowa or Indiana," said Elliott, 33, a radiologist.

"I've gone on dates where I put a (cassette) tape in the machine, and it's 'Camelot,' and my date has never heard of 'Camelot,' " he said.

"Three-quarters of the women I have dated out here think a radiologist is a technologist. I mean, there's only about 12 years of schooling difference between me and the guy who flips the switch when you get an X-ray.

"But the best--this has actually happened--is when I tell a woman I'm a radiologist and she says, 'Oh. Are you on AM or FM?' "

"It's a unique perspective," Elliott said, laughing. "It's something I'd never encountered until I came to Orange County."

Elliott moved to the county nearly five years ago to become a partner in a Tustin medical laboratory. He liked the area. He liked his job. And one of the first county women he asked for a date turned out to be a "very intelligent" attorney with whom he began a relationship. Fat city.

"I was thinking, Wow! This is great! I'm really in a cornucopia of talent out here," Elliott said of his blissful West Coast beginnings.

After six months, his paramour "indicated an interest in getting married," he said, "and I was incapable of dealing with that because I had just relocated. I was 29, and I didn't feel that pressed to be married.

"Now four years have elapsed, and I'm still looking for her equivalent."

Elliott wrote a letter to Single Life in response to a column featuring two fast-tracking local women. The column related their experiences to those of the character portrayed by Holly Hunter in the movie "Broadcast News."

"The Holly Hunter parable has been rarely encountered by me here in Orange County," Elliott wrote. "I love my work and the physical environs of this area, but the single life here is sub-optimal."

In an interview, Elliott, who owns a home in Newport Beach, elaborated.

"When I first moved here, I joined a lot of groups," he said. "Center 500, Newport Area Preferred Professionals, museum groups. I went to a lot of black-tie (affairs), restaurant openings, anything. I scanned the area for things to do and ways to meet people."

For his efforts, Elliott--who estimated that he has dated more than 100 women in his four-plus years here--has found local women to be generally less educated and less interested in culture and politics than the women he dated during his many years of schooling, residency and medical practice in New York and Boston.

"I meet people here who don't read a newspaper daily," he said, residual astonishment lifting his voice a few notes. "They don't read magazines like Esquire, the Atlantic, Vanity Fair, Spy--they don't even know these things exist.

"You meet people in Orange County who don't know any restaurants in L.A.--they barely know about new restaurants opening in South Coast Plaza. They haven't read a book in years. They don't know about shows opening on Broadway.

"It's not that any of these things are intrinsically good, but when you add them all together you're talking about a life of the mind, which does not seem to be a value here.

"Here, people tend to feel that if they're in good shape, that's enough. But, I mean, so what? I'm in good shape. I play basketball four to six hours a week. I cover the physical side. But I don't want to co-opt the mental side just to work out. That's boring."

What Elliott misses--in a word--is "shtick. For the most part, the women I've dated here don't receive jokes or tell jokes. They don't have a satiric or sarcastic perspective on things. They can't laugh at . . . a political community that's homogenous, almost all white, one party.

"I miss being disagreed with. I like to be disagreed with. I like to go out with someone who says, 'Elliott, you're wrong. Here's why.' I like a good argument."

Which, he knows, he's more likely to get from someone his own age. That's fine with Elliott.

"I've found male values here to have strayed from the right path," he said. "On the East Coast, you find more 33-year-olds going out with 33-year-olds. You're going out with your equivalent. Here, there's more of a lure to go out with a younger person.

"I don't like to go out with younger women. I detest it. I'd like to go out with someone who's cultural interest extends beyond 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles' and an Eddie Murphy concert."

Over the years, Elliott's search for an "equivalent" has led him more frequently to Los Angeles.

"I have no intrinsic interest in driving the freeways," he said, "but I drive the freeways because we're all like little Skinner rats--we go where there's most reinforcement. And I've had the most reinforcement in Los Angeles.

"Look, I'm 33," Elliott said with a shrug. "I want to get married and start a family. I'm doing everything I can think of to find someone. I don't want to waste time."

Like Elliott, John is a doctor, lives in Newport Beach, has never married and dates career women.

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