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'No Left Turn' Signs Can Snarl Road to Love

March 24, 1989|SUSAN CHRISTIAN | Susan Christian is a regular contributor to Orange County Life.

Conservatives, beware. The following story may raise your hackles.

It hands people of the opposite persuasion free rein to spout their L-word rantings. But have a little sympathy for that downtrodden minority of Orange County. After all, they're outnumbered 3 to 1, according to a recent Times Poll. And how often do they get a chance to make their voices heard?

Single Life recently posed the question, "How does a liberal find love in one of the most conservative areas of the country?" And did we get letters--from every unmarried liberal within a 15-mile radius of Disneyland. All 12 of them.

"Since my wife's death halved the number of Democrats in our district, it's been even lonelier politically," wrote Larry, a 55-year-old Santa Ana psychologist who requested anonymity.

"After 5 years in Orange County, I'm convinced that the closest approximation to passion a liberal can expect to find is heated arguments," said Johnnie Marr, 32, of Seal Beach. "I once considered myself fairly moderate politically, but in this land of consumers and conformists, I find my beliefs assailed as radical, unpatriotic or plain dangerous."

"The worst thing I can do is mention that I live near Little Saigon," said Westminster resident David Anderson, 25. "This always elicits the 'terrible driver' comments. Responses like those are good because they let me know from the start that I am dealing with someone I would not like to get involved with."

"Help! Help! Help!" pleaded Patricia Sarka, an education writer. "Put me in touch with others who are concerned about the health-care problems of the poor, who care about saving the environment, who believe that the Holocaust occurred."

"I have lived in this area for 14 years, and I have yet to meet a married or single inhabitant who does not believe that Reagan was a gift from God, that prayer must be an integrated part of the school curriculum, that recreational machine guns are our birthright," added the 41-year-old divorced mother of two, who referred to her neighbors as "Huntington Birchers."

Any right-wing feathers ruffled yet? Well, don't say you weren't warned. And things will get worse before they get better.

For instance, Larry said he joined Mensa--an organization for people with high IQs--"under the false assumption that smart people would be liberal." But he found that the county chapter's membership was, in his L-word view, "as right-wing as everyone else here."

Not surprisingly, such negative feelings toward the majority are not conducive to dating life for these liberal-minded singles.

Richard Hamel, 28, who has made a full-time job out of his political activism, said county women just don't understand him. "They can't figure out why someone would work 14 hours a day at something that doesn't bring in much money," said Hamel, executive director of PAX, a Santa Ana graphics company that prints newsletters for nonprofit organizations.

"They can only understand working long hours if you're an attorney or in some other high-paying profession. Social work isn't financially rewarding, but it is spiritually rewarding."

While charitably allowing that he "wouldn't rule out" dating a Republican, Hamel said:

"It's a red flag if a woman says she voted for Reagan. Before I became politically aware, I would have said that I could date a conservative if I was attracted to her intellect or creativity, but today I don't think it could work. It would be total chaos. I'd drive her crazy."

Anderson, who works in Irvine's Community Service Department, likewise complained that many people he meets can't relate to his affinity for social work. "A lot of women here are looking for that piece of cake, that sugar daddy who's going to provide them the beachfront house and the BMW," he said.

He said he suffered one of his worst dating experiences when, in the middle of dinner with a woman he thought "fun and adventuresome," his romantic interest expressed disapproval of the interracial couple sitting at a nearby table.

"She said, 'I'm not racist, but I could never bring a black home,' " Anderson recalled. "I sat there with my mouth open. Racism just makes me sick. Obviously, I never asked her out again."

Marr, a corporate librarian, offered a similar tale of shock. "Recently I went on a hike with a guy I met in the Sierra Club," she said. "You'd think the Sierra Club would attract liberal types.

"We were having a nice time. Then this guy matter-of-factly told me that he had just bought an automatic weapon because he was afraid they were going to be outlawed. He said, 'I'll never use it, but I don't like the government telling me what I can and cannot own.' I suggested that he take that philosophy to its absurd extreme and buy vials of crack--for the sole reason that the government says it's illegal."

Marr didn't exactly tell her companion to take a hike; still, their tandem trekking days are over.

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