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Looking (only) for someone different

January 10, 2008|Lena Katz | Special to The Times

Remember the old days, when marriages were arranged and you were pretty much duty-bound to shack up with your neighbor from down the street whom you'd been going to church/synagogue/school/mosque with since you were in grade school?

What a simple, beautiful system. I think we should consider bringing it back.

I mean, I'm all for mixed-ethnicity, biracial, international-melting-pot relationships. They're politically correct and convenient if you live in a modern city or do a lot of international travel. Also, on a forward-thinking superficial tip, I think they tend to produce better-looking babies. But since when did they become de rigueur? What is so difficult about dating someone from your own religious or racial background?

No, really. Why is it so difficult? I'd sincerely like to know, since it's been a stumbling block on my path to marital bliss ever since, um, my bat mitzvah. I'm Jewish (big surprise, right?), but I cannot stand the men of the Tribe. They bug the hell out of me -- and the feeling's totally mutual.

But one girl's "annoying" is another girl's brass ring -- or, more accurately, Tiffany solitaire -- as I have learned by studying my girlfriends in action. One of them has been on-and-off dating two different Persian Jews for more than two years. Neither has taken her home to his parents, one dumps her every time he feels that she's getting "too dependent," and the other blatantly just wants her for sporadic sex.

She tried dating a Latino guy for about a month, but soon stopped returning his phone calls.

"Why? Because he was a gentleman? Because he really liked you? Because he was fine?" I asked.

"Because he bored me," she said.

Recently, she's taken up with a much younger Midwestern guy. They hang out in the Indiana cornfields and hunt deer and blow up old cars.

The other weekend I went out on the town with a crew of South Bay girls -- and it turned out to be the most insane wild goose chase of my life. We hit five venues in four hours, and no one was ever happy, and by the end I was grumpy and sober and had lost all circulation in my toes.

Here was the crux of our problem:

Wendy is Latino, likes Middle Eastern and white guys.

Theresa is Latino, likes black guys.

Marae is Lebanese, likes white guys.

Sarai is Persian, likes Latino guys.

Dara is half-black, half-Jewish, likes Persians and Italians.

Across the board, none of these girls will date -- or get within 200 feet of -- anyone who comes from the same ethnic background as them.

So we went from a house party full of surfers to a cheesy hip-hop club to a salsa club to a techno after-party, eventually winding up at the home of some random dudes who fit no qualifications except that they happened to be in the right place (outside the club) at the right time (closing).

This, to me, seems like a difficult and tiresome way of chasing Cupid, and while I know that arranged marriages are out of the question, I wonder if we should perhaps tone down the "opposites attract" mania. It brings to mind a conversation I had years ago with my sister's ex.

"I love European women. They're so . . . interesting and exotic and sophisticated," he said.

"Actually, women everywhere are pretty much the same," I told him. "The only difference is you can't understand what the Europeans are saying."

I'm so wise.

And on that note, I'm off to fantasize about the Brazilian boys from my gym. I know nothing about them, but something about their accents and the way they do their jujitsu stretches inspires thoughts of . . . love.


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