Welcome to the second edition of the Mind/Body Problem.
Make that, the Plight of the Transplanted Easterner.
Or maybe, Elliott's Complaint.
Last week, Single Life interviewed a 33-year-old radiologist named Elliott who had written in response to a column about local fast-tracking women. A native New Yorker, educated at Cornell, New York University and Harvard hospitals, Elliott moved to Newport Beach four-plus years ago and, by his own estimate, has dated upwards of 100 women since he got here.
Elliott wasn't shy with his opinions of the county singles scene. Although he joined a host of cultural and professional groups when he arrived--hoping to meet and mingle with peers--he said he was disappointed to find locals generally less educated and less interested in cultural and political events than his professional equivalents in New York and Boston.
He laughed about women he had dated here who thought radiologist was a synonym for deejay ("Are you on AM or FM?"). He described, with astonishment, his discovery that many of his colleagues and acquaintances don't read a newspaper daily; don't read magazines such as Esquire, the Atlantic or Vanity Fair; don't know about shows opening on Broadway; don't read books.
"It's not that any of these things are intrinsically good," he said, "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," said Elliott, "people tend to feel that if they're in good shape, that's enough."
Elliott's comments hit a nerve. Letters and phone calls from local women started coming in to Single Life over the weekend and hadn't slowed by deadline Wednesday. Here are excerpts from letters and interviews with three local women who empathize with Elliott's complaints and one who begs to differ.
From "An Astonished Anonymous Newport Beach Housewife":
I was astonished to read that you exist. I mean, a professional man who has interests beyond just watching TV at night, a man who likes to read, see the latest in theater, talk about interesting things. A well-balanced man. Perhaps the women here have just been conditioned to expect that there aren't any of you out there, that we must just settle for what appears to be the best we can do: men who work hard and make a good living but who want a woman around as a maid, as someone who won't bother (him) when he gets home so he can watch TV, especially sports.
I settled for a nice boring man, but I would love to have found someone who loved to expand his cultural horizons . . . who would think of me as an interesting person, not someone to just be around to keep quiet.
Elliott, keep on looking. There are so many single women who really do see the shallowness of excessive emphasis on clothes/makeup/general appearances. There really are some very attractive women who want more than surface accomplishments. . . . There are so many women who would love to have such a rewarding person in their lives as you.
I looked for 30 years and just decided that men like you weren't around. Now I find out that you are. I know there are unmarried women who would love to grow with you. Good luck!
From Julie, a 36-year-old lawyer from Irvine:
I really enjoyed reading (last week's column), which discusses the difficulties you are encountering in Orange County in . . . your search to find people who desire to cultivate their minds. I share your sentiments exactly with regard to the men I meet.
I grew up and attended school (and practiced law for five years) in Philadelphia until I moved to Orange County in 1981. Since my divorce last year, I haven't really gone looking for people to date. I love living and working in Orange County, but it has been extremely difficult to meet men and women here who meet the level of expectation developed as a result of living, working and attending school back East.
I always say that I am probably the only person in Orange County who has a daily and Sunday subscription to the New York Times!
(In an interview, Julie said her social life revolved around friends and the small dinner parties (featuring gourmet food she spends 10 to 12 hours preparing) she has several times a month.)
Of the local singles scene, Julie said:
I really don't go looking for people to date. Once in a while, I go to Jewish singles events, because I feel I would prefer to date Jewish men. But I can categorize the men I meet (at those events) in two ways.
Like Elliott, I like to think of myself as intelligent, and I look for someone who's intelligent, too. I have found some quite intelligent men at these functions, but there is clearly something socially aberrant about them. They're intelligent, but maladapted. The ones I meet who are cool are not up to my standards intellectually. Those seem to be the two categories of single guys I meet.
I just love living in Orange County (Julie echoed Elliott's praise for the physical environs). I keep saying that I don't want to go to L.A. because it's clean, quiet and beautiful down here. But I know what Elliott's going through as far as finding someone interesting and I sympathize.
From Betsy, a 33-year-old Westminster resident attending graduate school in art education at Cal State Long Beach:
Dear Single Life,
My reactions to Elliott's comments were that of empathy and laughing out loud with pleasure! I immediately phoned friends and family to read comments from Elliott that my friends and family would recognize as (similar to) my own. The singles scene for women in Orange County . . . is just as sad and humorous as what Elliott (described for men).
I, too, am a product of the East Coast. The East Coast is far more than 3,000 miles from Southern California. It's light years away in terms of mentality. Easterners speak of theater and do not mean cinema. Conversation in Southern California is avoidance of taboos (religion, sex, politics). There seems to be one standard, acceptable question here: "What do you do for a living?" It's not who you are out here, it's just what you do and how much money you make.
Like Elliott, I am aware of this lack of reading . . . in California. It's been years since I walked into the home of a new acquaintance and looked at books within that home to determine the interests of those that lived there.
Elliott . . . My condolences to us both.
"When I read (Elliott's comments)," said Lucy, on the phone, "I thought, this is extremely offensive to women. How could an educated man make such broad statements about women in Orange County? It was unbelievable to me that he has stereotyped us and written us all off . . . as helium-heads who are only interested in our bodies and our cars."
Lucy--29, a native of Long Beach, graduate of Cal State Fullerton, county resident for two years--owns a mortgage credit reporting company with offices in Irvine and Riverside. She called Monday morning to "just say something about this guy who must be an absolute jerk."
No less astonished by Elliott than the Newport Beach housewife quoted previously, Lucy came to quite different conclusions.
"Sure, I've found some men in Orange County just as he claims women to be, but I'm not going to write off all county men and say all they're concerned about is their Rolexes and their Porsches and their Giorgio Armani suits." Lucy laughed. "Or that they make love looking in the mirror.
"When you prejudge people like that," she continued, "you're really just shorting yourself. There are plenty of quality women here who are intelligent, attractive, witty and have a broad spectrum of interests."
As for Elliott's estimate that he had dated 100 women in the past 4 1/2 years, Lucy was not impressed.
"If he's going out with that many women," she said, "you have to figure he probably goes on looks, and therefore dates superficial people. It takes a while to get to know people. You can't go out with every person you meet. If he were a little more pre-selective--if he had a good conversation with a woman before he asked her out--he wouldn't have been disappointed so many times."
Lucy said she wanted to ask Elliott where he met the county women he described, anyway.
"Carl's Jr.?" she asked. "The local pool hall? Disneyland?"
And to his comment, "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,' " Lucy responded crisply:
"Elliott, were you hoping that your date thought you were King Arthur, and did you find out Guinevere doesn't live in Orange County?"
One Woman and a Baby
Attention all childless women heading for 40: Do you feel maternity calling? Have you considered going it alone--with a little help from the neighborhood sperm bank or an understanding friend? Are children on your wish list?
Yours--for Just $169,000!
That's the median price of a home in Orange County. As a single, how could you--or how did you--ever afford to buy your own home? Are you an apartment dweller by choice, or necessity?
According to year-end reports by local narcotics agencies, more than twice the amount of cocaine was seized in Orange County in 1987 than the year before. Southern California is the new trade route of choice for Colombian cocaine, the experts say. Have you noticed little vials of cocaine making a comeback at social gatherings? Are drugs coming back into style?