I have never been interested in blonds," said Ted. "Never! I mean, I've
tried it, sort of the way gay guys have gone out with women, just to see
what it felt like. But it didn't work."
Ted and I were sitting outside on unsteady green plastic chairs at
a brew pub in North Beach. It was a freezing spring evening and gusts of fog were whipping up Columbus Street. He was here to talk about his penchant for Asian women -- a proclivity I'd started to notice in college among the frat boys, and as far as I could tell had pretty much evolved into an
obsession for certain white guys.
I had two feelings about this. One was complete revulsion. The other was relief, since the kind of men who went for Asian women were not men I
wanted to have anything to do with, so good riddance if they recused
themselves from my dating pool.
Political correctness and dating have never mixed, but that doesn't keep people from trying to maintain appearances to the contrary. So far, I hadn't found a single man who would go on record for having an Asian fixation. Ted was different. Our mutual friend Carol had told me to expect honesty, and I, in turn, was prepared to be confrontational with a guy I assumed would be an overfed, overgrown Delta Phi reject.
But even before I met Ted, Carol had revealed a few things that had thrown me. Despite being a bona fide yuppie, with an annual six-figure income from his job as a financial consultant, Ted did not own a TV or a car. For entertainment, he shunned the opera and blockbuster movies,
preferring instead fringe performance art and experimental dance, which he attended every weekend. He was attracted to this alternative culture, Carol said, because he felt it was so far removed from his own life and experience
growing up in Montana -- he couldn't believe people did those things onstage,
like strip, scream, sing, whatever. Afterward, if he was confused, he
would approach the performers and politely but insistently ask them what
the point of their show was.
Over a pitcher of pale ale, I tried to size him up. He was about my
height, with nicely pressed, Gap-type clothes and expensive wire-rim
spectacles. Occasionally, during our conversation, he would pull out a
Chap-Stick and rub it thoughtfully over his lower lip. He looked not so
much like Frat Boy Extraordinaire but like Bill Gates. And he seemed to find it
not in the least bit odd to chat with a strange woman about his sex life.
Taking my cue from him, I said, "I, um, find this refreshing that you
would talk to me openly." I took a sip of my beer and tried to appear
"Sure," Ted said pleasantly. With no further preamble, he began.
"I'm kind of a soft guy. I really find American women overly aggressive, and I've had some bad experiences."
"Oh?" I wasn't sure I wanted to hear this. Had he been raped?
"I went on two dates with a Western woman recently. On the second
date she wanted to have sex. I mean, I think that's just too fast, but she was
pretty insistent. I went along with it, and it wasn't good at all. I
couldn't maintain an erection." He frowned at a group of drunken Scottish
tourists shouting at the adjacent plastic table, blowing cigarette
smoke in our direction.
"Really." I wrote that down, and then stopped. "Was she disappointed?"
"She had a good time, I mean several good times, if you know what I
mean. She did ask if everything was OK. I just told her I wasn't really into it that night."
"Why did you have sex with her if you didn't want to?" I tried to
control my irritation, which despite Ted's affability, I knew was going to hit me at some point during this exchange. I envisioned a blond naked woman,
stretched out alongside Ted -- a woman who had probably taken his softie a
lot more personally than she'd let on, and hadn't had "several good times,"
or at least as many as Ted seemed to think.
"Well, I am a man," Ted said mildly. "It was being offered."
I sighed. "Many white women find this very insulting," I said. I
suddenly remembered the black woman who confronted my blond friend Lisa and her
black boyfriend on the streets of Berkeley. And then an army of short men popped in my head." It seems a direct rejection of what American women are, or what they stand for or what they want to be -- strong, independent, assertive, equal. We assume that guys who date Asians are looking for a little docile maid."
"Really?" Ted seemed genuinely surprised. "Well, that's not the
case with me. If anything, it's me who's doing the serving. And they make all the decisions, like where to eat and what to do.
"There's two types of Asian women," he continued. "Those that were born
here, of immigrant parents, and those that were born over there. The ones
recently immigrated will date either Western or Asian men, but the
American-born tend to find Asian men too soft and effeminate. They want a
stronger kind of man, so I think I'm sort of a compromise." He leaned over
to the drunk tourist group. "Could you not blow your smoke over here? Thank
I rearranged my notes. I wasn't sure where to begin. "What kind of Asians are we talking about?"
"Chinese," he said firmly. "Koreans are thought to be the most
beautiful, but I think they wear too much makeup. I remember when I was an adolescent boy, watching ABC's 'Wide World of Sports.' And those cute little Chinese gymnasts, with their small breasts. I remember being so excited by them. I don't like large breasts -- they're so sloppy or something."
I wrote that down. He added, "You know, I can't speak for every
guy, but for me it's a real personal interest in Asian culture as a whole --"
"Is that right?" I looked at him levelly.
"Uh-huh. I've spent a lot of time there, and I like the simplicity of their life, the family values -- because I don't have that in my own life. My parents are together and all that, but we're not close. And I like the idea of having someone who's not like me, who's not another professional who works all the time, being a part of my life."
"So you want a bossy housewife. And the servitude clichi -- that's all a clichi?"
"I don't know where that came from," Ted said. "The American-born
Asians, that plain doesn't exist with them. You serve them." He laughed.
"What about the exoticism?"
"Sure," he said. "There is something more exotic about Asian women. The physical is part of my attraction, the sexual is part of it, too."
"Go on." A homeless man approached us suddenly with an outstretched
Ted smiled at him. "Could you not bother us? We're having a
conversation. Thank you." The man shuffled away. "OK, let's see, the sexual
part. Asian women: They don't have any sexual hang-ups. They'll do
anything, and I think it's because their culture wasn't based in
Christianity, with all the guilt and repercussions. They tend to be more
experienced sexually and anticipate what you want."
"That sounds kind of servile to me," I said, as Ted filled my glass. I
"Well, it's not really. I think that's the biggest misconception.
On a day-to-day basis, I give in to whatever my girlfriend wants."
"Getting back to the sex thing," I said, wrapping my sweater around me
tighter, "how about I just throw out some more misconceptions? How about
"Absolutely. I hate body hair. Hairy cooter, big soft-on."
I wrote that down. "Better stay away from French women," I said. "OK.
He pondered. "They have beautiful, smooth skin. They age way, way
better than Western women. And of course the problem with large breasts, which
Western women tend to have, is that they never stay firm."
I scribbled that down, too. "Someday, Ted, you too will not be firm."
"I know. My center of gravity is already shifting. Oh, well."
I hesitated. "How about the rumor that Asian women are, well, tighter?
Because they're smaller?"
"No," he said, and emptied his glass. "And I lament over that, I
I read over my notes. Despite myself, and all my preconceived
notions of Ted, I had to admit I really admired him. He was completely, thoroughly and unapologetically honest, without meanness or guile. How many men would truly admit what they wanted from a woman, physically or otherwise? And he had a surprising gentleness that confounded me. I thought about him at the
performance-art shows, patiently but doggedly grilling the actors on their
"I just have to say one thing," I said, still looking at my scribbles.
"'Likes no hair. Small breasts. Tiny stature. Smooth skin. Ages
well.' Doesn't that sound like a description of, well, a 10-year-old?" I
hesitated, choosing my words carefully. "Do you think something in your
sexual psyche is connected to pedophilia?"
"Maybe," Ted said cheerfully. "I've never thought about it, but I
suppose it does sound like that." He seemed as unconcerned as if I'd just remarked on his taste in shoes. "Would you care for another beer? I'll be right
back." He made his way to the bar, and the formerly aggressive tourists
politely moved to one side, letting him pass.