Sun, 05 Nov 2000

What's the appeal of dating a foreigner?

JAKARTA (JP): Let's just use the word "foreigner" in discussing mixed marriages as some people get so upset with the use of bule (it can be either a blatant insult or a harmless naive term) The "f" word also carries more general meanings; it embraces all types of non-Indonesians -- Caucasians, Africans, Chinese and other races.

If you asked normal, well-educated, healthy state of mind people why they decided to have a foreigner as their spouse, they probably would give you an acceptable answer. But who needs other people's approval or acceptance anyway? What are the acceptable terms? That people marry their partners based on mutual love despite the difference of their skin color? It's sweet, true, absolutely the smart and the right answer -- though it sounds corny.

But isn't marriage all about give and take?

There are a lot of other unique, interesting backgrounds behind these international partnerships. As there are not a wide variety of single white females in this city, most cases encountered are local females with their nonindigenous partners.

It has also been a tendency that dating or marrying foreigners has become a trend for some young, relatively low-paid or unemployed native women. Curious to peek into what they think is the full of glittery life of expatriate society has driven them to act a little tacky sometimes. Most of the guys who fall for them are middle aged or over men who still end up winning anyway. The ladies get the new status and flashy gold Amex cards in their pockets, while the lucky gentlemen get spouses half their age. Good deal.

What is it with these people? Why has dating a foreigner becomes such a trendy thing to do? Is it money, sex, romance or status? Don't get pumped up and defensive -- it is a fact that sometimes love hasn't got anything to do with it.

Money is definitely also a reason.

"I am going to Blok M, Madam," Sitti, the servant of a friend, said when I asked her where she was off to. "I'm tired of being a penniless servant. I watched my master bringing home girls from that area before. And those girls are not prettier than I am. I want to find a white boyfriend too Ma'am. Maybe then I can live abroad and get out of poverty."

Is it sex? No. Believe me. From a trustworthy source, it is proven that international lovemaking is not always better than the local one.

Is it romance then? It is common knowledge that a lot of Indonesian males are not very fond of showing off their romantic side. It could be because of the high level of ego in their blood or the influence of the bapak-isme syndrome they inherited from their ancestors, but nobody knows for sure.

A lot of highly educated Indonesians, usually graduates of universities abroad, confessed that their reasons for getting involved romantically with their foreign partners were based on similarities in perceptions of life. Being open-minded and having the willingness to accept women's equal rights in the relationship are just a few of the intellectual explanations.

For whatever reasons, cross-cultural and interracial marriages are mushrooming in this city. It doesn't really matter how it starts, why or what background certain people have in choosing their life partners -- as long as it happens for good.

A friend of mine, Jenny, only dates male expatriates.

"It's an individual taste. Black hair, dark eyes and colored skin just don't turn me on." There you go. She thinks it's all about appearance. But like a wise man said, beauty is only skin deep. When the once pale, taut surface goes wrinkled, the wavy sun-kissed blond hair falls out (what a nightmare) and the once gorgeous He-man lookalike guy starts uncontrollable drooling and wearing diapers, what's left behind? His personality -- something that could be covered by any skin color; white, brown, yellow or black.

-- Aida Greenbury