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20 Years of Love & Sex
20-Year Timeline: From the beginning of AIDS awareness to outed cartoon sponges.
Love Is a Drug: Once the realm of poets, artists and philosophers, love has been exposed as biochemistry.
When Porn Wore Sideburns: In San Jose's golden age of smut, real fans converged in the dark at theaters like the Burbank, the New Paris and the Pussycat.
Gay Nineties: Twenty years of queers in the South Bay.
The Joy of Mix: Want a real window into the soul? Don't look into the eyes—look at the CD collection.
Victims Gone Wild: How feminism has messed up relationships.
Borderless Dating: In the valley, young couples aren't afraid of diversity.
Twenty Years of Tom Cruise: What were we thinking?


Borderless Dating

In the valley, young couples aren't afraid of diversity

By Najeeb Hasan

IN THE Silicon Valley, cross-cultural relationships are so yesterday. Unlike the Midwest, as well as other parts of the country, where the dining halls at college campuses are marked by their voluntary segregation—blacks on one side, whites on the other—the valley, through its inherent diversity, is no stranger in trespassing over racial boundaries (economic boundaries, however, are an entirely different story).

And who better to speak with about cross-cultural trends than San Jose's own J.A. English-Lueck? English-Lueck, the chair of San Jose State University's anthropology department, has been studying family patterns in Silicon Valley for the past several years and in 2002 published [email protected], a book based on a decade of research in the Silicon Valley petri dish of human interaction.

While dating was not the sole aim of English-Lueck's research, her work did allow her to speak with some confidence about her thoughts on the matter. "We did not study dating; we studied life," she warns.

"[One of the] things that we saw as issues," English-Lueck begins, "was that if you were dating interculturally, there was a lot of invisible culture that would get in the way. For example, time: One person would say, I like to be on time; I have a busy Silicon Valley schedule. The other would be fine if they could be there within two hours [of the agreed time]."

But perhaps the more interesting issues English-Lueck turned up during her research was the tension between immigrant parents, who preferred their children not experiment outside their ethnic group, and the second-generation children, who, naturally, saw no problem in dating across cultural lines and defined themselves panregionally, i.e., pan-Asian as opposed to Chinese.

"There was a lot of wool pulled over the parents' eyes," English-Lueck says. "I saw this especially when I was shadowing teenagers. The kids all knew what was going on, but that was absolutely not to be shared with the parents."

The result was the immigrants' version of the cultural wars. However, English-Lueck's analysis doesn't allow for any overly simplistic conclusions. The parents, English-Lueck explains, had some legitimate concerns. "Part of it is that they just wanted what would be best for their children, which meant having good, stable relationships," she says. "They weren't thinking about teenagers—particularly for the Chinese and the Filipinos. Teenagers just weren't a category. You have children, then you have adults. So the parents are thinking what would be best for you when you are 25."

Meanwhile, especially in patrilineal cultures, it was the girls who often got the brunt of parental oversight. A quick walk across a college campus, or through downtown Palo Alto or San Jose, however, reveals that the parents don't seem to be winning the battle. Couples from different backgrounds are at least as prevalent as couples from the same backgrounds. But, what does this mean? Is Silicon Valley heading for some sort of monolithic uniculture? Are cultural distinctions going the way of outdated operating systems?

"I don't see cultural differences disappearing," English-Lueck responds. "One of the fascinating things I noticed about intercultural couples was how the played with each other's cultures. They would eat their food; they would kind of take on the culture. When you date someone, you take on aspects of their culture. There's this sort of wonderful California-ization of different cultures. It isn't as if these differences disappear. I'm not sure homogeneity is the end goal here. They are just [making] different cultures than their grandparents would have recognized."

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From the February 9-15, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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