Too close for comfort

Jul 31, 2002 at 12:00 am
There are a lot of things that China and I do not have in common. I have never been visited by a U.S. President, did not acquire Hong Kong recently and none of my walls are that great, nor can they be seen from space. I do have some things in common with that country, though. I, like China, have impressive topography. And I prefer men. With me it's a sexual preference, but with the rural Chinese, it's a harsh economic and cultural quandary: Boys provide economic viability for Chinese farming families because boys can work the land and girls can't.

But there is a point where boy crazy stops and crazy crazy takes its place. According to a story in the Aug. 1 Newsweek, boys are so much more valued in rural China that sometimes female fetuses are aborted. Or sometimes the parents of baby girls "neglect them to death" or maybe even kill them outright. The results: In some rural areas, 80 percent of children ages 5 to 10 are boys. The World Health Organization estimates that China's boy-girl-boy-girl ratio is off by 50 million females. From the air the place probably looks like the world's biggest gay bar.

Strange nature

Before you go picturing an episode of "Bachelorettes in Nanliang," stop. The story takes a stranger turn from there, one that shows that you cannot go screwing around with the balance of things for too long before you get a whopping bitch slap from nature. Because of the girl shortage rural China has incurred, "the most desperate bachelors have taken to marrying relatives," in some cases first cousins or even siblings. In these rural areas "the practice has become so common, the communities are referred to as "incest villages."

Incest Villages sounds like just about the worst apartment complex you could find yourself stuck in: "If you lived here you'd be home now. And you'd have flippers." But it's no joke: The story details a severely retarded girl born to siblings, and twins, born to first cousins, who are deaf. We've all heard some variation on the theme — even "That '70s Show" had a plot about a character being stunned at how gorgeous a cousin had become with age — but we all also know that unless you want a child that looks like something Tim Burton made in a studio, you don't double-dip into your own gene pool.

Could be worse

The news of distress in this area could make single people think about dating in a whole new way: gratefully. While a lot of us bitch about how the choices out there are so shitty, we can now realize that we aren't limited to family, which suddenly makes our choices look fabulous. Compared to the "Sex and the City" girls our dating lives might seem a little diluted, but compared to some unfortunate soul in rural China, any of us could be Sex and the City girls. Your outlook, after all, is all about what you're comparing yourself to. You might not be with Mr. Big, but at least your not with your big brother.

Funnily enough, too, the thought of a place where women are on their way to being as rare as albinos, it's a reasonable guess that you won't see a lot of women wandering over to the farms of China in their little black dress to check out the singles scene. In some cases, i.e. "Bachelorettes in Alaska," some of us would at least think about filling a napkin with our worldly possessions, tying it to the end of a stick, leaving a note that said, "I never really liked you," and trying our luck shooting fish in a barrel. But if your whole purpose for going to a new place is indirectly because that once there, women aren't good for much, you're angling for trouble, especially if you're packing a coochie.

This said, just think about all the dating hassles you could do away with if your only option in life was to hook up with a cousin or a sibling. You'd never have to wonder what their crappy childhood did to them because you were probably responsible for a good part of it. It would simplify any "Dating Game" questions: Bachelorette No. 1: What should we get Aunt Jane for her birthday?

Of course, the skin-crawling feeling you're supposed to get from this, plus the specter of two-headed offspring, are just nature's ways of saying "Yikes!" So the next time you wonder why you can't find anyone, be glad you're not having to look for them at a family reunion. And when you're jealous that someone else is living what you think is a romantic dream, remind yourself that somewhere in the world, where the boy-girl ratio is 5 to 1 (at least potentially) there is still a girl who is ending up going to prom, so to speak, with a cousin. How's your love life now?

Liz Langley writes for Orlando Weekly. E-mail comments to [email protected]