November 03, 2014
Can I be a Bule Hunter Too? Confession of a Hopeless Romantic Guy

This guy used to be exclusively attracted to western girls, but once he moved to Australia, his orientation turned eastward. Now back in Indonesia, he wonders whether he has missed the bus.

by Mario Rustan
Issues
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All these talks about hunting bule for me feel like watching a tennis or badminton match. The book Bule Hunter has sparked debates online, as has the gruesome murder of transgender Mayang Prasetyo in Australia.

We have men expressing sympathies for Indonesian women who prefer to date white men, and we have women criticizing them.  And then there were those idiots who say that Mayang’s murder is a cautionary tale for Indonesian women ­– as well as transgender people ­– who date westerners.

The curious thing is in modern Asia, discussions about mixed race coupling tend to be about Caucasian man and an Asian woman. Yes, it is the most common (and more accepted) mixed race pairing in this part of the world, but even in Indonesia the reverse has long existed.

Celebrities like Luna Maya and the Chandrawinata siblings have Indonesian fathers and European mothers. Some of my neighbors are European elderly ladies who use their Javanese husbands’ names. Teto, the male protagonist of YB Mangunwijaya’s Burung-Burung Manyar, has a Javanese father and a Eurasian mother (Teto believes his beautiful mother cannot be a pure Dutch woman). The late priest himself had praised the Valkyrian feature of German women he saw during his studies.

In high school, for unknown reasons, I felt no attraction for fellow Chinese Indonesians. I had an online relationship (yes, such thing happened) with a Jewish-American girl and was platonically close to a half-Dutch classmate. When I departed for my studies in Australia, I was eager to have an Aussie girlfriend. It wasn’t Australian beauties like Nicole Kidman or Kylie Minogue I had in mind, however. Rather my type was non-Aussie Hollywood stars like Natalie Portman (American) or Anna Paquin (Canadian/New Zealander).



In Diploma program I was surrounded by white Australians, but something happened. I read a Time feature on Japanese pop starlet Utada Hikaru, and all of the sudden my orientation turned eastward. Maybe because it was more common to see Asian girls as stylish and pretty as Utada on the streets of Melbourne than it was to meet Australian girls who look like Natalie Portman.   

On the other hand, I fell out with my male classmates , and a group of Australian girls stood up for me (I know). They were suburban Anglo-Irish girls who welcomed a strongly-accented Indonesian guy to lunch with them as long he did not say something stupid (Think of Raj and the three girls of Big Bang Theory). The highlight was when I went to a department store with a tall redhead and a woman said to her “We have the same taste of boys.”

University was weirder. I was practically the only Asian around and the majority of my classmates were girls. Again I met an assortment of interesting girls. A half-Indian socialist and her conservative best friend. A gay couple. And a Croatian karateka. They had rivalries and issues with the prettier girls, like the Mexican who was rumored to be sleeping with everyone (except me), the Britney Spears lookalike, and the brunette who said mean things about Asian cultures on day one. I wonder why there’s no character like me in Gossip Girl or Pretty Little Liars (who is not gay).

I, of course, had my eye for the Japanese girls who lunched with me during the orientation, the Chinese-Indonesian students I knew in the city, and my Singaporean neighbors. But if talking about politics was impossible with them, try talking about feminism. In contrast, my posse of interesting young women took me to some Women Studies lectures in my spare time.

I ended up leaving Australia without ever having an Australian girlfriend, unlike a friend who stayed there and is now married to an Aussie. The fact that he’s the artist type might help (“If you want a white girl, you have to be crazy first,” he told me). I thought I was crazy enough, but apparently not. Anyway, I’m not sure being crazy is the right trait to find a partner in Indonesia.

So if I were really serious about dating a western woman, I might’ve missed the bus. Because in Bandung, West Java, where I live, meeting and dating a Western woman was practically impossible. And I stuck with the Chinese-Indonesian option, anyway, just like my bros do ­– even the Javanese bros.

That is until “The Mother” arrived­ – you know, the one whose identity we all waited for nine seasons of How I Met Your Mother to find out. I identify with the dark-haired heroes of American sitcoms – Ross Geller, Alan Harper, and Ted Mosby, the hopeless romantic type who wait for The Mother to appear.

And speaking of whom, when Cristin Milioti went full force HIMYM’s finale, I was pulled back to my Melbourne day. Here is a woman I could’ve met in Melbourne, had I not been affixed to Chinatown and PlayStation 2. Here is a woman who’s proud of her eccentricity, like my favorite singers in high school – Alanis Morissette and Bjork. When the series ended in a less than ideal fashion, I felt broken, but was also astonished – why has no Korean drama inspired and made me feel alive like this?

Like I said, while it might be easy to find and get to know a woman like The Mother in Australia, the odds are much lower in Bandung or Jakarta. The best chance would be to work in an English language school (disclosure: I tried).

So ladies who are dating white men you met in Jakarta, congrats!  I don’t know why the Jakartan yuppies aren’t doing the same, dating Western women. Personally, I believe I could date a Western woman outside of Indonesia, but fate can be a manic thing. What I can do now is to have myself made (it took Ted about eight years), while keeping my option open for women of any ethnicity, a privilege that seems to be enjoyed more by Western men than by their Asian counterparts. And I’ll leave the outcome to chance.

About Mario Rustan
Mario has no trouble speaking to women but he’s a terrible date – that’s how he could extend two lunches into coffees and dinners. He tried to get into the Pick Up Artist subculture but quit as soon he realized it’s about one-night stands instead of serious relationship. He hates nightclubs anyway.