Wednesday, May 27, 2009

On the great Ukrainian bride hunt part 5

By Kristoffer A. Garin

If Dan the Man had hammered one point home during his talk, it had been to not get attached to any one woman before having gone to all three socials—and, above all, to not allow ourselves to be talked out of attending the full slate of events. We owed it to ourselves, he told us. Until we met a few dozen of these women, how could we responsibly make a choice? If there was someone we really liked, he suggested that we think of the socials as a barometer: “If you go through three socials and she's still the one you're crazy about, then that really tells you something. On the other hand, if you're not still crazy about her, then that tells you something, too.” He warned us that he had seen it many times: men whose confidence had been so trampled upon by American women that they could no longer comprehend that they were worthy of stunning, intelligent, and much younger women. As if that were not enough, skipping the events would also be taken by Ukranian women as a sign of weakness. “They really like a guy that's a guy here,” Dan had assured us. “If they talk you out of a social, they won't respect you.” What we needed to do was to focus, to be disciplined. The really enterprising men would be going on six dates a day.

When Dan the Man swung by our table later that evening, my companion was apologetic as he inquired about arranging a taxi for his early-morning pickup: “I know I've done the opposite of what you said, but I can't stand her up.”

Our leader sighed. “This is a long way to come for a blind date,” he said, his tone hectoring. “I can't tell you how many times I've seen this before.” After he drifted away, I bought us both another round.33. The farmer never did come to any of the socials; he picked up his girl at the train station as planned, they spent the week together, and within a few days they were engaged.

Later that night, after a few hours of note-taking in my room, I made one last pass through the bar and found another of our group, a Midwestener whose construction company built guard booths for the Army. Even though it was well past midnight on what had been a grueling day of travel, the tie under his sweater retained its crisp knot and his gray hair was immaculately parted.

“Looks like there are a few professional women out in the lobby,” he said at almost the moment I sat down to join him. “Do you know how much they are? Do you think $100 would do it?” When I suggested he simply go outside and ask, he walked off into the lobby to do just that—leaving me alone in mid-sentence—only to return moments later. “The pretty one got in the elevator,” he muttered. “The others were a little chunky. So you don't know how much for one of them, huh?”

He told me with a clinical chill in his voice about the time he had gone to Mexico on business and seen “The Donkey Show,” in which a female performer fellates and then copulates with a donkey. “I didn't know a woman could take a donkey,” he said. “But she did. She took it.” He informed me that in Mexico the hookers had cost $40. When I asked him if he was really here in Ukraine looking for a wife, he just shrugged. 44. The next day, on a guided walking tour of downtown Kiev, I approached him and asked whether he had gotten an answer to his question. In that same toneless voice he informed me that he had eventually hired one of the hotel prostitutes for $130 an hour and before I could stop him told me in graphic detail about what they'd done and, worse, what she would not do. Then a stray dog trotted past. “Oh!” he exclaimed, turning away from me suddenly and bending to hold out his hand with a radiant, ear-to-ear smile. “Look at the little puppy! Yee-ess! Who's a cute little puppy?”

At the first social the next evening, most of the men were already there when I arrived; wearing name tags, they clustered around the bar, as the women—200 of them or more—massed in a long line at the door. Marriage agency enforces a strict policy prohibiting local women from attending more than one social during any single tour, and so each woman's registration must be checked before she is allowed in. Violators risk an out-and-out ban from future events.