I want to tell you the story of one man in Russia. It is a story that could not be told until his death. For those of you looking for my usual humor, you might want to skip this post. This is a tragedy told here only for what it shows about Russian brides, and dating services and the rules of finding a bride and I don’t think that there is laugh in sight.
Leo was a science fiction author who was a good, but only marginally successful author. He made 35 to 45 thousand a year writing fiction for a following of adolescent engineers who kept their adolescence well into their forties.
He was brilliant about most things. When he got an idea for a type two perpetual motion machine, he learned three years of college chemistry in just over four months to build the gadget, which worked but turned out to be worthless.
Brilliant as he was in science, math, history, and having a mountain of useless knowledge, he was clueless about human beings. At forty, he had had three girl friends, all which had left hurriedly. As an author, he was just famous enough to get dates, but he told me one time that had been stood up on every date he had made in the previous two years.
Leo was overweight, overbearing, and about 12 years old emotionally. He was a stone drunk, who claimed that he could not be an alcoholic because he never started drinking before four in the afternoon. As he also smoked constantly, he was obviously born to be a Russian.
We had been friends since college and for all of his immaturity and social limitations; I had learned that he was a loyal friend and a good man to have your back in a fight. Sometimes we didn’t see each other for years at a time, but the friendship continued.
I met my Russian wife here in the States. She was a doctor who was in California doing a research project. About the time we got married, I learned that Leo was moving to Russia to marry his Russian bride.
Leo, having failed miserably with American women, had learned on the Internet that there were beautiful and apparently desperate women available on Russian dating sites. About the time I was going on my first date with Larisa, Leo was sending his enrollment fee to a Russian dating site.
Russian dating sites were extremely popular from about 1995 to about 2005.Those were tough financial years and one of the easiest ways for an attractive woman to change her life was to marry outside of Russia. The sites are less popular now because the Russian economy has improved and women now have less financial incentive to marry for money, but they still do considerable business.
Surprisingly, the marriages that resulted from these sites were statistically no less successful than the standard ones. Many of you reading this story married your spouse because she had great legs, he had a sharp car, you were neighbors, or she was the only one who would date you in high school. Marrying a man because he has a pleasant picture, a good attitude, and is financially secure is no less reasonable. Like most marriages made with more traditional methods, a little less than half of the dating site marriages survived long term.
Russian dating sites work very differently from American ones. On Yahoo singles or similar sites, people create their own profile. Normally American women will post a picture of themselves with two girl friends at the office party, with their dog or some other buzz kill. They’re usually dressed in whatever they wore to the park that day and they write a long, long narrative warning prospective mates that they “aren’t that kind of girl”, but they hope you will “put me on the back of your Harley” and “make me laugh.”
Not on Russian dating sites. The girls are normally charged a fee, small by our standards, but not trivial to them. Part of what they get for the fee is a professional photo shoot designed to present them as attractively as possible. No old jeans, makeup is required, and don’t forget the hairdo. They are after mates and they prepare the bait appropriately. Another part of the fee goes to translating a short message. Normally the women specify the ages of the men they will accept, their marital status, whether she has children, whether or not they will relocate, and a few generalities about themselves.
No one says “Make me laugh.” These are sites for people who are looking for spouses, not weekend entertainment.
Communication between the women and the clients is strictly controlled by the agency. This is a business that makes money on every step of the courtship. Letters are forwarded, and translated for a fee, through the agency. The women are discouraged from giving out their contact information. Phone calls, as well as letters in both directions, are arranged by and charged for by the agency.
Women are encouraged to hint – or outright ask for – presents. For a fee, the agency will send flowers or candy on your behalf to any prospective mate. Of course, the agency normally just splits the money with the woman as cash is a lot more useful than flowers when you are making less than $200 a month.
The first woman that Leo corresponded with fell into that category. She asked Leo for a little money for emergencies. Leo sent her a credit card with a $300 limit “for emergencies”. The first month, she overdrew the card to purchase “a door for her apartment.” Told you he wasn’t too bright about women.
The first rule is don’t send money to a person you have never met.
Then Leo found the “Be Happy” dating agency run by an American ex-pat and his Russian wife. For a Russian dating service, it was on the honest side.
Be Happy was headquartered in Tver, a city about two hours north of Moscow, that is famous as the place where the Russians stopped the Nazi advance on Moscow, but Russian men call it the “city of beautiful women.” For most of the 20the century, it was a major center of cloth production and for all time, weaving has been a mainly female occupation. Tver has always had a surplus of attractive girls who came to work in the factories.
Be Happy’s gimmick was that the web site was only a build up. You could see and contact women on the site, but they encouraged you to actually come to Tver and meet the women. They are still in business, but the ownership and the honesty have changed.
Leo signed up for the tour. For about $100 a day, they provided him with an apartment, an interpreter, and a lot of first dates. For you ladies, I should explain that we men define it as a “first date” if there is no sex.
He returned home after a week with no bride, but with a plan. While in Tver, he had realized that living in Russia was cheap and as long as there was an Internet, an author could work from anywhere. He had decided to move to Russia, where he could continue to earn American dollars, but spend Russian rubles.
It worked. Within six months, he had a Russian wife, a dog, a stepdaughter, a housekeeper and an apartment. He had all of that, smoked like a chimney, ate more than most, and drank a river of vodka every month – and lived on $1300 a month.
He also fit very well into Russia. He was surrounded by an ocean of men who were more emotionally crippled than him, and who drank and smoked more than he did. He was in heaven.
Russians love authors and love people who appreciate Russia, so Leo became a fixture on national daytime television talk shows. His absolute refusal to learn a single word of Russian limited his opportunities a little, but Russians will put up with a lot if you are busy drooling over their country and flattering the female viewers.
Leo even began to build a castle on the Volga River. When the city first sold riverfront lots, Russians didn’t know the value of waterfront property, so Leo bought a couple of lots cheap and then spent happy days calculating the cost of bricks and tiles and furnaces and labor to build the tallest private home on the Volga, complete with turrets, battlements, and a garage door that would drop down like a drawbridge.
That was the situation when we visited him in Tver. However, you know it didn’t last. I warned you that this story is a tragedy, not a comedy.
Things began to go to Hell. His life would have collapsed anyway as Leo was a genetically determined depressive personality who was miserable inside no matter how many drugs the doctors gave him or how much he drank, but his misery was compounded by his flagrant violation of the second rule of Russian Brides.
The second rule is “Never marry someone who wouldn’t marry you if they didn’t need a green card.” Of course, that’s not a literal rule. Marina didn’t need a green card, she needed money. She tried to put on a good appearance and took good care of him for awhile, but her heart wasn’t’ in it. In fact, the rest of her body probably wasn’t in it either. I’m not certain that the marriage was ever consummated.
But, back to rule number two. There is nothing about an arranged marriage that makes it likely to fail. Some of the happiest marriages that I know were arranged by parents or happened because two people met on the internet and needed each other.
The big failures come when a portly 50 year old man with the social skills of a flatulent gorilla tries to convince himself that a cute 22 year old single mother has any more interest in him than getting a green card and a home for her child. Another version of Rule two, “If you wouldn’t marry her at home, don’t marry her in Russia or China or the Philippines, or anywhere else.” You will both get hurt.
That does not mean that these Russian-American marriages won’t work. Besides my own marriage, I know several other couples who met on the Internet and who married successfully, but they all married people that they would have wanted no matter how they met.
At the risk of offending a lot of women who read this, there are reasons why American men and Russian women want each other and often appreciate each other, and why that appreciation can turn into a good marriage.
From the man’s side, most Russian women are a breath of fresh air. They don’t ask you to “make me laugh”, they ask you to go to work. They don’t talk about long walks on the beach, they talk about “where will we live” and “can we afford a house” and “what about kids?” They don’t write a man off as “desperate” if he expresses an interest in marriage and no Russian woman has ever asked a man to apologize for the crime of being born in the wrong gender. Most Russian women do not consider “mother”, “housewife” or “wife” to be derogatory terms, and they often actually cook and clean.
Well, “often”, not “always”, and they tend to be very, very bossy.
From the Russian woman’s side, an American man is a catch because he is rarely falling down drunk, normally goes to work every day, appreciates a woman who is feminine, and doesn’t hit his wife.
Of course, those are just averages or “typical” examples. We all know that there are, of course, horrible Russian wives as well as good ones, and that some Russian men are great husbands. It’s a question of averages, not absolutes.
Leo, having broken rules one and two, went on to break rule three.
When he first met Marina, she didn’t want to marry him. He was impressed by her considerable beauty, her high intelligence, and her education so he vowed to pursue her until she agreed to marry him. Big mistake.
Rule three is “Do not propose too, chase or date, and definitely do not marry anyone who is not incredibly anxious to be with you.” Hollywood movies be damned. On that path lies misery. She is “the one” if she is anxious to show you off to the girls at work, and he is “the one” only if he wants you to meet his family and friends.
Marina eventually agreed to marry Leo, but she had such little enthusiasm about it that he didn’t even learn that she had parents living a few miles away until they needed help building the castle. That’s when she told Leo that her father lived down the road and was a professional contractor. That’s also when her parents found out that she was married.
We can compress the next two years into a couple of sentences. Faced with rejection from his wife, Leo’s depression and drinking intensified. He stopped making the television appearances, rarely left his room, and even began to bath less and less often. As Marina had been looking for a man who drank less than a Russian man and who would eventually take her to America, Marina’s misery also intensified. Marina went out a lot for “sport”, but she often wore fishnet stockings and high heels for whatever “sport” she was going out for.
Years later, I found out that Marina had the same boyfriend all through the marriage and only started going out for “sport” when he dumped her. Her friends told me that she initially had no intention of seeing her old flame after she got married, but the lack of affection from Leo and his increasing drinking eventually convinced her to cheat – and her lack of good sense convinced her to be blatant out it.
That’s the problem with breaking rule three.
The last dream Leo had was the castle. However, Cheop’s rule is still valid. Everything you build costs three times as much as your estimate. Leo wrote less because of his depression and ran short of money to finish it. Then when he was hospitalized for a week, Marina got together with the contractor and cut the size of the home in half. That was the last straw.
Divorce – Russian Style
Divorce is the same in Russia as it around the world – mean, nasty, underhanded and no game for the weak at heart – particularly when you are divorcing a very angry Russian woman.
In April of 2006, Leo finally had enough. At the time, he and Marina were trying to start a dating service of their own, one with less honesty than Be Happy. It was just a coincidence that Marina had just tried to raid the corporate accounts. Leo was really just unhappy about her nights out for “sport”.
One day he pulled the plug on the business and left her a message that he wanted a divorce. She stormed into his bedroom where he slept every night with a Samurai sword, grabbed the sword and chased him around the bedroom until he was able to push her out the door. She then gathered dishes from the kitchen and broke them in front of the bedroom door. As Leo was barefooted and, as in most Russian home, all the shoes were near the front door, she figured she had him boxed in until she got reinforcements.
Marina was in a total rage. Her friends told me that the wanted to stay married to Leo long enough to qualify for a widow’s benefit under social security but the real reason was pure emotion. Marina knew she was beautiful. She had nice legs, a well formed posterior, big boobs and a bigger ego. No fat, ugly bastard was going to drop her!
Leo, a brave warrior and man of courage, wisely grabbed his clothes, bolted from the apartment as soon as she left, and moved in with another American in Tver.
It took Marina almost two weeks to find him. Then she showed up at his new apartment in the afternoon with her mother for a two hour scream and bitch session. She wanted the business back, ownership of their unfinished castle, an apology, all of his money and at least a pound of flesh from his bleeding body. Leo was constrained by the dictum “A man doesn’t hit a woman” and could only sit and take it. Me, I would have made an exception to the rule.
Later that evening, Marina showed up again. Looking through the peephole, Leo could see that she was flanked by two big strapping body guards. Apparently Marina had decided to use the old Russian negotiation strategy of having someone beat up until they signed the documents. When Leo and his roommate Walter refused to open the door, she rang the buzzer until Walter cut the wires and then continued to pound on the door for almost an hour before she gave up.
Next morning, the police showed up. They had pictures of Leo and Walter and were there to arrest Walter for kidnapping. Marina had told the police that Leo had been kidnapped by Walter and was being held for ransom. It took a couple of hours at the police station to convince the police that they were roommates, not kidnap victim and kidnapper.
The Next morning, the police showed up. They had pictures of Leo and Walter and were there to arrest Walter for kidnapping. Marina had gone to another police station and told the same story. This time they were able to resolve it in a few hours without a trip to the police station.
Next morning, the police the police phoned. Marina had gone to another station and told the same story. By this time, all of the police stations in town had been warned about the crazy woman and the police were just calling to tell Leo that she was still up her tricks.
That was the last the Leo heard from Marina. The divorce went through without either of them showing up in court and Leo moved back the states, where I bought him another Samurai Sword.
There you have it. Russian-American marriages may start differently than other marriages, but when you break any of the three rules, the marriages all end the same way worldwide – in a mean vindictive battle to the death.
Leo died last Christmas. No tears are required as he was weary of the years of depression and anxious to leave this world, and now I can tell his story.
09/07/2010 Russian Dating Sites Today
Many people have asked about the current state of the dating sites. That is also a sad story. There are a few honest ones left, but they are hard to find. As the economy improved, the supply of honest women looking for foreign husbands dwindled. Unscrupulous operators eventually realized that ninety nine percent of the men who wrote to women would never come to Russia to meet them, so they decided that they really didn’t need women. All they needed was pictures of women and someone to write back encouraging letters.
Now a lot of the sites are just filled with stock studio shots of women who have never heard of the dating site. You will, however, receive an encouraging reply from any letter that you pay to send.
There are, I hear, some honest sites left. They mostly feature women from the Ukraine and other ex Soviet Satellites where poverty is still common and where Russian women are now considered too low class to marry now that the Soviet Union is history. If you are single, they are worth looking for, but remember the three rules.