Friday, April 07, 2006

Bangkok and The Third Date

It was a balmy 12 degress tonight in Kharkov, and everywhere I looked I found signs of spring: the kids biking and skateboarding out front of the opera house, the young and old walking through the park, sitting on the benches, and the women up and down Sumskaya in short skirts and their newest fishnet stockings. They are fishers of men, let's say, and why not? Because the "bride-hunters" are back too. They're like the podsnezhki, the first flowers up from under the snow. As soon as the sun appears for a few days in a row, out they come.

A former Fulbrighter back in town for a conference told me about one he'd met on the plane. He was an Angeleno coming into Ukraine to meet his girlfriend. Then he was going to Bangkok. Where he also had a girlfriend? The Fulbrighter didn't ask. What happens in Bangkok even Las Vegas doesn't want to know.

I had lunch with another American earlier this week. He too was from California, the Bay Area, a former military pilot in his early 40s who'd already visited Poland, Lithuania, Moldova and now Kharkov (twice). Loves the culture, he says. But if he was sleeping his way through the countries of the lapsed Warsaw Pact, an another ex-pat in Kharkov says he was doing it all wrong, at least with this latest girlfriend, a 24-year-old. He hadn't slept with her, you see, hadn't even kissed her, and already they'd been on four dates. "I'm telling you," the ex-pat said, "you don't sleep with these girls by the third date, they'll never look at you in that way again. You'll just be her American friend," he said. "Her American friend who buys her things."

Apparently, the American I met wasn't the first bride-hunter who genuinely seemed to want a romantic, old-fashioned relationship. "He's pussy-whipped," the ex-pat said, when the American took another call from his girlfriend on the cell-phone. "Look at him."

The ex-pat is an Aussie who makes me look politically conservative. While the American was chatting with his girlfriend, the ex-pat spoke to me of another bride-hunter he'd met, a man in his thirties who'd had a 19-year-old girl in his bed, topless, and he didn't make a move. Couldn't even kiss her. "I don't understand it," he said. "This girl was beautiful, she takes off her top in his bed, and what does he do? Nothing. Is he mad?"

Can't say, for sure. But it does show everyone's not necessarily going to Bangkok.