Thursday, July 06, 2006

Mr. Florida

I've read that the magic words to women seeking an American husband are, "I own my own business." But many of the men I've met are already retired. One guy, now an agency owner in Kherson, was a "dot-com guy" who took the cash buy-out weeks before the stock-option guys woke up broke; another, the one I'll profile here, was in real estate -- a guy who sold everything at the age of forty and then settled into the types of jobs, private investigator for a law office, Coast Guard, fitness trainer, that keep one occupied more than well-paid.

He was just shy of 50 when we met, a muscle-bound man who lived in a community in the South of Florida overburdened with golf courses and gates.

He came to the Former Soviet Union less than a year ago, but had already been back three times. To start, he arrived for the romance tours, but seeing them for what they are -- meat-markets that produce very few marriages -- he left them behind and went for a more personalized approach. After his dealings with numerous dating agencies between Ukraine and Russia, he'd compiled a list of interpreters and drivers, people who often knew girls interested in dating foreigners, even if they weren't signed up with an online "marriage agency."

One interpreter was so well-stocked with introductions, you have to imagine she was poaching girls from the agency that originally employed her.

"I came to town," he said, "and met her in a cafe, and she had dates for me from eleven a.m. until nine that night. One girl an hour," he said, smiling at the absurd indulgence of it all.

But Mr. Florida wasn't the type of man who could only find a woman if someone sat her down in front of him. He didn't smoke or drink ("I have no idea what a beer tastes like," he said), he was religious about working out, and he had a body that was twenty-years younger than the age on his driver's license. So when he met a couple women in the Moscow subway, it was more than just the map in his hand and the confused look on his face that drew them toward him.

One of the women he met this way was actually looking for a foreign husband, having signed up with an agency that was affiliated with the massive Anastasia Web. They went out twice, when they first met and a couple months later, when Mr. Florida returned and took her to St. Petersburg. But it was only after he came back to Florida that he got his first email from her.

"It was from her marriage agency," he said. "It said, 'I just read your profile and you look like a very nice man. I would like to learn more about you.'"

He was confused at first, and called to ask why she'd written him. But she said she'd written no such letter, leaving him to understand what many men are slow to realize -- that these marriage agencies make money on the letters they send and receive. Each missive coming in and out generates a fee, and a translating cost, and so many of these companies are nothing more than "letter writers," companies that hope to keep you sending copy when you see the picture of the beautiful woman who has just "contacted" you with her dreams of love and relocation.

Despite his attraction to the young woman in Moscow, Mr. Florida soon moved on. Like many beautiful women in Moscow, he said, the one he left behind was used to having things her way.

"We'd be walking down the street," he said, "and she'd tell me not to go in a certain direction." He smiled at the memory of her mistake and patted his chest. "I said, 'I'm the mushina'"--I'm the man--"'I'm the mushina.'"

Mr. Florida was dead-set on leaving his trip with a wife. He had his list of candidates -- three women in their twenties whom he'd already met -- and he planned to give them each a couple days to help him make his decision. Which isn't to say he didn't have time for the unexpected. When he was in Kiev, he'd met a young woman on the street -- stopped her with a quick word and then taken her out to dinner. He offered up his digital camera as proof and showed me a photo, on the LCD display, of an attractive young blonde. Later in the conversation, I absent-mindedly clicked through to another photo -- of the blonde in the bathub, covering her breasts with one arm and her face with the other.

"Oh, you got to that one," he laughed, judging from the look on my face. "Yeah, she was a good girl, but it just wasn't there."

He's still looking.

1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

This is so sad. Finding a woman is about finding that life partner that brings you eternal happiness. It's not about a "shopping trip". If he wanted to be like that, why did he leave Florida? Plenty of women like that there. Mr. Florida, search for the one you want, get to really know them. A snapshot or two in a tub never gets below the surface. Just a hint from someone who successfully found who I was looking for.

Red October