Posted under: Relationships
Well, more specifically, I had arranged dates with four women I had been communicating with online and was anxious to verify what it was I was actually communicating with. The things you hear about when you start dealing with these organizations is less-than encouraging, so I was anxious to go on a mission to see what I had gotten myself into. After all, I was also promoting a couple of international dating sites myself. I wanted to know my ‘product’ a bit better.
For the record I was dealing with the largest ‘Russian’ women dating site in the world, called Anastasia, which has built a network with independent agencies throughout key Soviet-era states, but mainly focused on women from Russia and Ukraine. I jokingly note that women are the key export of Ukraine. First, check out one of our 4060men affiliates, foreignsinglewomen.com, as you will appreciate the reference point later. Yes, set up an account like any other dating site and check out a few profiles.
For this entry, let’s stick with observations related to dating process and the women I met. First, Anastasia-like sites are masters at marketing and making money. As you will see when you check out the foreignsinglewomen.com site, it is first rate as to image quality, services offered, and the high-quality technology needed to engage these women. You pay for everything on this site, so if you’re planning on going the cheap don’t stay on this site. In fact, don’t go overseas looking for a woman with an ‘economy’ mindset. We’re talking about a life partner here, not a cell phone or some such.
Unlike many of my midlife-male peers, I was looking for a midlife woman as a life partner, not my 25-30 year-old bedtime fantasy. The women I chose were in their 40s, had been married, had grown children, college degrees, and had worked for years. It appears most horror stories regarding foreign dating relates to the pursuit of young women – they don’t show. I saw such scenarios while I was there, a discussion for another blog or article.
Another thing, going on tours arranged by these agencies is really a waste of time and money in my view, unless you’re just looking to be amused with younger girls falling all over you (because that is what they are SUPPOSED to do with you). It’s literally a meat-market mentality on these and a lot of money changes hands – uh, that’s your money leaving your hands and going into someone else’s.
I saw billboards in Kharkov inviting women to come to social events associated with these Anastasia tours, basically promising free food and drink. What would I do meeting 200 women in one 3-hour social, except drool a lot and spend a fortune buying drinks and trying to talk with gals who couldn’t carry on a conversation in English?
I had screened my prospects online, formally arranged dates through the website, and headed out to seek my ‘fortune’ face-to-face. I reduced my list of ten prospects down to five. That was no easy task. In fact, to get down to ten was extremely difficult, but cutting it to five was excruciating as they all seemed to meet my list of ‘must haves’ and more. In the end, I set four dates to be held in three cities. Two were physicians, one a store manager, and the fourth worked in sales.
I had emailed and chatted with each of these women quite a bit, some daily. I had loosely ranked them based on my impressions, but wanted to see how the chemistry was in person. My goal was to hold the first hour and a half meeting with each, arranged through the agency (they control access to the woman until that moment; after that you can get phone numbers and email addresses and operate without them – and their fees!). If the first meeting went well, then I had time available to arrange second and third meetings – at least that was the logic of my travel plans.
My hope was to take the four down to one by the end of the trip, a pretty ambitious goal to say the least. I was concerned I would have none by the end. Thousands of dollars, thousands of miles, and countless hours of emails and chat and nothing to show for it – not funny.
So, what happened? What did I learn from this recon trip? Here’s a couple of things.
1. They were the women on the profiles. And, I met each one. As would be expected at any first date, the character and quality of each meeting varied based on the players - the woman, me, and the translator. Their profile photos reflected the best these women were ever going to look. They’d been airbrushed, photo-shopped, enhanced, you name it, and in the end, made digitally ageless. These will not be the women you meet. It was in watching the videos that you can get a glimpse of the real woman, if video was available – two of my four had them. In my case, these were good-looking, middle-aged women, and they looked it.
2. This was part date, part job Interview. First dates are to break the ice and make connection, and have fun with this person. Wine helps. You have a couple of hours to break through the jitters and make connection. This is largely the man’s work to do, probably like any first date in any country.
I met two of the four women for a second date and in these settings I used the positive vibes from the first date to move into more substantive issues. This was more interview-focused. There were things I wanted to hear her say out loud, read body language, follow up on her responses, and she like-wise from me. Time is of the essence, so cutting to the chase is tolerated, if not expected. I got all the way to the end of one of these second dates, pressing for clarity on a certain expectation, and it became clear that her goals and mine were not compatible. Then, having to say straight out that that isn’t going to work for me was not easy, but important. We’re done here. ‘Can we continue to communicate, I really enjoyed your letters?’ ‘Uh, no.’ Next?!
For me, I wanted to know what the woman thought her life was going to be like in the U.S. (is she living too much in a fantasy), her attitudes toward money (does she believe the myth that all westerners are rich), work (is she lazy and looking to be idle), communication (how does she engage or is she passive), conflict (is she practical about human relations and what’s her way in dealing with her partner), and life vision (again, has hopes but is practical as well). I’m looking for core compatibility.
In sum, first date, can we connect; second date, are we on the same page on key areas important to each.
3. Translators are critical to the outcome. I’ve lived and traveled enough in other countries to be relatively used to language issues, but even with that, it is difficult to communicate through another person more personal thoughts, even intimate ones. To get positive vibes going in a ‘first date’ setting, a challenge in any culture, the translator has to be willing and able to get into the game. That is, humor and wit and banter are important for me to connect and the interpreter needs to be fluent enough and of the personality to join in and facilitate. I had some excellent interpreters and some not-so-good ones. You have no control over this in the first meeting.
4. Have your own translator. It is hard to get around the country without one. I hired one full-time. Pricey, but invaluable. English is not widely used and signs and information are in Russian, a language I know nothing about. More importantly, however, your interpreter becomes your alternative opinion as to the motives and character of your dates. They’re from the culture. Of course, this assumes your interpreter is involved in subsequent dates, which may not always be the case.
I spent more time with my interpreter than with all the other women combined – and mine was a mid-30s single woman. We were together on 12-hour sleeper-car train rides, ate breakfast, lunch and supper together, sat for hours in parks watching people and talking, and visiting various sites of interest in the cities we visited. She had a pretty good picture as to who I was as a result – for good or ill. This turned out to be important later.
She arranged all apartments I stayed in, trains I rode on, buses and taxis we took, and provided me with a pre-loaded cell phone to use while there.
5. Getting down to one. Throughout this process, everything was a test, a clue into the inner workings of the woman. It began with what they said in profiles, to emails and chat, to off-the-cuff remarks during the dates. For example, if they stated they only wanted their interpreter for all encounters that was a flag for me. Why was she insisting on this, I would ask myself (and the woman when it happened)?
By the end, there was only one still in the game as far as I was concerned. One of the gals was quite distracted due to family issues and just barely made a first meeting and could not a second. Striking woman, but just gained no real insight into her mind or soul. The one doctor with whom I had a great first meeting (and my pre-visit number one ranked prospect), simply avoided a second meeting, though we had twice agreed to meet on a specified date. While disappointed, it was an important sign to me – leave it alone. The third, a physician also, dropped due to a mismatch of goals – she basically was looking to retire on my paycheck – hell, I’d like to retire on my paycheck!
The real gem that emerged in the process turned out to be the clothing store manager. Not only were our interactions loose, free-flowing, and generously sprinkled with humor (good connection), she was very thoughtful and earnest in answering and asking probing questions. Her English language capability turned out to be an unexpected plus as well – we could communicate independent of an interpreter. This turns out to be a huge advantage now – we can Skype and email independent of interpreters. She was from a city with more of a small town feel, a reality she would be moving to in my community.
If I could have known upfront who the likely prospect was going to be, I certainly would’ve arranged my plans differently. But, of course, that’s not really possible. Before I left, I invited her to continue to discuss the possibility of marriage. We exchanged contact information, including Skype. She accepted.
Back to my interpreter. This woman saw my interpreter as an asset to her and not a competitor, unlike the sense I got from two other women. Immediately after I called her and asked her to consider our prospects for marriage, she wanted to speak with my interpreter. She acknowledged that the interpreter knew more about me than she did and grilled her about what kind of man I was and a couple of concerns she had. The interpreter could answer these, based on her intense face-time with me.
What strikes me most about this process was the impact that distance, and all that brings into play, had on both of us. It forced us to ask the most fundamental questions about what we were looking for, when would we know whether we had found it or not, and what were we willing to do about it.
Four statements about sum up what happened here: a) we were physically attracted to each other, b) we connected with each other emotionally, c) we appeared to be on the same page as to life vision, and d) we were willing to act on these things.
We explicitly acknowledged that there were no perfect people out there, that life is going by too quickly to be controlled by every fear or doubt that pops into our heads, that we really were searching for very basic things (respect, caring, partnership, good character, etc.), and that with these things a good life with the other was entirely possible.
About the Author: Master Hobbit