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When I was 11-years-old, I went on an exchange program in a French city called Nîmes. On my first night there, a boy named Arnaud confronted me with two pressing questions—Did we have electricity, and did bears roam the streets of my native Saint-Petersburg? (And so began my rapport with French men...)
Twenty years later, not much has changed. I still regularly find myself on the receiving end of endless stereotypes about Russia, which have since shifted from bears to De Beers (ha!). Since this is the sacred month when I park myself in the motherland and inhale practical wisdom in bulk, I decided to simultaneously explore some of the dating-related gems that I have been privy to this year.
Rumor #1: If you’re not married and with child by 25, you’re toast.
Verdict: False—it’s 27.
Just kidding! Actually, not really. At my ripe-going-on-rotten 31, my unmarried status is simply regarded as a developmental disability, which means that I am no longer audibly judged.
Everybody I know is nearing wedding anniversaries that are named after solid materials and have children taller than the Olsen twins. While I usually attribute this to the “family-oriented” Russian culture, there is definitely a palpable urgency for women to settle down in their 20s.
Fears include being the “last product on the shelf,” the old maid, the snooze who misses her baby-making prime. (Given the booming divorce rate, I’ll contest that you also don’t want to be the product that is returned to the store, but that’s another story.)
Rumor #2: It’s all about the chase. Like Tom and Jerry, but with roses.
In Russia, there is a term called dobivatsa, which means chasing/conquering the object of your affection via persistence, gifts, and “rose broomsticks.”
I recently read that this is actually a vicious cycle that tends to backfire. Russian women have a certain Princess Fantasy** that sets their expectations unreasonably high and leads to disappointment when the courting stage ends and real life settles in.
The women, young and inexperienced, often can’t deal with the revelation that their husbands are but ordinary dudes with morning breath and skid marks. The men, in turn, realize that their enigmatic nymphets have suddenly morphed into demanding and nagging WIVES, often resulting in equally quickie D-I-V-O-R-C-E-S.
**While I certainly have zero Princess delusions, I distinctly remember explaining to a French man that carrying my suitcase up four flights of stairs is a non-negotiable. Never had I felt more Russian—not even when Arnaud had inquired whether I enjoyed bear stew for breakfast.
Rumor #3: Everybody wants to get married. Preferably, faster than Britney and Kevin.
Verdict: True-ish again.
Russians don’t perceive dating to be an agent of self-discovery (ref. Americans), or a sequence of beautiful experiences (ref. the French). I recently read that years of repression actually made people inherently uncomfortable with the idea of choices in all arenas, be it career, politics, or life partners.
As a result, they are more prone to making decisions, i.e. “settling down.” Indeed, almost any Russian will tell you that, in matters of dating, all is clear within a year—which, at a certain age, rings pretty damn true.
Apparently, this is all changing with the new generation, which is far more career-driven and independent. Given rumor number two, this is not a bad thing—if they don’t catch the western failure to launch epidemic, that is.
P.S. For those wondering—yes, you CAN have some “casual fun.” It’s a free (ish) country and you can do whatever your loins command. You just don’t necessarily want to flaunt it and sing about it on street corners and celebrate it like you are the first human to stumble across an orgasm. Can you handle that? I probably can’t.
Rumor #4: All the women are all cold, money-hungry Barbies.
“You are not like the typical Russian,” people (Americans) often tell me, elaborating that I seem way too nice, and I smile, and where the hell are my Birkins and diamonds? While I almost don’t want to entertain said ignorance with a response, I feel that it is my duty.
Yes, it is true that Russian women often come across as slightly reserved. This is simply a cultural dissonance—Russians aren’t taught to lead with megawatt smiles, so they tend to be more direct and skimp on the bullshit. Is that ok? Thx.
It is also true that they put a lot of effort into their appearance—which can occasionally seem comical on their fluffy Instagram pages. And yet, this too is linked with a post-Soviet beauty boom that has become a fundamental part of the culture.
You can’t walk a block without crossing a hair salon, or a “beauty studio,” or a massage parlor, or some other place where women get to temporarily trade in their cold mundane for some self-indulgent bliss. In an era of self-care, Russian women are miles ahead—and ain’t nothing wrong with that.
For reflections on gold digging, read this.
Rumor #5: All the men are oligarchs.
Verdict: I wish.
In 31 years, I have never met an oligarch. I did, however, once meet an oligarch’s son who invited me to do Ayahuasca with him and never spoke to me again. I don’t think oligarchs like me. And ain’t nothing wrong with that either.
Some of the information in this post was derived from this article. If you can read in Russian, read it! If you have any other rumor to address, do so in comments! Погнали! (Let's go!)