Dating Inside My Culture / Why I’ll Never Date Boris the Hunter

RUSSIAN MAN WITH USHANKA

This post was inspired by an article I read while sitting in the inviting confines of the MRI waiting room.

While I was busy mouthing off to the “doctor” at the orthopedics unit (NO. It’s fine. What? An MRI? NO.), a friend sent me an article to read just in case I needed something to keep me busy.

(For those that are just joining the party: I added excitement to my life a few weeks ago when my wrist took one for the team when I fell on a boat.  I’ve been pretending it’s FINE ever since.)

Friend apparently thought that the best form of therapeutic literary Zen before being sent into the tube to enjoy the rare acoustics of a jack hammer was to have me ponder my dating life (Clearly friendship will be questioned later).

The article, written by Diana Bruk, pushed my primal buttons.

In her account of why “I love (and hate) dating Russian men,” Bruk recounts, in impressive honesty, the ways in which she feels torn between dating her culture’s Russian “patriarchal alpha males” in St. Petersburg and the American egalitarian, no-strings-attached guys.  According to the author, who has split her time between the privileged New York liberal arts school where she attended college and the “crumbling communal building” in St. Petersburg where she moved thereafter to teach English, dating in Eastern Europe is like dating in modern day 1927.

Like the author, I too was born in the Soviet Union.  I also moved to the US at a young age and sure enough… went to a liberal arts school on the east coast where I learned valuable lessons like: your natural beer pong abilities are directly proportional to the caliber of your love life; boys can be judged on their ability to pair a pink Lacoste polo with a Brooks Brothers pant; sneaking onto the President’s lawn post frat party is considered a romantic date.

Unlike the author, I have never been back to the motherland and I’ve committed to my one and only US passport (like a glowing bride).

Until this year, I had never dated a Russian before.  Nothing about a union with a Russian male appealed to me.  I was sure that I had more in common with a Filipino rice farmer.

Most of the reasons why I never dated a Ukrainian/Russian are neatly outlined by Bruk.  In fact, while reading it, I kept gripping my iPhone trying not to yell “NO DUH.”  Not surprisingly, the lack of respect for your independence, chauvinistic sex practices and the inability to digest the word “no” is not absolutely thrilling to a girl who moved to the land of the free and freakishly independent when she was 5 (her. Not me. I was 6.) and then graduated from Liberal Arts University where, let’s be honest, feminism is taught as a first year requirement.

So Yeah.  I’m not running towards Boris the Hunter.  I’m turning around slowly with some swagger and thinking “tool.”

I hadn’t given it too much thought to be honest – this whole Ukrainian/Russian man topic (except for NO thanks) – until this year; when I moved back to the Midwest, reconnected with some of my roots and thought about what I wanted to be when I grow up.

In the past year, my family has taken it upon themselves to casually suggest some Russian dating partners… as if to say OK you’ve had a great deal of fun… time to settle down. Boris the Hunter is waiting for you.  He brought his club.  And some meat.  Swoon.

While I was busy beating Boris the Hunter over the head with his own club, I connected with my roots by way of extended family, family friends and even made some new friends from my culture in my new city (Chicago).

Recently, in fact, I’ve found myself “at home” dating and hanging out with Russians and Ukrainians.  I’ve found a familiarity and understanding I didn’t know would bring fulfillment.  While Boris the Hunter and I still come from different worlds, Boris’ assimilated offspring and I have found some common ground.  They might not tear my clothes into pieces in the heat of passion, but they’ll eat homemade pirogis, engage in broken Russian banter and rock out to Soviet pop hits of the 1970’s that our parents used to love (that we secretly keep on our iPods).

Boris the Hunter Jr. and I connect on a level I never considered before.  The one where you don’t have to explain where you come from.  Or why smearing fried chicken liver on toast is breakfast.  Or why your uncle still dresses himself in the same clothes he’s had since we immigrated to America two decades ago.

I don’t care if your mom immigrated from Zimbabwe, your grandparents came from Venezuela in 1952 or you were born in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Everyone has a point of origin that dictates their values and cultural roots.  What I’ve learned is… no matter how far you wander and what new worlds you encounter and assimilate to… something about spending time with those from similar backgrounds strikes a chord of familiarity and gives a taste of home.

Boris… you’re OK.

And that realization is kind of Awesome.

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The Art of Growing Up/Life Lessons Waiting on Your Hard Drive

college 80s party friendship

80’s Party – 2007

Last night I dug up that rusty old laptop from college.

I dusted it off and waited for the old processer to bring my MacBook to life.

The same MacBook that I wrote such riveting literary works on like: “Living in Oblivion” and “My Figure Skating Team: An Environmental Investigation.” (Yes.  I went to a liberal arts school.)

I was hoping to find some pictures from college.

As I started to go through the files, I noticed a folder I could barely wait 2 seconds to open:

“College E-mails”

Little Me saved hundreds of e-mails from college for my viewing pleasure.  She categorized them into folders marked “friends”; “boys”; “special e-mails”; “e-mails from mom”; ETC. (Goddamnit she was organized).

Naturally, all other plans for yesterday evening were postponed.  Dates were rescheduled.  Exercise regiments were put on hold.  Wrist-hurting pity parties were suspended.

4 hours were devoted to reading of college e-mails.

All the good stuff was in there.  Endless beer pong plans, inside jokes, important rendezvous’ (when WILL we eat lunch???), notes from boys, e-mails from ex-boyfriends, embarrassing e-mails written to boys, thorough recaps of classroom mishaps and enough T.M.I. to make me blush/warrant a reality show.

Around hour 3 of bursting out loud with laughter I began thinking about little me.

I thought about growing up, life’s unexpected changes – good and bad, love, friendship, family.

She didn’t know it, but little me had some things pretty figured out.

The following are some lessons little me and her friends left behind:

Love Wholly and Completely

It doesn’t matter if it’s your mom, a friend or a great professor, make sure everyone in your life knows how much you love them.

Telling them 5 times a day is totally acceptable.

Date: 13 Mar 2007 03:14:22 -0400
From: Jordana Brooks
Subject: and also
To: Little Me

I love you!

Date: 27 Jun 2006 06:56:47 EDT
From: Jordana Brooks
Subject: MORNING
To: Little Me

Good morning, poopy!*

Have a great day!!!

Call/text about tonight.

I LOVE you.

Date: 09 May 2006 16:25:28 EDT
From: Jordana Brooks
Subject: Re: one more thing
To: Little Me

— You wrote:

I LOVE YOU MY LITTLE PUMPKIN OF LOVE.

— end of quote —

I LOVE YOU CINNAMON PIE HEAD.

We woke up on many mornings to e-mails that simply said I love you.  What an Awesome reminder.  (Seriously… who needs a boyfriend).  We are still a tight-knit group, but not only am I not waking up at 6AM if I don’t have to… but I sure as hell am not getting up at 6AM to send all my friends love texts.  And truth be told… we are still a pretty mushy group.  SO.  It might be time to start a 7:45AM love text chain.

Tell your friends EVERYTHING

Date: 24 Apr 2007 19:51:55 -0400
From: Jordana Brooks
Subject:
To: Little Me, Whitney Larken, Hanna Mason, Nicole Sperry, Harper Emerson

i just farted in the library.

Enough said.

It’s All About the Little Things

And when I say little things I mean the basics.  Judging by the amount of food e-mails that were saved, being well-fed was the ticket to absolute bliss.  We played beer pong.  We studied.  And we ate.  And that was enough.

Date: 02 Mar 2006 00:32:10 EST
From: Jordana Brooks
Subject:
To: Little Me

if it werent for breakfast, id have no motivation to wake up

well, except maybe lunch

From: Hanna Mason
Subject: mmm
To: Little Me

i feel very lucky because there were girl scout cookies left all alone in the [library cafeteria], so i had one and it was good

Support Your Friends

Seems simple.  But then you get into the real world and everyone is caught up with their own lives.  Life starts to move faster and efforts to keep up with the Jones’ trickle in.  I find the ability to support those around you to be a pretty amazing characteristic that I’m grateful to say exemplifies so many in my life.  This was a great reminder.

Judging by the mountain of e-mails, I’m not even sure I would’ve graduated college without their support.

Date: 31 May 2006 01:11:17 EDT
From: Little Me
Subject: Love you
To: Hanna Mason

I believe in you

Date: 13 Oct 2006 04:21:14 -0400
From: Jordana Brooks
Subject:
To: Little Me

GOOD LCUK TOMOTRROW!

Love Uninhibited

Love.  Where to even begin.  You grow up and you realize that love can be Awesome but it can also suck.  What I wish though, is that I can erase those experiences that brought me to this worldly and wise view and live in the moment, stop planning 10 years from now, enjoy the company of others for what it is and patiently see where life takes me.

Reading the following advice I wrote for a friend inspires me to let go a little.

Date: 23 Apr 2007 23:46:48 -0400
From: Sarah Parker
Subject: Re: yo
To: Little Me

— You wrote:

Sarah.  ok this is out of love.  you see, what freaks him out (and me, haha) is that you’re already talking about whether you’d be “up for dating” when you haven’t even hung out enough to figure out if you even want to date each other.  Geeeeez just forget about the talks and just hang out and have a good time and it’ll happen NATURALLY.  i promise.  if not with him with someone and you’ll live happily ever after.

— end of quote —

haha
i love your little nuggets of wisdom!

Date: 23 Apr 2007 19:44:31 -0400
From: Little Me
Subject: Re: come home loser
To: Sarah Parker

And SECOND OF ALL…. stop thinking about the future.  Seriously think about TODAY TODAY TODAY and this week.  When 2 months from now comes then you can figure it out but dont keep yourself from something because you think it MIGHT be hard later.  thats silly.  chill out, have a good time and then see what happens.

Six years ago I was sure that everyone’s love life ended like a chick flick (I prefer 10 Things I hate About You… or Clueless… or You’ve Got Mail.  Yes definitely You’ve Got Mail).  Six years ago I was sure of this because I had yet to feel true heartbreak.  Six years ago I was anxious about what working in the “real world” really meant.  Six years ago I was stunned that there was no longer a neatly carved yellow brick road for me to follow.

Today I am fiercely independent and proud of what I have accomplished.  Today I’m a bit more cautious with my heart.  I still eat like I just finished my last final exam.  My friends still make my world go round.

I’m wondering what the next 6 years will bring.

Either way, I’m saving my e-mails.

Awesome.

Date: Thu, 11 May 2006 18:01:41 -0400
From: Leigh Bloom <Leigh.Bloom@university.edu>
Subject: It’s My Day
To: Little Me, Jordana Brooks, Julia Hunter, Emily Hunter, Jackie Bank, Maggie White, Hanna Mason, Harper Emerson

Leigh Bloom finished college at 230 pm

HOW THE FUCK DID THIS HAPPEN 

i dont know

im so happy

and wanted 2 thank you all for being such a large influence in my life throughout all of college….

quite an accomplishment we all stayed so close in 4 years of me being at a different school

i love u all

college party dress up friendship

*Note: My college nickname was poopy.  I wish I could tell you how it started but I can’t remember… I know a bathroom incident was not involved.

Note 2: Names have been changed to protect my friends (i.e. save my ass).

Note 3: My College had its own communication system that replaced cell phone use.  It translated to regular e-mail, but on campus was used instead of texting and calling, which is why notes are short… and ridiculous… and had to be saved to a folder before the account was discontinued.

Awesome List Thursdays

gift

Let’s take a 5 minute break from the sarcasm.

In light of the whole breaking the wrist thing and some other mishaps that occurred this week, I think this is a good time as any to come up with all the good things that have happened over the past week.

It’s a trick I came up with about 6 years ago when my mom passed.

Take a small notebook and write down all the good things that happened that day/week.

It’s called perspective people.

And it works.

And I think this week I need it.

Making a list of the Awesome (or just nice) things that happened is a must.

Without further delay – here are some of the things on my list big and small:

  • One of my favorite people in the world has nominated me for a Versatile Blogger Award.  This remarkable woman has not only supported me since I started blogging, but has somehow never missed an entry or the chance to send me a message to let me know she is reading.  Our families’ friendship made us like sisters and our relationship has evolved into a lifelong bond.  Thank you for this amazing award – I’m honored and GRATEFUL for the encouragement, which I often need to keep going!  You can find her Awesome blog here.
  • One of my co-workers sent me a care package/gift in the mail this week.  I was totally caught off guard and SURPRISED.  I love surprises.  Especially when they come in the cutest gift wrap paper EVER (see pic above).  To be thought of out-of-the-blue puts a bit of spring in your step and air in your splint!!
  • A reader told me I inspired them to make a list of the things they loved and to do those things.  Pretty much the whole point of blogging.  (Besides feeling super cool about myself).  You can read her list and blog here.
  • Received a postcard in the mail from a friend who is traveling with her family up the California coast. Postcards are definitely the coolest.  Especially when they offer pertinent information like how much wine your friend is having with her grandmother while on vacation.  Thanks for putting a smile on my face friend!
  • Bonding with a friend over drinks at sunset on the Chicago river is what summer nights are made of.
  • One of my neighbors came and hung pictures in my apartment yesterday.  Just to help me out.
  • My co-workers initially told me that they would whip out the 1990s bedazzler tool should I need a full cast (so I can look like Mariah Carey).  And subsequently purchased 1400 Lisa Frank stickers to outfit my splint. (Lisa Frank makes going to elementary school in the 1990s Awesome).  I felt loved.
  • Got the chance to ride around in a convertible… the wind in your hair and summer breeze makes any day OK (and reminds you why hair ties are of extreme necessity).
  • Dad texting me every night to ask if my spirit is up.
  • A friend helping me with laundry.
  • My little sister turning the big 1-3.

Some unfortunate things happened but surprisingly I’m feeling pretty zen and even happy.

Good things are happening too :).

Awesome.

That Time I Broke My Wrist

photo (71)

 

It’s true.  I broke my wrist.

The right one.

I wish I could tell you that I got into a heated debate regarding the merits of placing college graduates in low-income public schools (it’s happened) or the reasons why Shark Fin soup should be outlawed (leave the sharks alone!).  I wish I could tell you that no choice was left on my side (for the good of society) but to conk someone in the face at the expense of my wrist.

NAH.

That would be too easy.

I fell doing the running man while rocking out to Russian pop hits of the 1980s on a docked (read: not moving) boat in a still harbor on Lake Michigan.

Obviously this is how it was going to go down.

22 years of hurling my body at great speeds at the ice rink didn’t do the trick.

At some point I had to break something right??  Just to right the world of falling down karma.

It finally happened.

At first I was in denial and kept moving about as usual (OH the blue and black marks on my arm… just a bruise!).

But then the blue wouldn’t go away and a few too many days later I found myself at the ER at the urging of friends, family, co-workers, my doorman and the homeless man outside Wholefoods.

So imagine my surprise when the ER doc told me it was FRACTURED.

I thought she was kidding.

She realized I thought she was kidding.

So she took me back to the x-ray lab to show me the x-rays on the special computer.

SO… she wasn’t kidding.

Clearly my first reaction was to assume this woman was a magician:

“Oh a splint and then possibly a cast??  BUT there are only 4 weeks left of the summer!  I can’t have a broken wrist!  I don’t think you understand.”

Unfortunately she didn’t use her magic wand to piece it back together.

So that sucks.

But I can still have the most Awesome end of summer EVER.  Right?

Right.

First things first.  I needed advice on how to proceed with the arm situation.  So naturally I called little bro for advice.

  • Me: little bro I broke my wrist
  • Bro: you’ll be fine
  • Me: How am I supposed to go to the beach?!
  • Bro: Tie a bag around it
  • Me: What bag?
  • Bro: A Walgreens bag
  • Me: Silence
  • Bro:  Or a black garbage bag.  If you want to keep it classy
  • Me: Love you

I’m a broken wrist rookie.  Lucky for me, I have plenty of friends around who “have frequent flyer miles to the ER” (exact statement by one of my friends).  So clearly I checked in with them.

All in all though, I’ve been stumbling and learning as I go.

Things I’ve learned:

  1. The iPhone Voice-Text/E-mail option MUST have been created by someone who had just broken their wrist.  I have a sneaky suspicion that my new addiction to voice-dictation will stay with me for some time to come.
  2. The hardest thing in this world to do without the full dexterity of your wrist… is put on a bra.  Stupid complicated little suckers.  (And while we’re at it… bathing suits…can’t tie those damn ties).
  3. Typing.  Really need two hands.  Or an intern.  hmmmm.
  4. Dining in nice restaurants is awkward.  As in I shouldn’t be allowed.  The display of eating like a total train wreck is a special experience for everyone.
  5. Opening Jars.  Just forget it.
  6. Getting caught in the rain.  Two words: Not. Good.
  7. The game of Cornhole/bag toss/bags can totally still be played with the use of the opposite arm.  You might hit pedestrians and your own partner in the head, but that’s really just part of the fun.
  8. Dishwashers are right up there with voice dictation software.

I shed half a tear, pooled moral support and moved forward on my quest to become ambidextrous.

The future isn’t looking as bleak now that I know I can:

Still see the Chicago skyline from the back of a boat:

chicago boating skyline

And do crossword puzzles:

boating

And attend firm-sponsored  networking events where I eat too much food:

photo 3

And read trash magazines where I gain wisdom and perspective about why it’ll be OK to turn 30 in a couple years:

photo 1 (4)

The only thing that makes breaking a limb better … is one of your besties injuring something too.  (What? Yes. This is my selfish moment.)

Lucky for me, one of my friends just sprained her ankle and was outfitted with non-other than a black brace.

The walk to this morning’s brunch date was classic.  Me with my splint.  She with hers.  Me holding my arm up.  She limping like a champ.  I’m not gonna lie.  It was adorable.  And A-B-S-O-L-U-T-L-Y ridiculous.  At one point we crossed the street and were walking head on with a girl who appeared to have just gotten some kind of ACL reconstructive surgery.

We almost invited her to brunch.

At some point, during the walk back, laughing close to tears, I decided it was going to be OK.

And that’s…. pretty Awesome.

*Note: this post was written largely with my left hand.  Which is why it took about 5 days to write.  That’s how much I love all of you.  You’re welcome.

*Note 2: clearly there will now be a Broken Wrist Series of sorts… stay tuned.

The big 8-0: the Right Way

Me and Gramps*

Me and Gramps*

It’s official.

Gramps turned 80.

It’s been a long awaited affair that started with frantic calls from my brother a little pre-planning, had some tears thrown in (I love family planning) and included a grand finale (we come through in the end!).

We went all out for him.

The original idea was to take him fishing – his favorite activity. As a kid, my family would go up north for a little cabin-living during the summers and gramps would catch the fish that would feed us for weeks.  Days were spent watching Bewitched Re-runs swimming and trying to grab the fishing rod being grandpa’s little helpers.

At the last minute though, the wish to make this big milestone unforgettable took us away from the lake and had us putting on black-tie appropriate attire.

5 days before the big day, my grandma and I engineered a plan that involved live music, pretty dresses, dancing, toasts and mountains of our favorite Ukrainian food.

80, after all, deserves more than a trip to the lake.

Once the night of the big event came, it was time to begin our favorite tradition: toasting the person of honor.

I didn’t know what to expect.  All I knew was that little bro and I were prepared to bestow love on Gramps.

As I’ve mentioned before, my family has been through a good bit.  There have been divorces, re-marriages, riffs, deaths and re-organizations of sorts.  It’s been a long road.  When I’m not busy filming them for my made-for-TV-movie (MTV are you reading this?), I’m sitting around like a cocker spaniel with my head cocked to one side in disbelief.

My life is kind of like Modern Family.  The traditional family unit we are not.  But serious undeniable love there is.

Good thing this band of misfits is really good at pouring it straight from the heart.

My dad was up first (always) and delivered a speech about the make-up of the family unit and that regardless of life’s changes, my grandpa and he will always be family.

Little bro gave a speech inspired by Will Ferrell in Old School during which he yelled “you are a legend” multiple times and pointed at Gramps.  I have no comment.

Uncle began his toast by giving a summary of every major event that occurred around the world in the year 1933.  He ended the toast by likening Gramps to Christopher Columbus and reminding everyone that without Grandpa’s pioneering efforts, we would have never immigrated to America.  According to the story, after Grandpa’s first trip to the U.S., he came back and announced “one can live there,” after which, my immediate family, aunt, uncle, grandparents, great grandparents and cousin colonized the USA in mid-1991 (and subsequently learned to live off the new land by shopping at Kmart, Farmer Jack (R.I.P.) and CVS Pharmacy).

I spoke last.  I reminisced about the forts Gramps and I used to build out of pillows in Kiev, the 8 AM Saturday morning wake-ups during my competitive figure skating years and the adamant stance he takes on loving grandma and making them one unit.  Grandpa was always my hero as a little girl.  I thought he could move mountains.

There were tears.  There was laughter.  There was caviar.  There was love.

Gramps was beaming all night and even stayed up partying past midnight.

Not bad family.

Awesome.

*Note: Clearly I had a momentary awkward stage as a baby before I became this 4-year old beauty.  OK I don’t want to hear anything more about it.

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