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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