For Americans, dating can be somewhat of a sticky wicket here in Ukraine. Before we arrived and during training, we were given a “Cross-Cultural Reader”, talked about cross-cultural differences, and were warned against certain behavior. We watched a video about gender relations and dating. We were told to ask questions. We endured training sessions on cross-cultural differences.However, training only goes so far, and sometimes you just have to find things out for yourself. After training, when you are on your own, is when you start encountering these cross-cultral issues head on.
I have to say, American men who come here in general have it pretty easy when it comes to dating. Correction: straight American men. Most of the young men who come here are not only taken care of, but women are just about throwing themselves at them (and babusyi are throwing women at them too). I know someone who is married, and people know he is married, but that does not seem to make a difference to some people (well, it does not in the U.S. either, to be fair). There have been married men who are told to divorce their wives and marry Ukrainian women. There are more young men who came over here as Peace Corps Volunteers and ended up marrying Ukrainian women than I can say – part of me wishes I had statistics on them (again, to be fair, occasionally an American woman meets and marries a Ukrainian man). So it seems that the main challenge young American male PCVs face in coming here is avoiding given people the wrong idea (i.e., having coffee and/or taking a walk is actually a date here). They are faced with opportunities a-plenty.
We women, on the other hand, seem to have a bit more of a challenge in the dating department. I know someone who has tried to give hints to a young man, and he is either uninterested or just doesn’t know what is going on. She is 26, very cute, very nice – in short, a great catch. But she has not had a date since she got to Ukraine.
Now, before you get the wrong idea, we as Peace Corps Volunteers do not come to Ukraine to go spouse-hunting. We come to do a job. But we are human, after all, and well, it is nice to socialize and sometimes, as I mentioned earlier, it also turns into marriage.
But back to the point. I also have not had a date since I arrived in Ukraine. I figured I would not ever have a date here – I am too old for people to want to set me up with somebody and most of the men my age are long-since married (though that did not stop one from propositioning me). But a part of me was hoping that my low expectations would not be met, and that I would be pleasantly surprised. I mean, I know I am not an ugly person, and I am a pretty nice person, if a bit strong-willed (since when is this a bad trait?). So why do I get no attention from the male gender, other than getting checked out every time I walk down the street or across a restaurant?
I was starting to wonder – I mean, I know I stand out, but is it such a bad thing? I am still human, after all – I speak some Ukrainian and now some Russian. Isn’t it normal for someone to have some interest, given all of the people I have met? Weeding out the “absolutely not” candidates, there are a few people who are in my dating age group that are potentials. But like I said, I was starting to wonder. Mind you, I live in an oblast center, not a village – so it is not like there are only 500 people in the whole area.
Then something happened – I made plans with someone, for a date.
I got stood up.
I have to say, I was upset. I don’t understand, no matter what country I am in, why someone would make plans with a person and then not show up. It’s rude. It is thoughtless. It makes the person who has been stood up feel unimportant and unattractive. Especially when that person comes from another country and culture, it becomes mystifying. I mean, he not only did not show, but he did not call, or respond to the text I sent saying “hey, I thought we had plans for tonight.” Nothing. Nada. Silence.
So he changed his mind. I would have respected him, at least a little bit, if he had called me and told me so, or called and made up a reason not to show, and apologized. As it is now, I have no respect for him, and if he were to call now, I would not be especially forgiving. Perhaps I hold people to too high of standards, to expect them to follow through on commitments they make. Perhaps I was mistaken in thinking he ever intended to go out with me.
Ah well. A failed experiment and now back to life.
Happy Birthday to my brother Ross Bagwell