Yana Djin


Moscow News
November, 2000

              Recently, I got a puzzling call from my friend Helen. “Do you think that death is once in a lifetime experience?” she asked. Taken by surprise, I blurted something like a “yes” to which she replied: “Then you have not spent an evening with an insurance clerk.” Her guess was correct because the only insurance clerk with whom I envision sharing my time would have the intellect of Franz Kafka. 
              My chances are slim, so I think I’m safe. My high aspirations for companions are caused not by my capriciousness but the overabundance of predictability in most people I’ve met here. Therefore, very often, I choose to dwell in the past -- preferably someone else’s -- rather than participate actively in the surrounding reality. Admittedly, though, this does not safeguard me against the future which always manages to catch up. But -- back to Helen.  
              Recently divorced, she suffers from the opposite of selectiveness -- all-inclusiveness and justifies this malady by her inability to spend an evening alone. At thirty-four, she claims, she has a few years left to find “her true love” and remarry. I tried cooling her enthusiasm and reminded her of the saying that a second marriage is when optimism exceeds experience.  She in turn observed that I was too cynical, and exuded negativity. Helen, you see, belongs to that lovely breed of modern American women that would be deemed unrealistic in any other land: passive-aggressive, feminist, pseudo-spiritual and egotistic. It was the last quality, rather than the hyper-romantic pursuit of “true love” which turned Helen into an addict of “aggressive dating”. This, incidentally, is what those in search of a serious relationship are humorlessly called in America. Attractive wouldn’t you say? Being an egotist, she feels that her aloneness is making her unhappy and miserable and so she is searching for a “partner” to share it with. Her ex-husband left her because she was too romantically ambitious. 
              After reading some brainless and corny article in a woman’s magazine, she would demand that her ex follow its suggestions. He tried to comply as best as he could but had to draw a line when she asked him to give up a business lunch in order to have a spontaneous picnic (which she planned) with her in a park. Anyone that knows Americans would agree that they would never pass up making a buck. Come to think of it, even a business lunch promises to be more fulfilling than sitting in a park in 103 degree heat, nibbling on a cucumber and discussing innovative ways to cuddle with a barracuda that passes herself off as a woman. After a few more of such rejections, Helen filed for a divorce and plunged herself, head first, into the ‘singles world’. 
               Even the disturbed romantic that she is, she had to admit after a few months of “aggressive dating” that it is a gruesome chore. “How could we manage to make romance so tiring”, she complained after another unsuccessful date. I assured her that a quick glance at an average couple on the street proves the theory that, indeed, there is someone for everyone and that she, too, is destined to find her match. In the meantime, though, I suggested she take it easy and seek professional help along with the millions of other American singles who gather in singles bars and look about as relaxed and fun-loving as Al Gore during the last debate. I even reminded her of the old joke: after several years of marriage, Adam looked at Eve and begged the Lord to give him back his rib. “That’s the trouble with you,” she retorted, “ you don’t take anything seriously enough.”  “Abolish first marriages!” I snapped and hung up on her. If I had chosen to be serious, however, I would have told her that the reason dating is such an unbearable undertaking in this country is precisely because it is taken so seriously. Americans approach dating in the same way they approach business and, indeed, dating is big business in America. 
                 There are countless relationship experts here who don’t think twice before giving their patients the following advice: go home, sit in front of a mirror and give each other a twenty-second quality-hug. And the unfortunate fools complete the homework on the daily basis. Spontaneous, isn’t it? At the risk of making the reader nauseous, I will quote the second most popular exercise ritually performed by local romantics: each day they invent new nicknames for each other, “snookums” being the number one choice. What is there to talk about when Nancy Reagan’s recent confession entitled “I love you, Ronnie?” hit the bestsellers list?! Can you imagine the reaction in Russia if Yeltsin’s s wife were touched by the muse in the similar fashion? . On the same list, you will also find such complex titles as: 101 Reasons Men Lie, Places To Leave Love Notes For Your Beloved, Guide To Blind Dating etc. 
                As for the first title, I, for one, do not find it unappealing that men lie sometimes because, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, a great deal of sincerity is a sure way to get hit upside your head by an “aggressively dating” feminist-Buddhist.  What are these poor men expected to say: I am looking for a meaningful one-night stand? That’s almost as nonsensical as some of the verbiage that Bush Jr. uses.  But in order to avoid putting all the blame on women, let me demonstrate the point that the local males are also made of the same sickeningly sappy matter when it comes to dating. Here is ad from the Washington, DC paper written by a 35 year old creature of male persuasion: “A well-toned professional, sensitive, aggressive, a great cook is looking for an elegant, outdoorsy female for a meaningful relationship that would include intense hugging and skydiving”. 
                 Are you frightened yet? In conclusion, let me repeat after the comedienne, Lilly Tomlin: If love is the answer, could you rephrase the question, please?

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