Girls Vs. "Devushki!"

Issue Number: 
Marissa Payne

A couple of weeks ago, a guy came up to me and whispered something in Russian with a heavy foreign accent. We were in a club, so the music was loud, so I replied, "What?" At first he was happy I spoke English, but then he realized just how well I spoke it: "Wait, you’re not Russian?"
"No, I’m American."
Those three simple words instantly gave me an unattractive quality.
He went on, "That’s too bad. You look like you could be Russian, but you have that American mentality…"
"Yep, sorry about that… Anyway…"
It turns out the guy was American, which makes it all the more bizarre to me that he was so put off by my "American mentality" – whatever that means.
So what is it that’s so different about Russian and foreign girls, particularly me and my mentality?
Many are quick to point out the stereotypical visual differences between Russians and foreigners, or, to put it more bluntly – Russian girls are hot and foreigners are not. American women, in particular, are stereotyped as badly dressed and fat. I admit, America does boast its fair share of chub, and some of the foreign girls around do tend to favor pleated pants, but, at the same time, there are cute foreign girls here too (hi there!). And just because we don’t wear five-inch stilletos on a regular basis doesn’t mean we don’t have style, although I admit, I have seen a startling amount of unflattering ensembles on some of the expat crowd... But I can sympathize with them. If I hadn’t just left the country to go shoe shopping, I, too, would either be wearing a pair of stilletos or Rockport "comfort shoes." And God knows, both those situations are not suitable.
Anyway, what I’m getting at is that many foreign girls are just as cute as the Russians. Therefore, statements like "too bad about your American mentality" become all the more intriguing to me: Obviously, the difference between Betty and Olga is more than skin-deep.
Do foreign women think differently than Russian women?
I’ve heard the comparison that Russian women are far more traditional and family-oriented than foreign women, But are they really? I think "tradition" only goes so far and, as far as I can tell, most Russian women don’t feel dramatically different about family than foreigners. They do, however, have a far more traditional view of what’s feminine and masculine.
I attended an American-Russian student-discussion circle where the topic was "Dating: Cultural Differences Between America and Russia," and what I found out was half-surprising and half-expected. Russian girls expect to be paid for on dates. American girls don’t. Duh. Russian girls want to be married by the age of 24. American girls don’t. OK, sounds routine. But what startled me about the latter topic was one comment made by a young, intelligent Russian female student: "If you’re not married by the age of 24, people will think something’s wrong with you." The other Russian girls (all aged between 18-21) nodded in agreement.
But what about those 24-year-old Russian women who aren’t married? What’s wrong with them? Judging from the ones I know, absolutely nothing. In fact, the Russian women I’ve encountered who have never been married and are 24 or older seemed perfectly normal to me. Actually, most of the Russian girls who I feel are my true friends are unmarried and aged 24 or older, and none of them seem too eager to get married (and I can’t blame them. Moscow is not that hot, but I’ll expand on that next time.) For example, I had a job last year working at a law firm where three out of four of my Russian female coworkers were over the age of 24 and unmarried. The fourth got married when she was 25. These women were all smart, pretty and by no means abnormal.
It seems to me that Russian women have different mentalities that evolve with age, just like foreign women. Young Russian girls dream about getting married to Prince Charming, just like foreign women. And like foreign women, when Russian women grow up and realize Prince Charmings are few and far between and begin to think about their career aspirations as well as other priorities, they begin to put more emphasis on making themselves happy, rather than settling for Prince Not-So-Charming. But, unfortunately, there are those women whose mentalities don’t change, and this leads to some pitiful stories. In every country, you can find those girls who are so desperate – filled with fear when they assume they’re washed up at 24 – that they settle for the first guy that shows an interest in them. And this, my friends, explains why divorce rates are so high both in Russia and America. But I digress…
I’m not proposing that Russian and American women are one and the same, but I am saying that I think the differences are far less evident than the similarities. We’re all fans of "Sex and the City," we all agree Johnny Depp is hot, and most of us agree that our own happiness doesn’t depend on whether or not we’re married… Unless you’re 44 – then, something might be wrong with you…
I’ll take that comment about having an "American mentality" as a compliment: I’m self-reliant, modern and happy, just like my friends, both Russian and expat.