I recently received this letter from JL.
Dear Mr. Martin,
I greatly admire your efforts to set the facts straight concerning mail-order brides. I'm a recovering brideaholic myself and have reached many of the same conclusions you have.
Like many men who stumble onto the marriage-related web sites, at first, I believed many of their claims simply because I wanted to. But after writing many letters, broadening my research, and having a few first hand experiences, I have come to the conclusion that such activity is, at the very least, a waste of time and money.
I have probably spent about $3000 dollars on addresses, translations, phone bills, and transportation and am no closer to marriage than I was when I started. Money is not my main reservation, however; it is the emotional damage done to the participants of these relationships that concerns me more.
Although I have had communications with several women from Russia in which marriage was discussed, pre-conceived misconceptions have inevitably soured the relationships. Fundamental to these misconceptions has been the issue of wealth. These women seem deeply convinced that all Americans are filthy rich. When I tell them that I simply earn a comfortable income, they assume this means that I can't afford a full time chauffeur.
When I eventually make it clear that they won't lead a totally pampered lifestyle, they quickly loose interest. I deeply suspect that their misconception of the average American income is fully exploited by the marriage agencies in order to obtain photos and addresses. Unfortunately, this does not attract the sort of women that these agencies are promising.
When I began this process, I was simply looking for someone nice who would appreciate my kind, respectful, and decent nature. The marriage agencies fed into this by making claims concerning the widespread abuse of women in Russia. I still do not doubt such claims, but I had hoped that these women would simply appreciate a peaceful life with an intelligent and caring American. So far, this hasn't been the case.
There are other claims made by these agencies of which I am now extremely skeptical. The issue of age difference for example. I don't doubt that some women can rationalize away marrying a man 20 years older for his wealth, but women like these are not unique to the former Soviet Union. The issue of character verses youth or attractiveness is another example. By any chance, does the word "character" translate to something akin to filthy rich in Russian?
Certainly they must have a word meaning true character; Tolstoy seemed to understand its meaning. I also know a few Russians who have immigrated to America who seem to understand it. So why does its meaning seem to be getting lost in the translation by these agencies? Perhaps such words simply aren't in their vocabulary.
I have seen one of these relationships firsthand from beginning to end. I had been writing a girl who was already engaged through one of these meet-your-perfect-wife-in-a-week agencies. She said that she wrote to me because she had only known her fiancÚ for a short time and was concerned about his true character.
After many letters and phone calls, I agreed that she could stay with me if he turned out to be a jerk. She was in America a week before she called to tell me that he had thrown her out. Of course, I arranged transportation for her to my state.
To make a long story short, it didn't take her long to realize that I was not a millionaire and left the same day. When I contacted an immigration attorney on her behalf, he was already familiar with her and said that several other men had already contacted him about her.
The last I heard she was still looking for the millionaire that she is convinced most Americans are. Her visa has expired and she is probably staying in the US illegally. If caught, she could end up in I.N.S. detention indefinitely if Russia will not take her back.
I feel very sorry for her and her ex-fiancÚ whose only real fault was buying into the hype he was fed by the agency he dealt with. Her problem was firmly believing that most Americans are filthy rich. Whether she got this impression from Ugly-American tourists, movies, or the marriage agencies is really unimportant. No one can convince her of anything different.
The question I have is who's really at fault: maladjusted American men, amoral Russian women, or the agencies who profit from bringing the two together? Certainly this characterization is extreme. Not all of the men who become involved with this process are total jerks---some are very decent people. And not all of the women are scheming gold-diggers--- some are also very decent people, in very desperate situations, simply looking for a better life.
Nevertheless, the chance of successfully coupling decent people through the current process is extremely small. More often than not, one participant or the other becomes victimized. Certainly the profit motive is responsible for the extreme distortion of expectations on both sides.
I met one Russian women through an Internet personal ad who seems more in tune with reality. I don't think that this is the solution however. Very few Russians can afford the technology and service costs associated with Internet access, and this does nothing to dispel the modern mythology perpetrated by the marriage agencies.
The few Pen-pal clubs also simply can't compete on this level. What I'm considering is hitting these Marriage agencies where they live. Developing a non-profit website, every bit as slick as theirs, that 1) tells the truth, and 2) gives away addresses.
Such a website would quickly cut into the profits of these agencies. They might even dry up and disappear. In my correspondence, I have met a few nice Russian women who are dissatisfied with the number and quality of the responses that they are receiving. It seems to me that there are several factors involved here.
Most guys that buy these addresses never write. Buying addresses on an impulse is easy. Writing and delivering respectful letters to Russian women is more difficult. Many guys that do write misjudge their audience based on the misconceptions they are fed by the Marriage agencies.
How can a non-profit website get addresses? One easy way is by asking ex-brideaholics, via the Internet, to obtain the permission of women whose addresses they are not using. I have several such addresses which I purchased as part of volume package deals and then never used.
Another way is to circulate applications in the Former Soviet Union encouraging their reproduction via copying machines. How could such an application distinguish itself from all the others? By telling the truth and appealing to nationalism by stating the objective of putting for-profit agencies out of business and treating ex-soviets with the respect they deserve.
Can a non-profit website exclude immature or insincere participants? Probably not. What it can do is warn participants about what to expect, and recommend the discontinuance of any correspondence which seems even slightly insincere. After all, there would be many other addresses available, and the ex-soviets should be receiving many more letters since there is less cost and delay involved.
As part of their hype, the marriage agencies like to publish "success stories" which paint the same fairy-tale picture as the rest of their distortions. In a similar vane, a non-profit website could publish "horror stories" with a by-line stating if you really want to meet someone nice, here's what to look out for. With such a contrast, I think that a non-profit website would have much more source material.
Of course, a non-profit website would require the short term efforts of many volunteers in many counties. Volunteers to draft applications in several languages. Volunteers to circulate applications locally or during their trips abroad. And, of course, someone to host and administer the website. This would be my contribution.
Who might these volunteers be? Some might be foreign businesses, hotels ect..., who have had negative experiences with the for-profit agencies (some of the worst are no better than prostitution rings). Other short term volunteers could include anyone who has seen the damages the current for-profit process causes and wants to do something about it.
I will add that:
In Russian XAPAKTEP, means character in the same sense as English. What is interesting is that, some Russians still use the word businessman interchangeably with thief. They also use the word ruski dusha, literally Russian soul, to mean frothing-at-the-mouth ultranationalism, another desirable trait in a Russian husband. Someday I hope to post a way to translate letters in the same way we can translate "Rubenesque" into "slightly overweight whale".
I agree absolutely! As soon as I get the technical aspects together, I will put up a graphitti board for posting free addresses. Also, it should be interesting to note that intellectual property law doesn't protect individual addresses or phone numbers listed in a directory. Of course I wouldn't recommend people posting addresses they bought, there are lots of other ways to get addresses.