Long before I ever considered going abroad, I always had a thing for Eastern Europeans; any one of my friends would tell you this. But I never could explain why. No, it honestly wasn’t the accent that did it for me. And it wasn’t their appearance. I even once tried to reason that they were more cultured, but that didn’t turn out to be it, either.
What the appeal really boils down to is the difference in mindsets. Most American boys my age (men? – boys on the verge of mental manhood anyway) exist within a bubble. They’re content to go about their daily lives, rarely reaching beyond the American sphere. And, on one hand, who can blame them? The USA is vast in every sense of the word. For a lot of them, it offers everything they’ll ever need or want.
Eastern European men my age (none of which I hesitate to refer to as men) almost always want more from life. Georgia is rich in ways America will never be, but it’s a fact the world is not at their fingertips like it is ours. And because of this search for the ideals they deem bigger and better, they’ve acquired an innate sense of curiosity. This approach is refreshing, and clearly evident in everyday life: When I brought up news stories back home, my guy friends would nod in acknowledgment, and might have remarked, “That’s sad”; when I talk about current events here, I’m often asked, “But why?” Little differences like these separate the contributors from the creators.
Another thing that really stands out is the differences in appearance. These men know how to dress. The majority of them have very little money to spend on clothes, and a lot of them don’t have washing machines. Yet somehow they make it work. They’re always impeccably clean and, although they don’t have much clothing, the things they do have are tasteful. American boys, you have no excuse. You all have a washing machine and TJ Maxx. Make it happen.
Given my preferences, it seems that I would’ve succumbed to the Cinderella fairytale by now. Girl meets boy in a faraway land. Girl marries and invites 500 of their closest friends. Girl moves to Tbilisi with Prince Charming, buys a flat on Rustaveli, and lives happily ever after. Well, not quite. There are many factors to consider. (Scary realization #82: You know you’ve become a woman when you say this in regards to a relationship – and actually mean it.)
Every day strangers and friends alike ask me, “kmari ar ginda? (Don’t you want a husband?)” No. I didn’t want one yesterday, so I probably won’t be needing one today. I’ve learned is this question is laden with insinuation. Not everyone has their own self interests at heart, but some do. Some are hoping I’ll whip out my non-existent magic carpet and whisk their son away to America. Others want to get a feel for how loose I am. A few just want to turn my relationship status into a gossip fest. Of course there are those who genuinely care and are wildly in love with both their country and with me, and wouldn’t be able to contain themselves if I decided to stay. I love them, too, but back to the kaci (men) …
Children are wonderful. I wake up smiling every morning because I know I’ll see my kids at school soon. But having children isn’t for me – not just yet anyhow. Not to be selfish, but I have a career to establish and adventures to experience before that’s a possibility. Conversely, the early 20-somethings here are already prepared to be fathers. They grew up adoring their little sisters or brothers and probably held more babies before they were 12 than you or I ever will. And if they didn’t grow up with siblings, you can bet they helped walk the neighborhood kids to school. While good paternal skills are one of the most attractive assets a man can have, I know what would be expected of me if I became serious with someone. Wedding + nine months = baby. That’s one tradition I can’t accept right now.
The second, and most difficult, barrier to overcome here is communication. I have met some gorgeous men with captivating personalities, or so I thought before we attempted conversation. They chatter away in fluent Georgian, and I carefully listen. Unfortunately, I can understand 80% of what’s said, but responding is a whole other story. Georgian grammar is extremely different from English grammar and makes sentence formation a real b*. So, I say what I can – which usually takes all of 10 minutes. An awkward silence ensues and I make an excuse to part ways. He invites me for drinks at his house, and I politely decline. I’m not interested in what’s in your pants until I’ve had a closer glimpse of what’s upstairs, sorry.
The third concern which I can do absolutely nothing about stems from my background. Georgians like their television. That includes the raunchy soap operas and racy movies. For a lot of Georgians who have never encountered an American, these women are the real thing. So I can easily understand why I’m stereotyped as being easy. And I completely get why I’m not taken seriously – as an intellectual – by many of the men my age. Sadly, I’m forced to not take them seriously, either.
Another lesser important problem is the religion issue. I’m atheist. Georgia is Eastern Orthodox. I tell people my religion (or lack thereof) whenever anyone asks because I don’t believe in being evasive. While some of my generation here might be accepting of my beliefs and even progressive in their own, there’s the parental factor to consider. And that’s one big if.
Looking outside the relationship spectrum, there’s always the possibility of having a friend with benefits. This is feasible in the big city but nearly impossible in a village like mine. A move like that could quickly ruin someone’s reputation and might mean the end of their job. But that option has lost its appeal for me anyway. Been there, done that.
All things considered, I remain single by choice. Georgia is not the place to come for hookups or summer flings, but it’s very possible to find love. Several of my American girl friends are happily dating Georgians. Perhaps if I were really looking I’d find it, too.