Friday, July 09, 2010

International Relations: Deplorable and Delicious

Last summer, in the international airport in Moscow, I made the acquaintance of Zhenya, an attractive, but shallow and materialistic young Russian woman, who was coming to the US to study English and live as the fiancée of a divorced Russian emigre almost twice her age. She asked me to sit next to her on the plane, and we talked (in a mixture of Russian and English) the whole ten-hour trip to Washington—about the superficial things with which she was obsessed (fashion, expensive cars, money), her family in Kazan and her studies in Environmental Engineering, and how I thought she shouldn’t live with this guy she barely knew. We exchanged contact information, and for a few months we got together every six weeks or so for coffee, and once (as previously blogged, last fall) to go to a museum with her obviously possessive fiancé and a more pleasant friend of his. I had her over to my apartment for tea one afternoon and showed her some of the jewelry I made. What was irritating was how she always wanted to know what this or that cost, how much the apartment rent was, was my diamond pendant real? And so forth.

In time, her “boyfriend” became abusive, and she temporarily moved out, to live with a friend from school. Around the same time, she also discovered that she was pregnant. She’d previously been begging me to find her a “nice American man,” and this entreaty intensified. I always put her off, told her I didn’t know any—well, I do know quite a few, but none that I’d be so cruel to as to have recommended him take a romantic interest in her (not because of the pregnancy, but because of her character)! She also kept pressing me to “help her find a job” etc., but aside from giving her advice, I left it up to her—after all, as a foreign student, most jobs were not legally available to her.

As to her pregnancy and housing issues, I told her about a local crisis pregnancy center and accompanied her to an appointment there, and told her about a good Russian Baptist church and took her to one of their services. In both cases, I was impressed by the people in each place and she was not interested in relying on their help; the director of the pregnancy center advised me against the trap of enablement, and told me to let her make her own decisions. So, after she moved back in with her fiancé, I quit any further communication. What was the point? I’m not a one-woman Salvation Army center, and she was clearly an energy leach, with no genuine reform of her lifestyle.

So, no communication for months, and then she emailed me the day before my father’s funeral, saying that she’d moved out permanently, and “could you find me a good man.” I didn’t respond—I thought, “Good for her” (for FINALLY moving out), but her renewed appeal for a “good man” when I’d just lost my own great Daddy simply reinforced my determination to avoid her. Life is not a Disney movie with handsome princes waiting in the wings to rescue damsels in distress—particularly clingy damsels of questionable morals and no backbone. Rescue-minded royalty is even in short supply for those of us with semi-solid morals and hard heads.

Yesterday, out of the blue, she texted me and then telephoned me (from an unfamiliar number, since identified as “Zhenya! Ignore!” in my address book—I hung up on her when I realized who it was: “Can’t talk now, I’m in a store.” ) to say that she was getting a restraining order against the father of her unborn child. Lovely. Not that he doesn’t richly deserve it, but even less reason for me to want any involvement whatsoever—domestic violence practitioners so often threaten also those they suspect of helping their “loved” ones.

I’d go to the ends of the earth for a real friend, someone I knew was in trouble, who genuinely wanted to get out of a bad situation, but I’d also expect that they’d take advantage of any other external aid available, not just come to me alone, expecting me to magically solve their problems without their having to lift a finger. This girl is bad news, making bad, bad choices, and I refuse to be pulled down with her. I do feel thoroughly sorry for her baby—what parents!

In happier news, I went with Leah and a Lebanese friend of hers to a Greek restaurant in Old Town Alexandria last night after her martial arts class. Hercules, a Greek instructor for the State Department, whom I know from his visits to my and Anita’s jewelry booth at the Arlington Market, was singing traditional music inside. We sat outdoors (as the weather had at last cooled down to the point where being in a garden outdoors didn’t mean being cooked in one’s own juices), listened to the songs and watched other diners dance around the tables inside. Leah’s friend had grown up in Australia, and she told us about her elopement with her husband and the parties on three continents that their relatives had insisted on throwing them in lieu of a wedding.

After the delicious meal, Hercules came outside to sit at our table, rolled his eyes dramatically at our compliments on his music, and burbled to us about his own daughter’s upcoming marriage in Greece to a Finnish guy she met in London. It will be a small wedding, by native standards—150 guests instead of the whole village of 700. If I ever have the opportunity to marry, I—who have actually heretofore wanted a church wedding—want only a minister and a couple of witnesses with me and my husband at the ceremony. It would have been worth it to have a formal wedding if my father were around to enjoy it, but now it’d be too fraught with bitter-sweet emotion. He would have loved the Greek restaurant, and I’ll bet he would have gotten up and danced with the others whose feet were tapping too fervently to keep still in their seats.

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