Sex and Sensibility
From Russia, with love
Joe is a man I met at the airport; Jane is his wife, whom he ordered from Russia. While traveling through airports over break I met him, an electrician from Phoenix who went looking for love in an unusual place.
I first met this man at 6 a.m., when he initiated a surprisingly energetic conversation with my mother and me. An average man, a little overweight and balding, Joe told us how he had seen an ad about women from foreign countries and decided to test his chances abroad. Excitedly pulling out passport pictures of women he has met three times, he spoke of his long quest for love and the difficult journey to bring someone home with him to the United States.
Joe began this process a couple years ago by sorting through some 4,500 profiles of women on his computer. After choosing six women who he believed he would be compatible with, he paid $9 for each of their e-mails. His first chance at meeting his wife began when he traveled to the Ukraine to take part in a dating pool. While 15 American men made the trip, over 600 Russian women answered the call. As Joe the electrician shifted his way through various shapes and sizes, he eventually found Jane.
Jane supports two teenage girls, ages 12 and 15, and uses her Ph.D. teaching, for which she receives $40 a month. Her family lives with her parents and although all the adults work full time, they struggle to survive. For Jane, Joe is a hero: a purely economical way to get out of her current situation. She marries Joe, becomes a U.S. citizen and is able to potentially help herself and her children lead a better life. She may even be able to get her own parents and relatives over to America.
For Joe, Jane is an exotic, beautiful woman who thinks he is a king. While most American women might not think of an electrician as a millionaire, Jane and millions of foreign women do. When I asked Joe why he had chosen to go to Russia to find a women rather than continue to look for his match in the U.S., he said, "I'm just an electrician, but to Jane, I'm rich."
As Joe showed pictures of his future wife and children, I couldn't help but question overseas brides; I'm torn on the issue. On the one hand it seems to be a legal slave trade, where men find their women, bring them over to the United States and are in complete control of their lives and destinies. For just $9, Joe received information, a willing wife and an obedient servant. Jane will be obligated to marry Joe within 90 days of entering the U.S. or will have to return back home to Russia with her two children. If their marriage doesn't last for two years, the three will have the same fate.
These restrictions place emphasis on the idea that Jane and Joe are in love, and that their union will last. As Joe shifted through his paperwork - letters, birth certificates, past histories, etc. - I couldn't help but question two people forming such a strong connection with each other after sending only a couple of letters and spending only two out of 36 months together.
On the other hand, there is a part of me that thinks this is great. Joe is a saint for opening his home and his life to a woman and family he barely knows. He is a Good Samaritan, giving others the foundation with which to drastically improve their own lives. When I spoke with Joe about his decision to marry Jane, he seemed so sincere and genuine that even as I write this I continue to smile.
In an odd way, Joe and Jane represent society's changing role in defining the sanctity of marriage. As Joe and Jane unite through a foreign dating service for $9, couples are simultaneously being married on television for possible lump sums of money. As a 23-year-old woman who tries to imagine Jane's life, I find myself struggling to decide whether I would begin such a journey with a man I had never met. In such, I present the question to you.
Listen to any media outlet and you will see individuals vowing to marry one another due to theincentives: Security and power like Joe, or money and fame like countless others. Britney Spears recently got married while drunk as a "joke," and television contestants on "Joe Millionaire" wed for sums of money. These are just a few examples. These modern-day unions may just be another dating source; a way two people can fall in love and live happily ever after. But they may also be a modern form of slavery, where one can buy control over a helpless person.
The way I imagine Joe and Jane's situation will end may not be reality. As the media show marriage in non-traditional ways, I can only hope that Joe and Jane will lead a happy life here in the states.
I send my blessing towards the two, that their engagement visas will be processed soon and that they can start their adventures together, but I can't help but question the morality of it all.
As many of these questions and more continue to permeate my mind, I have to conclude that maybe these marriages, like all too many these days, are a little bit of both pleasure and pain.