Spending two months in Russia as a 30-year-old single woman is similar to what I envision military training being like. You come in terrified and weak; you leave tough and tempered and strengthened by the realization that nothing, ever, is going to seem difficult again. Having recently lived through said experience, I now present you a synthesis of key trends, reported directly from the line of duty.
IN: Feminism. Or, at least, the semblance of it. I assume I’m not the only one tired of getting labeled a gold-digger at the mere mention of my country of origin, because never have Russian women been so adamant about debunking cliché stereotypes by appearing self-sufficient and financially independent. Feminism, once a dirty word, is becoming prevalent both in the media and the arts, and the younger generation of women is eagerly jumping on board. They live alone, the have real careers, they pay rent and they are most definitely not “for sale” – or, at least, this is the image they aim to project. I assume that the end goal is still to secure a nice Alpha provider to “guarantee a stable future for their children”, but that’s not all that different from 80% of females on this planet, is it?
You go, girl!
OUT: Aging. Like everything else in Russia, the feminism trend comes with a giant contradiction: despite all the societal progress, women still have a more rigid expiration date than your average canned good. Over the course of eight weeks in this country, all my hard-earned 30-year-old confidence was progressively asphyxiated via the constant reminder that I am not just over the hill, I actually passed the hill years ago. In fact, I could practically feel people evaluating me like one would a Céline bag that has made its way to the outlet. “Why is she still available? What’s wrong with her? Are there any defects I should be aware of?” (YES! PLENTY! RUN!) Meanwhile, men are allowed to be old, overweight and, if budget permits, even equipped with a few extra girlfriends.
IN: Fillers. Due to steep competition and the aforementioned fear of aging, Russian girls strive to maintain perfection at all cost, even if that means pumping themselves with fillers at the (hillside) age of 23. Personally, I had no idea that there are so many body parts you can inject that stuff into – did you know that you can now create the illusion of a nose job via fillers?! (Sadly, there is still nothing to pump up the brain, but I remain hopeful.) If they are not filling, they are Botoxing (wait, is there a difference?), massaging, grooming, threading, waxing, peeling – all at a fraction of the Western price tag! I can take you there this summer. I won’t even tell.
OUT: Birth control. Or at least, so it seems, judging by the amount of little brats running around and ruining your lunch. Since Russians believe in giving birth when your ovaries are at their prime, most women equip themselves with mini ball & chain sets while they are still in their twenties, which has transformed my native Saint-Petersburg into an oasis of jungle gyms and playgrounds and kid-friendly mini malls. Russian women also seem to be blessed with the multitasking abilities of Hollywood actresses, balancing their multi-member households with regular travel and “light” careers and flourishing Instagram accounts – all while looking like a gazillion bucks (in fillers).
Speaking of which..
IN: Instagram Stardom. Much to my personal horror, this trend – or rather, societal disease – has swept Russia by storm. It has also made the process of going out borderline impossible, for you are likely to spend half of your evening clinking champagne glasses in an effort to capture the perfect glass clinking Boomerang. But wait, that’s just amateur stuff! The real “Instagram Stars”, whom I had the joy of sitting next to at dinner one night, make you feel like you are eating at the Ivy during the paparazzi heyday. FYI, I was informed that 50% of the women with 100K+ followers usually have significantly older mogul husbands, while the second half are enrolled in travel escort services that allow any fellow to bathe in their stardom (and in the Maldives sun) for about 5k a weekend! Charmant, n’est-ce pas?
IN: Culture. The one blessing in disguise about social media is that it demands a very well-rounded lifestyle. You can’t just be well-dressed, you also have to appear well-traveled and cultivated, which means that everybody is now vying to attend the latest gallery openings and pièce de théâtre. Which is great, except that just the other day, I saw a selfie step and repeat at a Dali exhibition. Part of me died.
OUT: Sanity. Ok, so you know that time you posted your co-worker’s birthday bouquet to make your ex jealous and everybody thought you had lost your mind? Well honey, that’s just peanuts on the crazy pie. In Russia, if you want to make somebody jealous, you can shell out $15 to rent a ginormous bouquet of red roses for 10 minutes, giving you just enough time to take a bunch of selfies or photos of them in your apartment. You know, as if somebody sent them to you. Oh, for another $2 they will throw in a Tiffany box, inspiring your target to stop whatever he’s doing and make a desperate attempt to upstage your anonymous admirer. Basically, Russian women are evil geniuses who put Amy Dunne to shame.
I ain’t kidding.
P.S. For those interested in some military training of your own, I’m considering a Dbag Dating Summer 2017 tour! Who’s in?
If you’re not sure, here are some articles that will help make up your mind: