Last month, I went on at least a dozen dates. All the men I met were single and of perfectly marriageable age; they were also pleasant to look at and to talk to and boasted stable jobs. More interestingly, all of them told me they wanted to marry. Not just find a nice girlfriend and maybe live together if the arrangement suits them, but marry officially — in the boring old-fashioned way. Some even mentioned they'd like a church wedding and three kids, no less.
But I wasn't frankly that surprised. I have always believed that the purported shortage of good men is one of those strangely enduring social myths journalists, online dating agency owners and Hollywood directors looking to make yet another romantic comedy starring Jennifer Aniston take advantage of.
By the way, on those dates I wasn't actually on a manhunt for myself, but for the magazine I work for. One of the major stories for the February issue of Russian Marie Claire (which we do in December) traditionally is on single men whom we choose to feature in the magazine. We do this to: 1) undermine or at least question the "men shortage" myth and 2) facilitate nice guys meeting nice girls — the latter could write to the men they liked through the magazine. Having done this project for several years, we have never been short of eligible bachelors willing to participate. Even last year, when for the 100th issue of Marie Claire in Russia we needed to find 100 single men. About 70% from that hundred were Russian, others — foreigners, but all very decent guys. Quite a few are not single any more: some weddings have already taken place, a few engagements and a countless number of dates — all with the magazine's readers. This year, we had 18 guys, but the amount of prospective candidates and how disappointed the ones who didn't make our list were, made us seriously consider starting a Marie Claire-based dating agency. It also made us wonder if the girls' whinings on where to find a good man were in fact a self-fulfilled prophecy, an excuse for not knowing what they want or not wanting — from the bottom of the heart — to have a relationship at all.
Of course there are statistics, which if interpreted accordingly, could add to the "not enough men" myth. About 5% more boys are born than girls in most countries including Russia, but by the end of school, the sex ratio evens out and starting from the age 30 or even earlier women begin outnumbering men. We live our lives differently from the instant we're born: while girls excel in learning and adapting, boys are more into exploring and competing. They strive to engage in dangerous activities like fights, wars and extreme sports often risking lives — and sometimes losing them. Hence, the gender imbalance, in terms of quantity at least.
When it comes to quality, however, that’s a tricky one. While gender imbalance is nothing new — men used to die in wars much more in the past, and life expectancy for an average man a hundred years ago was no more than 48 years — the women's growing dissatisfaction with the "male material" is a relatively novel phenomenon. The more we succeed in terms of status and career, the more inflated and unrealistic our expectations about "a man of our dreams" become. Add the consumerist society's pressures, and it indeed gets challenging to find an adequate partner (according to the imposed standards).
Curiously, the men, especially the ones who are quite successful, complain of the same thing. "I'd say there's a shortage of nice girls," Konstantin, one of the most popular bachelors from our last year's Top 100 Single Men issue, complained. A really cool fellow who is top manager at an international corporation, he confessed that many eligible guys are extremely cautious these days when it comes to meeting women "because of the relationships monetization." He used this strange term "monetization" implying girls treating a man's wallet as a key measure of what he's worth. "To start trusting a woman, the man must be sure that he's being appreciated for who he is, not for which position he holds, which car he drives and what he can buy," Konstantin said.
But despite all the prejudice and fears, l believe there's still a good number of nice guys out there who're not really into supermodels half their age, are done fooling around and eating pizza for dinner alone and would be happy settling down. I actually think that number is about the same as the amount of girls wanting to have a family. Perhaps it could be easier for the nice girls to meet the nice guys if we all weren't so busy working and using social networks as a surrogate for safe relationships. Or if we were a bit more pragmatic so that the singles industry could thrive in Russia as it has done in the United States or Britain where there's a much more go-getter approach to looking for love.
Still I believe in chances more than in anything. Things often happen you don't expect — at least that's what always occurred to me. There're more than enough people on the planet to provide opportunities for those "magic" encounters. It just takes an open heart.
Russia has always been referred to as feminine and Russian women have been one of the most popular stereotypes of this nation, both positive and negative. But is this an all-male fantasy? Here is a hip, modern, professional and increasingly globalized Russian woman looking at the trends around her, both about her gender and the society at large. She talks and lets other women talk.
Svetlana Kolchik, 33, is deputy editor-in-chief of the Russian edition of Marie Claire magazine. She holds degrees from the Moscow State University Journalism Department and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She has worked for Argumenty i Fakty weekly in Moscow and USA Today in Washington, D.C., and contributed to RussiaProfile.org, Russian editions of Vogue, Forbes and other publications.