Women Talk: Where Are the Men?

© Photo : Mikhail Kharlamov/Marie Claire RussiaSvetlana Kolchik
Svetlana Kolchik - Sputnik International
Hey, don't get me wrong. Of course I know where men are. Just walk into any cafe, bar or restaurant in any American and European city, and there you go: guys of various ages and backgrounds, alone or in small groups, reading, talking on the phone or iPadding, people-watching, eating, socializing, getting drunk.

Hey, don't get me wrong. Of course I know where men are. Just walk into any cafe, bar or restaurant in any American and European city, and there you go: guys of various ages and backgrounds, alone or in small groups, reading, talking on the phone or iPadding, people-watching, eating, socializing, getting drunk. Some are really hot, others not so much. Still, more often than not the stronger sex makes up at least half of a venue’s customers.


Take any cafe or restaurant in Moscow – and you discover quite a different gender landscape. Girls, girls, girls! Slim, chubby, fashionable, prim, dreamy, agitated and what not - it seems that women are the major clientele of the city's locales of sorts, except for perhaps the most ridiculously expensive places.

Even in a venue where I am sitting at the moment and writing this column, out of about a dozen customers I can spot just one guy. It's lunchtime on a weekday. There are a bunch of offices in the vicinity. It's not just coincidence – I come over here for my bowl of crab and egg noodle soup almost every day and nearly always find this quaint little cafe curiously man-free. Where the heck are the guys? Don't they need to eat?

I am living in a women's city! That's the kind of impression I tend to get very often. The contrast strikes me even harder when I get back from Europe or the States. I am not at all looking for a man right now, but the gender imbalance in many public places and at many social events in Russia still kind of freaks me out. And not only me – I hear similar observations – and complaints - from so-o many Russian females regardless of their personal status.

I called my friend Alexei Karaulov, Maxim/Russia magazine deputy chief editor, who I thought could give me some tips on where Russian men were hiding. Out in the neighborhoods, drinking beer in the apartment complexes' backyards, he mused. Sport bars, of course, when there's an important soccer match going on. At some “men only” activities like fishing, hunting, catching some steam at the banya, etc. But what about eateries? “For a Russian guy, it's way too much stress to go out to eat, especially in the company of other men,” Karaulov said. “Russian men are very insecure and competitive at the same time, and the country's environment is quite aggressive, so there’s almost nowhere they can relax easily. Many men in Russia are just surviving, they haven't learned to fully live yet.”

True, just 15 years ago, there were hardly any restaurants here, so many people are simply not used to going out yet. True, too, ours is not exactly a hedonistic culture. Or perhaps we are a hedonistic culture in disguise. Russians, men especially, do like to eat (girls, I find, tend to enjoy cooking more). Guys also love to hang out and party, but indeed they need to feel comfortable to be able to enjoy it. And most Moscow and Saint Petersburg restaurants with designer chandeliers, exclusive silverware and aloof waiters, are more the places to show off than to savor food. We, girls, love the former, and the guys... Give them a break!

Our need for girl-talk is almost as vital as the need to breathe – I did a column on that topic some time ago. In fact, in many places in Moscow and other cities across Russia, one can spot numerous groups of girls sipping tea for hours and not ordering much else, just asking for continuous hot water refills.

We remain quite a patriarchal society as well. “Girl fun” and “boy fun” are often not to be mixed in Russia. The culture of socializing is yet to emerge here. Or actually, Russian men need to catch up, because the women are out and about all right. My good friend Alexandra Olsufieva, a philanthropist who splits her time between Moscow and Paris, where she organizes, among other things, home charity dinners, also observed that while Russian women are already there, Russian men aren't that eager to get involved in social activities. They also tend to be shy – especially when finding themselves in an unfamiliar environment. “At my dinners in Paris, the male-female ratio is always three to one,” Olsufieva said. “And in Moscow, I am lucky when out of 12 people two or three guys show up. And they're expats most of the time.”

But my other friend, Valeriy Bo, a renowned relationship coach who eight years ago introduced speed-dating parties to Russia's major cities, suggested we might all be wrong. Women tend to be “socially blind,” he stressed, meaning that we often see only what and whom we want to see. “When girls go out they just don't notice certain men – the ones who, for instance, don't fit their “type,” he said.

Yeah, perhaps that is the problem. A tall dark stranger is my type and this could be the case for many other Russian girls. It’s not a common type among the local males, which can make us feel we are hanging out in a man-less world.

Still, if men joined women in epicurean activities of all sorts more often, the social climate in Russia would change – for the better.

The views expressed in this column are the author’s and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.


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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.

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