Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Who ever thought there'd be a Slovak Midnight Express.

Also, related to the below post: No more dead babies in Slovakia.

Monday, February 27, 2006

UPDATE: Big thanks to Larry King, a reader of this blog (really, that's his name), for sending me the story I'm looking for. I found it online here.

All righty, so I'm back in the Prague. My ticket has me running back to Cairo on Wednesday, but I think I'll change it to stay through the weekend, because this town really is such a lovely one to visit.

Here's my question: Does anybody out there have the link to the thingie written by that one dude, the dude someplace in America who calculated just how much money he spent, annually, on buying drinks for girls? And then resolved to go an entire year going on dates with girls but not paying? And actually going to the trouble of arriving early for every date and telling the waiter to put everything on two separate tabs? And then savoring that awkward moment (not to mention the look on the woman's face) when the check arrives?

OK, so I pretty much just told you the whole story, so maybe there's no need for that link.

But anyway, what prompted this was just a cultural observation on the habits and mores of the people in a place called Kiev, Ukraine (and surely common to many parts of the world) which, not to be so totally obvious about it, simply involves the man paying for everything. Everything, I mean everything, I mean even her cab ride home. Yes, her cab ride home, to her place.

I can't even put my finger on it, because generally I try to be gentlemanly - OK, stop laughing, you - and sure, if I'm at a cafe, bar or restaurant with a member of the opposite sex (say, in Prague, or anywhere for that matter) I'll probably buy her a drink if I'm feeling nice. And maybe even a second or a third, who knows.

Generally speaking, though, there's a point where some pleasantries are exchanged - "Are you sure?" or "Let me get this round," or "No, I insist" or "Allow me" or sometimes just "No, thanks" - which essentially stake out the psychological terrain and determines just how far this man-paying-for-woman business is meant to go.

This simply didn't happen in Kiev, because the terrain was all-encompassing. And I don't think it was simply because I'm a foreigner. There was never any question - at all.

I would also expect - again, from where I'm coming - this type of behavior to cultivate an air of seediness if it's taken too far. That didn't happen either. It just was.

By contast, I commonly go out for alcohol-free beverages with an Egyptian woman friend in Cairo. She insists on splitting everything evenly, down to a single Egyptian pound. (That's 17 U.S. cents.)

I had dinner last night with an American man with his American woman on Bohemian visit. I explained the Way It Works Over There, and he asked if, within this cultural milieu, there existed an understanding of a certain implied contract, i.e., if the woman feels obliged to act a certain way or do certain things in exchange - ahem - to which I could only gesture in a there-you-have-it manner and say, "Evidently not."

Rockin' town, though, despite (or maybe because of) the Katerina-Witt-era GDR feel to it.... with thuggish men and women with truly dreadful taste in couture and rich girls who stop by the apartment and say "Do you want to share a bottle of champagne?" (a Ukrainian euphemism for cocaine, it turns out) and strip clubs and nightclubs with private cabins (I didn't partake) and salmon topped with beluga caviar and chased with vodka (I did partake) and drunk Lithuanians and Ukrainians bursting out into old Soviet folks songs. ...

... All pretty much just as you'd expect.