“I’ll teach you how to successfully marry a man,” read the brochure from an outfit calling itself the Kyiv Brides School that arrived at What’s On’s offices not long ago. Curious as to what the school had to reach, I decided to take its three-day training course, at a cost of 350 euros, and learn what I needed so that I could land my Prince Charming. Svetlana met me in her office in Bessarabka Ploscha two days before the programme began. She, by the way, is not only gorgeous, but has been married for 13 years and has a son, which suggests she knows what she’s talking about. She asked me point blank whether I was involved in a serious affair with any guy. I said no. I mean, there are guys that I go out with, but I haven’t taken those relationships to heart. “Good for you, you don’t have a boyfriend now,” Svetlana said. “Usually after a woman in a relationship takes this course, the couple breaks up, because you’re going to change a lot and you won’t want to stay with him.”
Going Home Depressed
Besides me there were six other girls in the class. They turned out to be of all different professions and had different interests and temperaments, but one thing united them: the desire to get married.
All told, we all walked out of the programme feeling rosy about our futures. But that was the result of hard work, which was definitely part of this class
Most of them seemed to be approaching that mythical marriage-age deadline in Ukrainian culture: 25, give or take. After that, you’re an old maid. I met the manager of a huge agricultural corporation, a PR agency director, a masseuse, and a woman who sold books. Being extremely anxious about their non-married status, all of them had paid a pretty penny to come here and hopefully get directions to the lost key that would open up the castle of happiness. Each class in the programme had its own theme. The first day was dedicated to our most recent affairs and to getting to the bottom of them. “You’ll never start any new relationship without finishing
I went home pretty depressed about how much time I’d spent trying to build my “dream castle,” and how the project had been doomed because I myself hadn’t changed
the old one,” Svetlana instructed us. This was a challenge, as none of us seemed to be sure whether we wanted to be involved in more future relationships – we were all a little bruised. Nonetheless, we wrote on our pieces of paper, “I forgive you for…” and then made our own lists. Next we talked about common problematic romantic situations, and God knows there was a lot to talk about. The fact that these bad situations are so common means that we never learn our lessons. On the programme’s second day we discussed our imperfections, which was sometimes very difficult to take, as we realised how many wrong steps we’d all made. I went home pretty depressed about how much time I’d spent trying to build my “dream castle,” and how the project had been doomed because I myself hadn’t changed. The third day was the most fun. We got tips about how to attract positive energy and thus the lives we wanted. There’s nothing mystical about this, it was just about understanding what we wanted, and lacked, and constructing our worldviews accordingly.
Do You Need a Crutch?
All told, we all walked out of the programme feeling rosy about our futures. But that was the result of hard work, which was definitely part of this class. For example, Svetlana had had trouble making us understand that before we started looking for a future mate, we had to change our attitudes. While filling out the hypothetical wish list Svetlana made us complete, one girl said that her number one aim was, flatly, to get married. This was no big surprise under the circumstances. But Svetlana asked her why she wanted that. “I want somebody to love me, to take care of me, a man I can rely on,” she answered. Hardly had she finished than Svetlana challenged her. “Do you mean that you need a crutch to carry you?” All of us laughed. In this needy environment, even I started thinking that I might have been doing something wrong in my relationships, given that I still don’t have a potential husband around me. The reason that young women can’t find somebody to tie the knot with is more obvious than ever: in the culture of choice we live in (but that our mothers and grandmothers certainly didn’t) girls often just don’t know what they want, except that their man should be caring, loving, attractive, and young. But all those things are superficial. Instead of dreaming of such things, it might be better to think about what combination of good and bad qualities would suit you in a future husband. That might be more realistic. Lots of interesting stories circulated during our three-day class. One girl said that she reacted negatively to all the men she met. “They’re all males and they’re all polygamous,” she said, which amused her listeners. She’d been through a number of short relationships that had mostly ended in broken hearts, as each guy seemed first to confirm her theory and then dump her for someone else. During one class we discussed what Svetlana called the Pyramid of Logical Levels. The idea was that you would say who you are, what skills you had, what actions you could take to achieve your goal, and what your life would be like after you’d achieved it. The last step is the most important, because that’s where you learn that what you’re working for might not be right for you: you might be killing yourself to get married to a man who doesn’t square with your lifestyle and your values. The Bride School made a lot of interesting points, but it didn’t really tell me anything I didn’t already know, and at 350 euros per person it seemed more to be taking advantage of female fears than providing a concrete and worthwhile service. The reality of the situation is we all have different likes and dislikes when it comes to men, and we must understand ourselves and what we want before we are likely to make a happy marriage. The course may have focused my mind on this fact, but it was something I already knew.