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Friday, May 4, 2012

Why, Hello There, Comrade


I used to hang out with Russians.

Growing up, I had an impression of Russians gleaned entirely from the news strips shown in Social Studies during the 70s, wherein squat women in unattractive coats and scarves stood in mile-long lines hoping for shoes.

The kind of shoe, the size of the shoe? Unimportant. Once they had the shoe they’d worry about what to do with it.

Soviet Russia’s shortages were no joke. But my belief that all Russians were squat people in scarves certainly was.

Now, personally, I consider myself reasonably attractive. I’m not heavy, but not skinny; I fix my hair, even if “fixing” it just means brushing it; and I never leave the house without my lipstick.

Call me old-fashioned, but there’s nothing a little lipstick won’t cure.

Headcold? You’ll look better with a little lip.

Heartache? Maybe a little lip color will make you feel better.

Just running to the store to pick up cigarettes? Hey – maybe a little lipstick, huh? You never know who you’ll run into…

The Russians in my life at that time were all met through the people I hired several jobs back to clean an office building, and to a man were physically fit, attractive, and elegant.

And that’s the other thing a little lipstick can do for you – convince beautiful immigrants that they should include you in the festivities.

And so it came to pass that I was invited to join in a celebration. A party of 16 people met at a local Russian restaurant for a couples’ 10th wedding anniversary. I was the only native-born American at the table.

Have you partied with the Russians? They leave their worries at the door. The men wear suits, the women wear dresses, and everything is pleasantries and vodka. The table is laden with the pickles, potato salad, marinated and smoked herring, hardboiled eggs, cold cuts and brown bread consumed between shots.

There will be dinner much, much later.  How's 10:00 hit ya?

The first toast is to the women at the table.

The second is to the men.

The third one is open.

We have just finished the third toast when I am tapped on the shoulder.

I turn to see a handsome man in a suit.

He hold his hand out, says something in Russian which I am willing to bet translates as Would you care to dance?

I push my chair away from the table and smilingly hold my hand out, and he guides me on to the dance floor.

The band, consisting of drums, accordion, saxophone, and violin, plays music I don’t recognize; but he is a good dancer, and arm around my waist, we move among the other couples.

He is talking. I imagine that he is talking about the band, about the restaurant, about the beautiful evening. There are no questions, just him talking; and abuzz with vodka and the ease of being paired with a good dancer, I smile.

At the end of the song, he guides me back to my seat, and for the first time, asks me a question.

“I’m sorry,” I say, sitting down. “I don’t speak Russian.”

His mouth drops open, and then he recovers and closes it. He smiles, lifts my hand, and kisses it.

And I rejoin my table.



Was there a point to this post? Not really. I just wanted to relive that night. 

40 comments:

Shelly said...

And what a delicious reliving it is! I think everyone needs Russians in their lives now and then~

Saimi said...

Dang, lost in translation! Of course he wanted your name and phone number!

Robbie Grey said...

The moments were captured beatifuly. I liked how you ended the story.

Simply Suthern said...

Dance, The universal language.

I remember the Russians in social studies as well. I wonder what the books say now?

Is funny, I looked at my blog audience stats and depending on the week 15-30% of my pageviews are Russian.

Camille said...

Such a lovely Friday morning story Pearl. Anything involving marinated food products, charming men and vodka and I'm all in. *swoon*

Pearl said...

Oh, how I wish I had a picture of that evening. To be surrounded by attractive, well-dressed people who know how to party... :-) Food and drink and dance. Courtly men and women who acted like ladies...

Douglas said...

You left out "facial warts" when describing Russian women. Even the pretty ones where the wart almost enhances the look. This is how you recognize them in the movies these days. Some of the men, too... mostly the Russian Mafia types.

I have found myself in similar situations. No, no man asked me to dance (except in San Francisco) and they weren't Russian but Cuban and, one time, Mexican.

NotesFromAbroad said...

Having memories of the newly arrived Russian "ladies" in NY, I find little fondness in my memories. But yours.... it sounds like a good movie. I mean really, what can be wrong with a man that dresses and dances well and kisses your hand ?

Symdaddy said...

My only experience of Russians is that of being stuck in the middle of a street war between them and the Polish community.

Of course, I use the term 'community' loosely, as most of them were teenagers.

No on kissed any hands on that day! In fact, I think I lost a tooth!

Pat said...

Sadly my mouthdroppig moment comes as we rech the dance floor. With my two left feet.

Pat said...

Reach I mean. The retchibng comes later.

TexWisGirl said...

too fun.

Raymond Alexander Kukkee said...

Great and poignant post, Pearl, stereotyping just doesn't work, does it..":) The only pictures of Russian women I've seen were all pretty hot. I guess we'll all all have to learn Russian and Chinese sooner or later. ":)

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

Magic!! Who knows, maybe he wanted to know if he could see you again.

Leenie said...

And that's why everyone should at least know how to waltz. It should be a requirement along with sharing and smiling.

esbboston said...

According to your 13th paragraph, based on the menu I am 71% Russian. I never get to speak Russian with anyone around here ....

Eva Gallant said...

One could fall in love with a man like that!

Craver Vii said...

That was fun. I like to hear the likeable stuff about other people groups. I have had positive experiences with a small Russian community in Chicago. I mostly dealt with sweet old ladies, and they seemed to appreciate that I tried to learn a few Russian words.

Lola Rouge ...the mom said...

I now have some chick flickee desire to dance around a room with a stranger who doesn't speak the language while wearing a lil bit o lip stick.... New Item on bucket list! Thanks Pearl, Happy Friday!

vanilla said...

Good for you. Reliving pleasant experiences is not just for the elderly.

Joanne said...

Oh, and the slibovitz, whatever that was that looked like oil, tasted like fruit and comandeered your feet. My brother married a Russian. Beautiful wife. Beautiful daughter. Every word of your post is true.

Jono said...

Sounds like great fun! I really love meeting people from other countries. Another viewpoint is always refreshing.

Tom G. said...

Thankfully, some things transcend language. Like vodka, dancing, and pretty girls.

Pearl said...

I think the answer to a lot of the world's problems could be solved with well-dressed people laughing and dancing. :-)

Gigi said...

I could do with being surrounded by well dressed people laughing and dancing right about now.....unfortunately it doesn't seem to be in the cards for tonight.

Sioux said...

Everything I learned about Russians, I learned from the movie Dr. Zhiavago. (The original only.)

Belle said...

I like people who know how to have a good time.

kj said...

girl, you spin a good yarn. or is it tell a good tale? or maybe brush a good hare? (where am i going with this? i am just showing off unsuccessfully) :^)

what a sweet snippet. that the language barrier was a surprise to mr talkative at the end is just charming.

love
kj

Al Penwasser said...

Hey, any group of folks who toast heavily gets my vote.
They can be squat, unattractive (incidentally, who am I to call someone unattractive, anyway?), and willing to pimp for toilet paper.
But, they're still all kinds of okay with me.

jenny_o said...

Well, Missy, are you going to share where you learned to dance so well that Mr. Russian Guy didn't even notice you weren't from the old country???

This is a beautiful memory; no wonder you want to relive it ...

W.C.Camp said...

You really take that old saying about whispering 'Sweet Nothings' in your ear rather seriously don't you? W.C.C.

Tempo said...

Not many Russians in this part of the world Pearl. Being an industrial steel city there are a few but they are really few and dont mix with Aussies much (they dont like beer...whats with that?)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Pearl ..love this story - what fun and no wonder you wanted to remember it .. I wonder what he said to all his friends?!

Cheers Hilary

NellieVaughn said...

I like Russian men. There were a few Russian boys in my high school. They always looked far older that they were. Very attractive and assertive.

Linda O'Connell said...

Great snippet of your life, a gentleman, a dance and then, you opened your mouth :) Enjoyed reading this.

the walking man said...

Почему Жемчужина выступая российской легко после через советской эпохи ... группа по танец девочки.

Dawn @Lighten Up! said...

No words were needed, Pearl. Everything was pleasantries and vodka. :)
I am hoping for pleasantries and vodka tonight. It is Saturday, after all.

The Jules said...

You do realise you're betrothed to him now, don't you?

Standard Russian courtship, is that.

Dan Kent said...

Ah, the elegant one is you in my imagination in this story. You are wearing lipstick. Love the way this tale flowed.

I once went to a Russian mechanic. He fixed what I came for, and when I drove away the entire bottom of the car fell off. I suppose he wanted me to come back!

Susan in the Boonies said...

This post was so good, it makes me want to quit blogging, and just let the professional storytellers do it.

It makes me want to send you out to conquer new people groups, you, and your lipstick.

Which begs the question: why didn't Alexander the Great and Atilla the Hun just wear lipstick? Think of the lives that could have been spared!