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Male-Order Brides

Tutu Each Her Own: In the world of mail-order brides, every woman in the come-on brochures is a power engineer, real estate developer or nuclear physicist looking for the right American guy.

Photo by Jimmie Froehlich

For those American men who want to meet women with marriage on their minds, love is for sale, and for '90s guys who find liberated women too intimidating, subservience can be put on a credit card

By Tom Wofford

SINGLE MEN ARE CONSTANTLY reminded that they are alone. Most holidays, Arbor Day excluded, seem to be about making a single man feel, well, single. Anyone who routinely spends nights alone cannot quickly forget the repetitive avoidance of family barbecues, phobia of mistletoe and resentment of the midnight that heralds a new year.

February, the heart-shaped month, may be the cruelest time of all. The media spend this time giving single men the wink-wink that everyone else in the world is in love. And glad that they are. Loved. Adored. Doted upon.

For those men, there is, of course, the solace of another realm: capitalism. Free-market love offers opportunities to the lovelorn from the scientific to the dating equivalent of Russian roulette. Match-making services, personal ads, on-line chat rooms, Jose's Cantina--all have their positive qualities, percentages of success and variety of offerings.

For a lonely man in the '90s, it can be a rough road. Women have raised their expectations, they wait longer to settle down, they make more demands on their mates. In a fast-changing modern world, where women seem to be less interested in preventing ring around the collar and more interested in their own orgasms, many men find themselves longing for something less complicated.

For the "old-fashioned" man whose desire for companionship may have overpowered his more conventional tendencies, the alternative is simple: a mail-order bride.

The search for a mail-order bride begins simply enough. There are about 300 companies that offer introduction services to foreign females. There are 12 ads for such companies in a recent issue of Rolling Stone, sandwiched between "The Smart Way to Market or Patent Your New Product Idea" and "Be Discovered--Make $1,500 weekly singing ... ."

The ads are direct: "Find a Beautiful, Loving Wife." "Meet Latin Ladies." "Gorgeous Asian Women! Romance, Lifemates!" "Russian Ladies, Truly Beautiful, Want to Meet YOU!" For the solitary, unappreciated man, this can certainly be an answer to his prayers.

Further pursuit is still easy. It only takes about 15 minutes to call all 12 numbers (all based in the U.S.) and to leave a message on the answering machines.

All ask the caller to please speak clearly, although some of the ladies on the machines have such thick accents that the request almost is misunderstood.

High Heels, High Hopes

BROCHURES BEGIN TO arrive in two days. All are free. The companies have exotic, provocative names: Club Prima, European Connections, Sunshine Girls, Pacific Romance. The brochures range in sophistication from a four-panel black-and-white flyer to impressive color catalogs that contain photos of hundreds of young women, most dressed in either short skirts or bathing suits.

Most of the women whose photos are full-length are wearing heels, regardless of whether the outfit seems to warrant them.

One catalog cover features only an extreme close-up of a dark-eyed Far Eastern beauty, a lone (and quite obviously superimposed) tear on her cheek, along with the words "Thanks for your letter." Most catalogs include a list of additional products for sale, typically subscriptions to more catalogs or newsletters, which have more photos and, depending on the package, addresses of the pictured women.

LatinEuro's glossy 64-page catalog includes photos of 1,505 "girls" whose addresses can be purchased in four different categories. Addresses for 253 girls cost $49, addresses for girls on pages 5 through 18 (520 total) are $199, etc. The addresses for all of the girls in the catalog cost $299. Four issues of the catalog--a new one arrives every five months with "completely new and different girls," more than 5,000 in all--cost only $449.

Club Prima's catalog of predominantly Eastern European women is broken down into delicate categories. All "Honey Rose" addresses (250) are $75. The 250 "Wild Orchid" are the same price. The "Big Kahuna" (actual quote) of the catalog's offering--all for $650--includes 6,240 addresses, 25 photocopied letters and 20 Russian stamp sets, plus an immigration, visa and travel kit.

Feeling too old or not attractive enough to snag a chick at an American bar? Edgerton International Connections assures its readers that, "unlike in America, it is very common for foreign women to marry men 10 to 20 years older than themselves." Pacific Romance claims that its Filipinas "don't particularly care if you're bald, tall, short, fat, skinny, rich or poor."

For those men on the go who can't find time to write hundreds of letters, most services offer an option whereby they can write a letter to be distributed to a number of women, who then write to the subscribing men who interest them.

Other services take a more upscale approach, less like a pen-pal broker and more like an international tour/matchmaking service. For less than $3,000, single men get a round-trip flight, nine nights in "four-star" hotels in Moscow and Kiev, two meals a day and 10 personal invitations sent "to the ladies of your choice," as well as three or four days of "socials where you will meet the loveliest ladies featured in our catalogs and videos (over 600)."

The package also includes a free "Fiancée Visa Application Guide Package" that normally sells for $150.

European Connections claims that half its tour participants eventually marry "ladies met on our tours."

A bride-to-be's nationality is important. Club Prima boasts that its "women, many of who [sic] are blue- or green-eyed blondes and redheads, are remarkably similar in appearance to American ladies (but without the attitude)."

Pacific Romance tells its potential clients, "A Filipina learns through her culture to be loyal to her husband for life, to fulfill her duty to make her husband comfortable."

Language is not a barrier, most catalogs insist. Many companies provide codes to convey the command the women have of English.

Devotion and Denial

AND WHO ARE THESE women? Almost without exception, the information packets the services use claim these women aren't eager to leave their home countries, one emphasizing, "They are just looking to meet the right person, just like you are looking to meet the right person."

Another underscores that these aren't peasant women scrambling to get into the United States. Instead "they are doing this to get more security and stability with a man they can fall in love with and devote themselves to."

Hear that guys? Devotion.

These women are advertising managers, medical technologists, teachers and pharmacists. They seek "lasting relationships," "a wise man" or "an honest friend and husband."

At least that's what the catalog says.

Catalog subscribers can write to Nadezhada, the 30-year-old red-headed physicist from Moscow, Rosalia, a 5-foot-2 power engineer from Mexico, or Andriany, a 24-year-old real estate developer from Indonesia who enjoys reading, watching movies and listening to slow music. No word on whether she wishes for world peace and her favorite song is the Carpenters' "We've Only Just Begun."

Make no mistake, these companies are competitive. Club Prima "emphasizes quality, not quantity." One service warns customers that some other companies share or trade their women's addresses with other companies.

Forget love at first sight. How about love in three sentences? Warns one service: "Would you feel comfortable purchasing addresses from another company's catalog that does not present any substantial biographical information or at least three sentences from the individual letter for each lady?"

Pacific Romance offers an "unconditional money-back guarantee," something it says no other company offers.

All the clubs go to some length to legitimize themselves and their method of introduction. Almost every one calls itself the "world's largest" or the "No. 1 service" for introductions. Club Prima says it conducts its business "with the highest ethical and moral standards." One points out that it is "not a mail-order bride" company.

Pacific Romance includes photocopied articles from People and the Wall Street Journal that quote sociologists who call the process "perfectly legitimate" and say that the men using these services aren't losers--instead typically having white-collar jobs and some college education. A university professor is quoted by People as complaining that his first wife "wanted a car, then she wanted to go to work. She wouldn't cook or clean." The professor's Asian catalog purchase, however, is more accommodating. "She ties my shoes for me every morning. I really don't want her to, but she'd be offended if I didn't let her."

Scanna International calls itself "the company where the ladies write back." Every Scanna promotional packet includes "success profiles," like 37-year-old "Weston," who wrote 36 letters, received 24 responses, met six women in person and, ultimately, married "Natasha," 20. "I was despondent about the unstructured process of meeting women in America," he is quoted as saying. "Scanna provides a structured way to meet women who are truly interested in marriage."

Almost every service offers phone lines with prerecorded messages from women, as well as first-hand success stories and testimonials. Much of the free literature includes wedding photos from ceremonies of successful matches.

Dan O'Brien, who works for Pacific Romance, met his wife, Rodilla, the mail-order way. "The culture and tradition in the Philippines," he told the Wall Street Journal, "is to put the husband and the family first. American men find that attractive."

Or maybe they simply can't tie their own shoes.

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From the March 27-April 2, 1997 issue of Metro Santa Cruz

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