Putin’s Body in Provincetown

That Russian men are pathetic is not news. In the country with the highest percentage of college graduates in the world, Russian men manage to keep their life expectancy in the low 60s. Grooming has never been their forte. They reuse underwear and outwear. Their hair was cut by a woman who happened to be in the kitchen that morning. No one has ever told them to care for other people’s time, and they don’t. Their eau de toilette is touched by whiffs of the public toilet, the cheap bar, and the railway station. They are generally available for sex. “It’s his first time, please, please, sleep with him,” Slava was begging me for his younger brother at a winter retreat in 1990. “He will really love you.”

In this sad picture Putin’s body stands out. Healthy, youthful, muscular, he is stunning by Russian on a-low-side standards. He is sitting on a horse, topless, in a Brokeback mountain setting, half-looking at me like Justin Bieber at a tantalizing angle from underneath his sexy cowboy hat, first for a Russian president. His horse is tall. This man is real. He wants my attention. He is no longer the father of this nation. He wants to be her lover. Could Putin’s body raise my expectations?

This month I saw a serious piece of writing titled “Can there be a 1937 now?” Translation: is Putin a typical Russian cannibal-ruler who will eat his country’s flesh for lunch? Fair enough, he has started nibbling on pussies and homosexuals, so it is a legitimate concern. Oh yes, – just do not kill us and our loved ones; a prison, please, or (if I may?) a fine, a slap on the wrist, let’s say, 100 dollars. A president whose nation’s highest expectation is not to repeat the mass murder of twenty million or so of his fellow citizens, can relax, go to a gym and take a horse ride. Yes, it is better today than the worst moments of the 1990s. Yes, it is better than the 1937. Thank you very much, Mr. President.

As much as I delight, though, in dissing Russian men, the curse of low expectations works on me too. Grooming has never been my forte either. We are all pathetic in Russia. A prosecutor who announced that “Feminism is sin” at the Pussy Riot trial was a woman. The scandalous anti-gay law was conceived, written and lobbied for by my Russian sisters from the Parliamentary Committee on Women, Children, and the Family.

To get serious about his six-pack abs, Putin needs to bring his horse to Provincetown, USA, for the carnival week, and ride in the gay pride parade as he likes it, topless, on Thursday afternoon. Let’s raise some expectations here for all of us. I want my next Potemkin village (Sochi?) to pass as a Provincetown.


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This text is a part of a larger piece I was working on in Provincetown, Massachusetts, in August of this year. I happened to be there during the carnival week. Putin’s body was on my mind the whole week. Here is the image I was particularly inspired by: http://drlillianglassbodylanguageblog.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/putin.png




Most Women Like Sales

There was no shopping in the Soviet Union. Shopping – “wondering around shops” in Russian – was not what we did, men or women. When I was growing up, shops were not a place to wonder around or meet friends. One would go to buy a pencil or a pair of shoes (if one is lucky, a nicer pair). I always knew what I was going for and where to buy it. Parents would send you to get some bread and butter after school, while they were at work. The only shops that were open till late (rarely later than 8pm) were food stores. A pair of shoes, unlike bread, can wait a month or a year. Certainly, we had our beautiful arcades in Moscow, but we were no flâneurs. It took me a while to understand the English expression “window shopping.” Why would someone look at windows of those shops, what’s so interesting about them?


It was easy. There were only white panties for girls when I was growing up. My mother had them, my sister had them, and I had them, different only in size. There was nothing wrong with having white panties of the same style your whole life. I did not think about it much until I saw other kind of panties. They belonged to one of the girls I stayed with at my summer camp. They were drying up on a laundry string. Those panties… They were dark pink, with a rim, with some small pattern in a different color, and they were so well put together. They were clearly trying to seduce me, those little beautiful things, to steal them. No one was around, so I had to make a decision to take them or not. I had not yet heard of the law of consumption: once you have something, it loses its magic. You want what you do not have. That’s how consumption works, we were taught, in capitalism, fueled by advertising, which we also did not have. To be a “thing” or to be interested in “things” was deconstructed pretty well. They did not stand far apart, in my mind.


All of that is gone. Today the Russians shop as if there is no tomorrow, often at night. And I do not mean dinner time. The traffic in Moscow and long working hours transformed the midnight hours into the most convenient time to buy panties, bread, and shoes, all in the same place. There are huge new arcades where people wonder around, eat, talk on their cell phones, meet with friends, children play, young people hang out, and it is as bright as a daylight. Large shopping carts are filled over the top with all kinds of stuff. Things are in fashion. Wanting or being things is no longer a taboo.

Most women like sales,” claims one of the English language exercises designed for American children. “They have no idea,” I think, and smile.