By Dan Eden
I recently had occasion to work in the Republic of Vietnam. While I was living in Ho Chi Minh City, I met a number of American men who had come to marry Vietnamese women after their introductions on dating web sites. During the afternoon heat, many of these men would gather at the local beer joint, aptly called the Saigon Café, and exchange stories.
Vietnam is a poor but happy country. The women are, by Western standards, very beautiful and petite. It's no wonder why American men would be attracted to them. But with the extreme cultural and language obstacles, I wondered why so many men wanted foreign brides?
Every story is unique, but after I heard a few dozen I began to see some striking similarities. For most men, it was not so much their attraction to these women (and they are very attractive) as it was their apparent contempt for American women.
I know "contempt" is a strong word. I tried hard to find a substitute. But the strong emotions that were expressed by these men was a powerful reminder of how they had been rejected, abused and endured hostility from women they had known in the states.
While some men were single, most of the "mail order" grooms -- as internet marriages are often called -- were middle-aged and had suffered painful divorces. Like veterans showing their scars, these men willingly revealed how their ex-wives cheated on them, disrespected and financially ruined them. Most stories ended with the same theme: "I will never ever again get involved with an American woman!"
What's wrong with American women?
After several beers, I learned that these men are not losers. Most are kind hearted and hard working, often somewhat meek. Yes, maybe even a bit too meek. They speak about wanting to be hugged and to be appreciated for more than being a wage earner. They often tear up when describing their failed attempts to be unconditionally loved and recall the pain of being rejected as a man, husband and father.
"Gator" was an American from Houston. This was his second trip to Vietnam and he was planning to bring his bride home with him. He found her on an Asian Dating web site two years ago. This was a dramatic change in his life. Gator didn't mince words when he described his ex-wife.
"She married me because I had a good job and could give her a better life. I was a good catch. But after the first year or so she became real high maintenance. She was always buying stuff for herself. She had to have the latest clothes and jewelry. But at the same time she started getting fat and wasn't interested in my life. Every conversation was always about her and how she felt and what she needed. And when I couldn't take it anymore and wanted her to change, she got herself a high priced lawyer -- that I had to pay for -- and took me for everything. I was really hurt and then I got bitter."
Gator said that he tried finding an American woman in popular dating sites but he got discouraged.
"They are just not interested in an older man. Also, the first thing they always want to know is how much money you have. They just want a man to solve all their problems. Well I have needs also. It should be a working relationship so I said, 'No thanks.' I've been there, done that and have the T-shirt to prove it!"
Another term I heard quite frequently was "baggage." Women are perceived to have baggage if they have been through similar experiences of divorce and rejection. Apparently they are not allowed to be bitter. I guess two bitter people isn't a good idea.
Asian women are perceived to be different
Asian women are different. American men may not admit it but they like the geisha stereotype and the child-like physique which restores their self image. Coming from impoverished countries, Asian women are usually very "low maintenance" and are happy. They don't need material gifts or a lavish lifestyle. They are also apt to be more affectionate. These qualities are the ideal prescription for emotionally traumatized men.
It is estimated that there are about 200,000 women currently seeking American men through dating web sites. Despite this huge number, only about 10,000 women annually immigrate to the USA with their American husbands.
The most popular locations for "mail order brides" are Thailand, the Philipines, China and Vietnam. Many web sites are free for the men, but the women usually pay a fee for posting their photo and profile, having a background check to rule out prostitutes and drug addicts, and maintaining their on-line data.
US law forbids an American male from purchasing the details of a foreign bride-to-be unless he has first submitted proof that he is not a criminal and has no sex offenses. The fact that most Asian dating web sites waive the fees for men is worrisome and poses potential dangers to the women.
Most web sites feature pictures of the female clients and provide the opportunity to read about them and exchange a brief message. If the woman chooses, she may contact the interested man and begin sending emails or chatting. As the relationship grows more intimate, the woman may decide that she wants to take her data off of the web site, removing herself from the eyes of other men -- the digital equivalent of "going steady."
Phone calls, sending gifts and eventually visiting the woman in her country are the usual progressive routes to marriage. This may sound easy but the path to marriage can be ripe with pitfalls.
Because internet relationships are commonly used by vulnerable or shy men to find a mate, various scams have evolved to rob men of their money and further damage their emotions and trust. A web site called "www.dangersofinternetdating.com" lists several red flags which should be noted.
Writing about "love" and "marriage" after only a few emails is the first red flag. Men are so often eager for an intimate relationship that they fail to realize this. Their emotional needs blur rationality. They don't question their own fantasies.
Receiving emails with the wrong name -- or emails that appear to be "template" love letters -- using terms like "my love" or "sweetheart" instead of the man's name can mean that the writer has multiple men that are being primed for the big "shake down."
After the relationship is established, the writer will suddenly have a need for some cash. It's usually not a large amount, so the man will think nothing about sending it. Dozens of men can be scammed at the same time with this method; it can be quite profitable.
The requests for money are often repeated over time until the man complains or questions the need, at which time the writer will become "offended" and end the relationship on a bitter note. The man will lose his money and will have been rejected again by a woman.
But not all internet relationships are scams. There are enough success stories to make internet dating the new hot way to find a bride. Viewzone contacted some "mail order" couples and asked them to tell their stories.
Duane is a 54 year old man from Boston, Massachusetts. He describes why he decided to seek a bride from Thailand.
Duane is typical of many men who are single and in mid-life. For many, life has been full and busy without a mate.|
"I think I am just a normal guy. I dated in High School and had a glrifriend in college. But after college we both took jobs and kind of drifted apart. I spent all my time working and for me, anyway, it was just like college continued. I mean I had a small studio apartment and lived alone and went to work instead of classes. It was like that for ten years, then twenty years..."
Many men describe a kind of mental freeze, where the images they have of an ideal mate have remained unchanged from their youth. Women their own age are viewed as much older and less desirable -- often motherly or overly dominant -- and so the men do not engage in normal social dating.
"Here in America its considered bad to be wanting a younger woman so I just kept my feelings to myself. Once I had a friend who was ten years younger than me and I grew very fond of her. But when I let it be known how I really felt she got very upset and stopped being my friend. That made me feel perverted, guilty and foolish so I just never tried to date any women after that."
About eight years ago, Duane became friends with another male worker who was married to a Thai woman who was 20 years younger than either of them. Duane found her very attractive and enjoyed interacting with her. He wondered if this could be an option for him. His friend suggested that Duane join an Asian Bride web site and he did so reluctantly.
I had heard stories about web sites where the women aren't really women at all. They ask you to send money for flowers or gifts and you end up sending your money to some hairy guy who assumes a girls identity."
Duane's friend explained that some web sites are like that. He suggested to use only those sites that had a good reputation and ones that screened the women before allowing them to post their pictures and profiles. He explained that the "real" sites take their own photos of the women, eliminating at least that element of fraud.
Duane eventually joined a site and was surprised at what he found.
"There were hundreds of Asian women looking for American men to marry. The photos were amazing and the ages ranged from 21 to 50 years old.
Naturally I started with some young women, sending them emails and sometimes flowers... but eventually a woman who was 42 years old started writing to me. She didn't write cute and clever messages like the younger women and somehow I found myself getting closer to her in discussions about life and the world. We really hit it off. Also, she wasn't as pretty as some of the younger women on the web site. But after I got to know her that didn't matter."
After about six months of sending e-mails, Duane called Li and later made plans to visit her in Thailand. While visiting her, he found that they enjoyed each other's companionship and eventually proposed marriage to her. She gladly accepted.
It took over a year to get her but eventually Duane and Li were together. As her English has improved, Duane has been able to share more ideas and plans for their future. It hasn't always been easy. Mixing two very different cultures can be a challenge.
"I wasn't sure I had done the right thing, taking her from her country and family. At first she got homesick so we made a brief visit a year after we were together. Then we both felt more comfortable and plan to return to Thailand every couple of years. After all, it's her homeland and culture. And it's part of the reason I love her."
Duane was also fortunate that his friend's Thai wife befriended Li and the two couples often go places together.
Would I recomment this to someone? Sure. But I would say do not look for the youngest or prettiest women because you may pass up the best relationships that way."
Li was a young woman living outside the capital, Bangkok. Her family was a large one and everyone kept busy trying to earn enough money to live.|
"When I was young girl in Thailand my family had many children. We live in a good house but we do not have big money. My sisters and brothers only have school until they are 14 or 16 years old and then they get a job and move from our home. My father ask me to stay home and take care of he and my mother until my young brother is older and he can do that. I continue to school until 21 and study English and also study to work in a hospital."
There are not many things a woman can do in Thailand to have a better life. If she speaks even a little English she can always work in Bangkok with tourists. Many women work in the bars but it is a bad life.
"Many women think they will meet an American if they work in Bangkok but usually the tourists only stay for a week or more and go home. There are many sad women who begin to love an American man. He makes many promises to her but he goes back to America and she never see again. I know many sad women like that."
Li found a job in a hospital and was sending money home to her parents. She felt her future was pretty hopeless, but she was better off than most people she knew. Some friend told her about an agency that helped educated and moral women to be introduced to American men. Li thought this was a bad idea but she agreed to be interviewed and eventually was accepted. The agency made sure she was not a protitute, on drugs or already married. She had to pass a simple English test and then had to write her profile. Lastly, she had her photograph taken and posted to the web site. The interviewer told her that she was older than most of the other women on the site but he encouraged her to be patient and she would find the right man.
"I do not care about age of man or if he looks like actor and has beautiful face. I want a man who is kind and who will open himself to have a life with me. Sometimes men in Thailand only want very beautiful woman and sometimes men are bad and have girlfriends and maybe drink. That is sad for women here. I see American movies about good men who can give me a happy life and I want that life."
Li noticed immediately that many men were only interested in the youngest women on the web site. She understood that these men were attracted to the beautiful faces and she recognized this as being superficial. She decided she would not play that game and would be totally honest about her age and what she expected in a man.
"When Duane writes to me he is different. He ask me many questions about my life and what I dream about doing in the future. I feel he try to understand me. At first I think he is maybe only wanting to be friend with me but then he says he will visit me. I am very surprised but very happy to meet him."
To an Asian woman, the personal meeting in her country is usually the equivalent of an engagement. Sometimes both parties find that the person they have been writing to for many moths is not the person they come to know in person. Surprisingly, this doesn't happen all that frequently. Most personal encounters, like the one with Duane and Li, intensify the relationship and are a prelude to marriage.
"When I first meet him I am scared. I have never been with American man and do not know what to say. But he talk to me just like in email and soon we are laughing and talk about may things. I begin to feel love for him. So special! I am sad because I know he will go home soon.
Duane ask me to marry him and I say YES. It has been difficult to be in a new country but now I have friends and we are like a happy family. We go back to my country and so I can see my mother and father.
I think my man is handsome and I never think about other man. He makes my life very good and I try to make his life good also."
What more can you say?
While Duane and Li appear to have found their "soul mates", some relationships are not that lucky. Paul is now 62 and describes a bad relationship that he regrets.
When Paul got out of the service he married his high school sweetheart. They had a child and got a house with a mortgage and did all the right stuff. Paul was a bit disappointed that his wife got fat and started to let her appearance deteriorate. She seemed to not care what he thought about her and almost used her weight as a way of punishing him. Eventually she got tired of him and wanted a divorce. |
"I really didn't want to lose her but she turned hostile and ended up getting custody of our son and the house. It was a real traumatic thing for me. I didn't deserve it. I was a good husband, didn't drink or abuse her and always tried to work hard for my family. And for all that I got kicked in the pants."
The divorce made Paul feel bitter and he was reluctant to enter another relationship. But he did.
"I married a woman who worked with me and we lived together for three years. I got pretty close to her. She was married before and had a little boy the same age as my son. I got close to the boy also and things were fine until I discovered she was having an affair. When we split up she tried to make me pay support and things got legally ugly. It was like someone had opened up an old wound and it really hurt."
Paul had decided that he couldn't go through this again and he didn't even try to date. Then he found an Asian dating web site and met a Vietnamese woman named Hoa. Their relationship was fast and furious. Within a few weeks they were talking about marriage. Paul flew to Ho Chi Minh City and met his young girlfriend.
"She kept telling me how she loved me and how wonderful I was. This was really music to my ears and I suggested we get married there, in Vietnam. She jumped at the idea so we did. It took a year or so but she finally moved to the states with me. We rented a house and I took good care of her."
After about a year of being officially married, Paul started to notice that Hoa was being secretive. She would receive phone calls from people and would have these lively conversations in Vietnamese. When he asked her about it she wouldn't tell him who it was or what it was about.
Since Veitnamese women usually take charge of the family finances in their culture, Paul let his wife take care of the bills and manage the bank account. He would turn his check over to her, take enough money to get by for the week, and she would put the balance in the bank. Or at least that was how it was supposed to work.
"Once I discovered that ten thousand dollars was withdrawn. I was shocked that she had never told me about this. When I asked her she said that her family had some kind of emergency and she had to send it to them. Then, a few months later, it happened again. And then again. Virtually all of our savings was being sent back to Vietnam because either someone was ill and needed an operation, someone's house got flooded or they needed a new motorbike. I realized I was supporting her entire family with my salary!
When I finally said 'No more' she stopped having sex with me and treated me with contempt. It got so bad I suggested that we should get divorced. I thought that would scare her, but she agreed. The next thing I knew she had a Veitnamese-American lawyer who took me for half of everything I had left. And I was alone and broke again, hurting from another bad relationship."
He's not sure why he did it, but Paul joined another Asian online dating service and met another Vietnamese woman. Her name was Ut.
"A strange name... but she is a wonderful person. I told her right up front that I couldn't support her family and that we would sign a pre-nuptual agreement but that I would always treat her good and take wonderful care of her. She agreed and for the fourth time in my life I got married!"
Ut was 34 and Paul was 59 when they married. He got lots of grief from his friends because of the age difference and because he was marrying a Vietnamese woman again. But this time he was lucky.
"Ut had some minor health issues and I got her taken care of and restored 100 percent. I think that made her love me even more. We have total trust in each other and she's the sunshine of my life. We've been married now for three years but it seems like much longer. She's very affectionate and always hugs me and likes to just sit with me and hold me. As an old man, that's very special! She also tells me I am handsome and, while I don't know if that's true, it's certainly good to hear. Ut is very beautiful and I'm a happy old guy!"
It's hard to generalize about people. Everyone is unique to some extent, so what I have observed should be taken with a shaker of salt.
The most successful interracial relationships seem to work with intelligent and sensitive men. Ironically, the kind of men that guys my age (late 50s and 60s) were taught that we should be. Back when feminism was a growing trend, men were encouraged to get in touch with our feelings and to avoid being the macho brutes that were the male stereotypes.
While we were learning how to "feel" our repressed emotions, women were learning how to focus their feelings into self-confidence and aggression. This was understandably necessary as they were entering the "man's world" of business and leadership.
Somewhere in this mix, the roles crossed the line. Sensitive men who had learned the benefits of love and gentleness were paired with aggressive women who were more materialistic and eager to test-drive their dominance. This social experiment did not fare well for some men and these are the same men who look to Asian women for mates.
The mixed marriages that don't endure are more often than not the fault of a man who sees an Asian woman as "easy prey". They are not sensitive or empathetic but instead want a housekeeper, servant of a fantasy sex slave. They totally miss the opportunities that sharing love and life with an Asian woman provide.
America is a culture built on youth and sexuality. Middle-aged men are finding that they are not "viable" in the current American environment and they are going to Asian Dating web sites by the droves. When they do, the lives of two people are greatly improved. This is certainly a trend that will become even more popular as the "boomers" decide that living alone, in a word, sucks.
What are your comments or stories about on0line dating? We'd like to hear from you.
At 55 yo , after 3 painful marriages to American women, I married a beautiful Russian I knew from the past. We just had a baby girl. She is a terrific mother and companion and is not caught up in the need to compete. She and other Russian woman know the power of the feminine energy... A favorite Russian expression is "The man is the head of the house and the woman is the neck... but the neck can turn the head in whatever direction it wants... "
I believe the US woman's lib movement ripped the soul out of American women by making them feel like men were oppressing them and exhorting them to stand up to men and not be pushed around etc, etc, ad nauseum... I too would never go back to even thinking about an American woman...
I actually have started writing a book on this subject and my experience. I whole heartedly agree that many western men have a distaste for the American female. I agree that many American men have a bad taste after divorce but divorce is universal and so is the trauma of it. That goes for men and women. I was lucky enough to have traveled in and out of Asia for many years and for me the difference is culturally based. I find Asian women to have much more integrity than American women. American women, and men, can all too easily have an affair and somehow justify it as normal based on its' prevalence in our society. My wife had an affair and lied and hid and lied again and the whole 9 yards after 18 years and with a 7 year old daughter. She said she wanted a more spiritual connection? I think that was appendage based. It has been some years now and in truth I realize that she did not ruin my life, she saved it. American women and men by and large are unconscious and self serving in their behaviors and in their busy-ness. It is a culture of distraction and without much personal integrity. I was naively shocked when I asked the marriage counselor if someone married 18 years, without conflict and with a young child, just has an affair and decides to trade it all in. His response was that he likens it to an addiction and that "it happens every day". So bravo for men who are looking into other cultures to find a partner who they can depend on to maintain their integrity. The dating site offer the best entrée but one must be mindful, responsible and patient. We must all be careful with our hearts and the hearts of others.