It's early in the morning. The Sun is just showing in the sky and Ryan, a 55 year old security guard, has been pounding the pavement for 8 hours. He has a part-time day job also and he should be exhausted. But he's not.
Ryan rides his bicycle (he can't afford a car) to the Public Library and hurries up the stairs to the computer room. He checks his watch.
Because of the different time zones, Ryan only has a narrow window of opportunity to chat with his girlfriend and fiancé, Jan, who is supposedly 40 years old and from the Philippines. He met her through an Asian Dating web site the very first day he logged on. They have been meeting like this for the past two years and the conversation over the chat-phone has gone beyond "I -heart- U" icons to talk of marriage and children.
If you ask Ryan about his fiancé his face lights up with a big smile as he names off each superb quality that she has. She is the most caring, loving, sensitive and smart woman that Ryan has ever known. He will be the first to tell you that he is very lucky to have found someone like her.
Over the course of two years, Jan has had some minor crises that required a "loan" from Ryan. Of course, a person should help their fiancé, right? At first it was just $150 US, to fix a laptop so they could chat in private. The laptop was later declared broken beyond repair. Then it was $500 US because she had to quit her job after the owner tried to touch her. Ryan was especially eager to pay that time.
The "loans" have continued moving Ryan's cash through Western Union and on to Jan. He reckons about $4,000 so far. That's not surprising as $335.8 billion USD annually flows to Asia in the form of family gifts and fiancé gifts and a sundry of handouts from men like Ryan who enjoy this kind of virtual romance.
"She burned her leg really bad and had to have surgery. She was afraid to ask me for the money because she thought if I knew she would have a scar on her leg, maybe I wouldn't love her. Can you believe that? What a kind person she is."
A picture of Jan, quite rare, shows an attractive woman of about 30, obviously taken in a professional studio. "She's a little older now but still beautiful."
These days Ryan is eating at the Free Meal kitchens and worrying about making his monthly rent, but he is still always happy. He will tell you that soon he will be with his beloved, Jan. "When?" you ask... "I really believe in a year or more, I hope."
In fact, if Ryan has found a real woman (not a hairy Nigerian with computer skills) who is not "playing" him (and likely many other American men) it would still be near impossible to obtain a visa and bring his bride home. Strict requirements are imposed on the groom's ability to support his new bride and, without a sponsor, it's hopeless. But not to Ryan. He believes in "love".
There's an Explosion of Asian Bride Web Sites
If you are under 50, you may not be aware of web sites that promise to introduce you to an Asian Bride. Otherwise, older men almost always know someone or personally participate in this often rewarding form of entertainment. As men get older, their ideas about what makes a compatible mate change dramatically. The "trophy wife" syndrome, where a guy marries a woman because his friends or family think she is a good catch or because she is beautiful, eventually plays itself out -- Usually not until after a man has had a couple of painful divorces. A man longs for some tender talk and the prospect of a "partner" to help him in his old age.
Things like loyalty and the willingness to cook and clean in return for an American visa becomes a practical reality for both the aging men and the poverty stricken woman. It's this hope -- this belief in the possibilities -- that fuels these on-line relationships: the belief that a man can have an Asian Bride. To most men involved in these relationships, sending money (essentially paying for a virtual friend) is well worth the benefits. Few complain until things get real.
But why Asian women?
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 visit Vietnamese women they had met on an Asian Dating web site. 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, extremely feminine and petite. It's no wonder why American men are 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 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 were 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 men who 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 "wallet". 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 good for 'traumatized' men
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 300,000 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 Philippines, 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 wedlock 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 -- or -- a really skilled writer will have learned how to manipulate the situation to even greater requests. The man will eventually lose his money and will have been rejected again by a woman.
It's not always a scam
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.
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.
Some thoughts About Belief...
If you got this far, you're probably wondering what bit of wisdom you can take away from these four stories about believing in anything. Is it foolish to believe that Egyptians visited Australia? Did Wovoka really believe that the Creator had spoken to him, predicting the end of the White Man's oppression? Is it bad for thousands of people to believe in the Urantia Book despite proof that it was contrived? And lastly, is it bad to believe in an on-line relationship when, in reality, it is really a therapeutic form of subscription entertainment?
If you only believe when it's easy, you don't really believe.
Belief is the lifeblood of reality. We believe in things that distract us from dwelling on our own eventual extinction. Our beliefs help us get through the day, they fight loneliness and give us hope for escaping extinction. Belief reminds us that our mind is capable of determining our mood and our mood determines our happiness.
Believing in something sets us free. Anything is possible. It does no evil. But choose wisely in what you believe.
"Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.
Please let me know your thoughts on this.
Good stories. Let's not forget Lance Armstrong and the millions of people who BELIEVED in him. He inspired many athletes and did some good for his cancer organization. Does the good outweigh the bad? Hard to say...
I guess what you are saying is that it doesn't matter if you believe in something untrue, as long as you believe in something. I'm not sure I buy that. Or are you saying that belief is a prerequisite to enduring this finite life, knowing it means extinction of our self. And that we are free to select the beliefs that suit us best.
Anyway, a bit confusing at the end. But I think I got what you mean.
I just wanted to say that I know someone like you described. He has been sending hnudreds of dollars overseas for years and never even met the woman. He talks of her as his love and acts like they were married already. I think it is driven by the fear of being alone and not able to live independently. I don't know. The world is a weird place.