24 October, 2002
"I Found Her on eBay!"
exploring the modernization of the mail-order-bride business
p a u l d y e r
Natashaclub.com offers today's consumers the ability to compare goods and prices in the convenience of their own homes. Shoppers can view pictures of their potential purchases, and with a credit card, check, cash, or money, they can buy themselves a "true love, romance partner, or penpal girlfriend." Like the music, book, clothes, and sports industries, the mail order-bride business is taking advantage of the Internet as a quick and easy way to provide what their consumers want. Natashaclub.com alone holds a database that contains more than 10,000 personal profiles of "single, marriage-minded Russian women" looking for nice, wealthy, good-looking American men to give them love, money, or at least a Visa.
Now, don't get me wrong, the Internet itself did not spawn the mail-order-bride industry. The business has been around ever since the first settlers came to America and wrote back across the Atlantic with "Wide-hipped woman" at the top of their Christmas lists. The term "mail-order bride" even precedes the Internet by about a decade or so. Sometime in the early 80's, the mail-order-bride industry actually got started as a for-profit venture in which companies would send catalogues to American men. American men from all walks of life bounded excitedly to their mailboxes in the morning, their cotton robes doing little to conceal their bobbing morning woods as they reach for their Playboys, car magazines, and wife catalogs.
The bride catalogues would contain pictures of women from other countries, most commonly Thailand and the Philippines, along with brief biographies detailing all of the eighteen- and nineteen-year-old girls' dreams and interests. The men would often pick a girl from the catalog, communicate briefly with her through the mail, although it wasn't necessary, and then the company would package her up and ship her over.
Oddly enough, not only are these practices--by catalog or by Internet--totally legal, but there really doesn't seem to have been any significant struggles put forth by activists to put an end to them. American protestors have effectively raised minimum wage in approximately 132 foreign countries with their cries of human rights violations, and yet there really has been no objection to American men buying themselves teenage wives from poor farmers in foreign lands. In fact, the INS still officially recognizes these women as "mail-order brides" in their immigration paperwork.
In modern day America, the Internet has all but vanquished the days of the mail-order catalogs, replacing them with even faster services. Simply log on and everything you could ever want to know about your future soulmate is right there on the Internet. Height, weight, favorite animal, and a 200-character description of your bride-to-be--what more could you ask for? All you need is a credit card, and you can be calling mom by the end of the night, telling her to plan to meet your new mate.
Does anyone else find this industry just a little disturbing? Perhaps the funniest part of all, however, is on the page when you submit your order information. Just type in your name, credit card number, billing address, and shipping address. Shipping Address?! Why the hell would you need a different shipping address from your billing address? Are you sending her as a Christmas present? Or maybe you are charging her to your company credit card?
But wait, I was wrong. That's not the funniest part of the whole ordeal. The funniest part is that some sites have a "Virginity Guarantee."
I know what you are thinking right now: I can't believe it! The gall, the pure, unadulterated sexism. Well, to tell you the truth, I find it more than a little absurd myself.
And when are they going to start offering mail-order husbands? I can see the advertisement now:
"Herb Johnson is a 35-year-old white male. He is 6'3" and 235 lbs. Herb looks stunning in red flannel and a John Deer cap and says he enjoys beer and hunting. When asked his Zodiac sign, Herb responded brightly, 'Uhhh . . . I dunno . . . Goat?' There's no guarantee that Herb is a virgin, but he does come complete with a Certification of Genitalia, pledging that all plumbing will arrive intact and fully functional."
I hear the girls in Malaysia really like John Deer caps.
To be serious for a moment, though, the mail-order-bride industry is nothing to scoff at. According to the founder of natashaclub.com, in the mail-order-bride business, "The dating and the selection process is exactly like in your regular life." The founder goes on to say that the relationships are based on "who is good looking or not, and who is making a lot of money or not." Thank you, Natashaclub, for that deep and poignant look into the mail-order-bride business.
You see, no matter how hard Natashaclub tries to justify the emotional and spiritual nature of ordering your bride over the Internet, there is still something special about doing things the old fashioned way.