February 1998
s m u g
bumping uglies
by Todd Levin

*

From Russia, With Love
Without Limbs

There is someone for everyone. There are only a handful of absolute, however hackneyed, "truisms". For example, "the squared length of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the length of the remaining two sides squared", "kids with really rich parents will probably also wind up being really rich unless they commit a horrific gay sex crime that alienates their immediate socio-economic circle", and "don't eat that; it just came out of my anus".

These are old-school truths that cling to our mutual social understanding the way something funny clings to something ironic. And "there is someone for everyone" definitely qualifies. For every slightly creepy, three ham sandwich-eating graphic novel conventioneer is a thick-calved, Doc Marten Goth who likes to have her tongue bitten. For every sexed-obsessed, hollow-chested, culturally-Jewish young man is a caring, thoughtful woman who will endure and perhaps even indulge all of his irritating but relatively safe perversions for at least three months or until he shows up in bed with a French tuck, whichever comes first. And for every intelligent, kind-faced and wealthy bachelor who would like nothing more than to settle down with a soft-featured Russian amputee bride, there are services like frantana.com.

Frantana makes a simple promise - to offer nothing but the finest in mail-order Russian amputee domestic partners. And does he deliver, you ask? Da, man, da. When I contacted Frantana, I told him I had three simple requirements for intimate companionship in a woman: 1) That She be Russian; 2) That She be missing at least one or part of one of her four limbs; and 3) That She be interested in the same kind of music and art and politics as me and, if she is not interested in these things, she be intelligent and forthright enough to challenge and stimulate my own personal ideals and sense of aesthetics. Well, two out of three ain't too bad.

(all quotes below are taken directly from frantana.com and used without the proprietor's consent, and without good conscience)

"Be aware of the different conditions and procedures she has lived under and slowly show her a new way in the United States. Be aware you are not dealing with a disposable doll but a person with feelings that hopefully connect with your feelings."

When Svetnetyana arrived at my apartment she was bursting with excitement in a manner usually attributed to malnutrition complicated with late-stage dysentary. She was lovely, demure, and, of course, missing four toes on her left foot (I felt that I had gotten off fairly easily; then I realized the selfishness of that sentiment and decided, quite proudly, that it was Svetnetyana who had gotten off easily). And she was asking me for money. "To buy cleaning supplies and medicine," she assured me.

"Don't exhibit a temper or be moody . Don't complain about spending money. Remember their sense of money is different than in other countries. In time she will understand how things operate - that is - how to live a new and efficient life."

I was a little off-put by Svetnetyana's request (and her command of the English language - she even called out "Glass Plus" by name, but then I reconsidered: after all, you can never have enough cleaning supplies and medicine. I handed her two twenties and she hobbled off.

I didn't see her for another two weeks.

"Please don't say: 'You are bad for doing this.' DO say: 'I feel sad/scared/hurt when you do this.'"

When Svetnetyana did return, I noticed something fundamental had changed in her. Sure, we didn't really have a whole lot of time to get to know each other to begin with - her three ragged bags and walking stick were still resting in the threshold of my apartment, gathering dust. But Nyet-Nyet (a small pet name by which I had begun to call her in her absence) definitely seemed keener, more aware. When she returned I greeted her with outstretched arms, but she was so exhausted (and filthy) that she marched straight up to bed and locked the door behind her. I have no idea where she had been but her acid-washed babushka (these are, apparently the sartorial de rigeur in Russia these days) reeked of bathtub gin and there was a cashroll as thick as a deformed fist jammed into her specially-made orthopedic shoe. Didn't see the Glass Plus, but I would be a fool to care. I was happily married. I slept with that orthopedic show for the next six nights.

Be wary if you notice the following behaviors:
unconcern towards you
general coolness
lack of genuine intimacy
no interest in your interests
no care of home
does not want to accept your financial direction

A pattern quickly developed. Nyet (which I now called her, as she was never around long enough for me to pronounce her full Christian name or her adorably truncated pet name) would sleep pretty much all day. Then she would disappear at night and sometimes not return for several weeks. I remember thinking about how ironic it was that an amputee could get around this much. The apartment was in shambles. All the glass surfaces were dusty. And my Members Only Limited Edition Joe Don Baker Actioneer windbreaker was suspiciously missing. Worse yet, Nyet started sending for some of her friends. They started arriving one at a time, here and there, maybe a week apart (with the notion that perhaps I wouldn't notice, I'll bet), but pretty soon my apartment was overrun by a horde of physically maligned Russian beauties.

Olya the Legless. Katrina the club-footed. Myushka the Shiftless (Myushka seemed to have four functioning limbs but would refuse to sign for packages I hated her most of all, primarily for her insolence). They would sit around, playing cards all day long. And, every night at around 10pm, the ladies would make up their faces in clearance-sale cosmetics and, around 11pm, strange men would start calling. Nyet would send me out for cleaning supplies and medicine and I would often not be able to get back into my apartment all night. Some of the girls told me the men were physical therapists, and I believed them, until Charlie Sheen started hanging around. I was against the wall, 4 months into what I thought was a picture-perfect marriage but turned out to be, something slightly shadier.

I finally broke down and asked Nyet why all of these men were spending so much time in the apartment, and why Sabina the Nearly Footless had painted an ornate wooden plaque to hang on the apartment door which read, "Whorehows" (bless her imperfect English). Nyet's response? "To buy cleaning supplies and medicine."

"If she exhibits any amoral behavior, return her to Russian and notify Frantana"

Was I disappointed to send Svetnetyana and the others back to Russia? Yes, I think so. (though I must admit I was not a bit sorry to see Myushka the Shiftless pack her bags) But Frantana is a service, not a marriage counselor. Or, as I learned, a company with an ironclad exchange policy. (When I suggesting exchanging Nyet for a slightly more domesticated bride, perhaps one confined to a wheelchair, my emails stopped getting returned) All in all, my experience with Frantana and his lovely (and impetuous) amputees was not winning success. But it did not hamper my belief that "there is someone for everyone". Just make sure you get your receipt.

*

letigre@smug.com

*

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