Wanted: Ukrainian or Russian Fashion Blog

Ok, I know there are a few readers on here from Kyiv and there has been the occasional visitor from Moscow. This query is for you all.I don’t know if you are men or women, but do you know of any Ukrainian or Russian fashion blogs? Or any Ukrainian or Russian fashion magazine sites? Thinking about the devushka style this morning made me really want to see websites that are either aspirational of Russian and/or Ukrainian style or reflective of the street style.

Please, if you know of any, leave their URLs in the comments section below! 🙂

Spaceba!  (did I spell that right? I don’t have a cyrillic keyboard on my computer — yet)

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Ladies Only

Ladies Only!

Ladies Only!

Anyone who follows my Facebook status updates knows the problems I have getting on and off BART at the 24th St. stop. Some of the men there do not behave so gentlemanly. More than once, I have dreamt of ladies-only cars, or at least entrances/exits.

A friend of mine just returned from a trip to Japan. Apparently there, the trains do have such “ladies only” train cars as some men are known not to keep their hands to themselves. I commented on her picture on Facebook saying I wish we had these, the follow-ups were as follows:

Former college calculus tutor:  Apparently this was tried on the Hudson & Manhattan Trains (now PATH) back in 1909. The public ridiculed the idea and it didn’t last.

Me:  Yeah, I don’t imagine it going over so well in ultra liberal SF, but I so wish it would.

College friend:  And I imagine that a good number of San Franciscans would welcome a single-sex BART car!

Me:  Hahahh…yeah! 🙂 That is true. But then wouldn’t we need a “gender-optional” car too?

I just feel that Ladies of *any* sexual-orientation wouldn’t be so grope-y or stalky.

The Ukrainian has suggested, in a very un-Russian way (he is, after all, a huge fan of the devushka look), that maybe I should start dressing dowdy to avoid attracting attention. But I don’t think that would work. Dowdy dress leads to dowdy feelings and my resulting depression would probably invite some creep to “cheer” me by touching or leering at me. Some men are just creeps. There is nothing to be done. Except, maybe, do as the Japanese do and have some “Ladies Only” cars.

Hi! :)

I think I read once that happy people don’t write. That saying should be rephrased that super-happy, really-busy people don’t write. I’ve started a couple of entries, but haven’t had a chance to finish them. Why?

1) I started a new project at work last Monday. Getting my head wrapped around a bunch of technologies that are either new to me or I haven’t used in years always drains me mentally (sometimes physically too).

2) After the wedding in July, I kept eating as if everyday were a wedding feast with the all the dancing and commotion that usually keeps the feast from sticking to the hips. But…uh…the new job and all the other changes in my life kept me from dancing, and bicycling, and hiking, and everything else that usually keeps me on the slimmer side of the average American adult woman. So now my jeans are a bit tight. While my weight is still perfectly healthy and not-at-all-fat on the BMI scale, I don’t feel like putting on jeans in the morning and I’m afraid that my mini-skirts have become a bit more mini with the added baggage on the behind. Soooo….I’ve kicked it up a gear and have been making a conscious effort to resume my active lifestyle: e.g., bike to work, weights at the gym several times a week, long walks with the dogs after work, etc., etc. This adjustment doesn’t leave much energy for lounging on the sofa writing freestyle. Lounging on the sofa tends to turn into passing out on the sofa and regaining consciousness at 5:30 a.m. to do it all over again.

3) The Ukrainian and I have been having lots of fun together. We’ve been to Mt. Diablo, a party in East Palo Alto, late lunch in Little Italy, jeans shopping (to have something comfortable to wear while I work on reducing my rear load). These have all been bloggable adventures with pictures (well maybe not the rearview of the jeans trying-on expedition), but I’m usually too tired from it all to want to record it.

4) Lastly, of course, the Obama victory. Every dog with a blog has been writing their joy over this. I too was happy. I literally cried tears of happiness. The Ukrainian had a slightly different reaction. This difference gave me a huge pause for thought. I started to write about it, but then #s 1 -3 got in the way. I promise, promise once the SF winter rain begins again, I will become all melancholic and complete the entry.

Now, for what it’s worth, I am no longer homesick for the midwest. Sure, I miss my family and certain friends. And I miss being around the most honest, salt-of-the-earth people that surely walk the face of this earth. But every single person I know there seems to be complaining about a broken furnace. And they’re cold. Meanwhile, I am going to go ride my bike to work in the (relatively) warm California sun

Toodles y’all!

Role Reversal: The morning of the Green Card Interview

On Thursday morning, I met the Ukrainian downtown at his office on Montgomery St., lugging my 200 photos and cheap white photo album from Walgreens in my luxe black leather Coach tote that the Ukrainian had given me the previous March in honor of International Women’s Day. I had on my knee high black patent leather boots — also from Coach, the ones that made unknown women stop me on the street exclaiming, “Where did you get those boots?!” and men look me up and down with a whistle. For the main piece, I wore the same Tory Burch long sleeve shift dress that Britney Spears wore on probably the only classy trial day she ever had. Economy be damned. If ever there was day to be a label-whore, this day was it. I didn’t want to show up at the INS looking like some slovenly student that the Ukrainian had to pay to get her to marry him.

For his part, the Ukrainian played the role of the successful young businessman very well. He wore his Hugo Boss suit with a navy-blue striped Hugo Boss tie. His shoes were Calvin Klein. His black leather satchel:  Kenneth Cole. Sadly, neither of his Hugo Boss shirts were clean so he had to settle for Zara. But it was fine, what he lacked in labels, he made up for in fit and class. The Zara shirt was made for his tall, lean body and had French Cuffs! This touch of sophisticated flair was certain to impress any INS bureaucrat, I was sure.

So I met the Ukrainian at his office where I could deposit my iPhone, camera, and 2nd cellphone (long story why I carry around 2 phones — it’s a temporary situation). While he finished up a few last minute business-related calls, I went to work on organizing our 200+ photos into the cheap white album I had purchased the night before.

“You’re crazy,” the Ukrainian told me again and again between each phone call as I tried to sort the photos into chronological order while stuffing them into the cheap plastic album slots.

“Get me some paper clips. They’re not all in order. We’ll clip the ones that aren’t in order to the pages they should be in.” My engineer’s mind couldn’t function without everything in life being absolutely sequential and “in order”. But I also knew that looking well put together — not just in clothes — but in the “evidence” we brought with us to our interview would be important to impressing our interviewer, and hopefully save us the troubles that so many other couples have endured.

Soon, it was 10 minutes until our interview. There was no more time for business phone calls. No more time to organize our photos to best show our story. It was time to walk to the INS offices.

And that’s when I realized:  I hadn’t eaten. Not that morning. Not more than 2 nibbles of lettuce the night before. And I was hungry. Whatever nerves I had vanished. My stomach rumbled. The Ukrainian laughed. “I feel sorry for whoever interviews us. He better be nice to you because he won’t be able to kick you out of the country for being mean!” The bitchiness that I exude when hungry is famous. All I have to do is say the word “hungry” and the Ukrainian is on his feet offering to fetch me whatever food I desire. He’d rather exercise this small moment of servitude than suffer the wrath of my mood on an empty stomach. But on this day, he was having none of it.

“There is no time to eat. Or to stop for a candy or fruit. Here, just for you, I have a piece of gum.” I reluctantly took the gum from the Ukrainian while looking across the street at a deli. I could just run in…get something…anything…just one thing that would save me if we’re taken into separate rooms and questioned for hours on end with out so much as a cup of water or a bite to eat. Clearly, I’d been watching too communist-themed espionage and subversion films. But I could tell that this was one moment the Ukrainian did not want to be challenged. The moment was simply too important.

And so in my fancy clothes, I dragged my hungry belly, bundle of nerves, and cheap white wedding photo album into the non-descript government building on Sacramento St. and through security. Though I would not have even been there if it wasn’t for the Ukrainian, I was especially glad to have him there. The nerves and lack of food made me light-headed and a bit faint. I no longer knew where we were supposed to be going or what we were supposed to do once we got there. I took the Ukrainian’s arm for support and let him guide me through the halls he had negotiated so many times before since arriving in the States.

Suddenly, in my own native country, I felt myself to be the foreigner.

Green Card Update and other matters

Yesterday, we came home to a letter from the INS (USCIS), inviting us once again to come into their office for an interview for the Ukrainian’s green card on October 16. We are trying not to get too excited — given what happened last time (they changed our address to Brooklyn and canceled our interview). But maybe, hopefully…all will turn out well.

Also, in updates:  The Ukrainian received the raise he was lobbying for (you may have gathered that from the last post). This means he can quit the library job — which he did. I am hoping this means we will have more time to spend together, but I’m not so sure if it will work out that way. The extra time in his life will — rightfully — probably go towards his job and his studies.

Post-wedding denouement:  Definitely continues. Probably not helped by the fact that we get to spend so little time together. And my job involves spending 8+ hours alone in my cubicle. And the economy…the economy prevents me from engaging in fabulous retail therapy — like those $1200 Purple Patent leather Christian Louboutin boots I drool over? Nope. I can’t even entertain the thought. Sadly, there is no replacement in the <$200 category either.

Future children:  Yes, to clarify from the last post, we are having more concrete conversations about when to start trying for a family. Optimistic hopes puts at us beginning our efforts (should be fun!) in mid-December. That would allow us both to spend more time at the gym, dentist, etc. getting our bodies to prenatal perfection! (Is that even possible in our 30s?). The problem is that if we are successful, we wouldn’t be able to travel to Kiev in the Spring for our Russian Orthodox wedding. So…wedding or baby…baby or wedding…

Some shoes, a livery driver, and same-sex marriage & parenting

The Ukrainian and I exit Bloomingdale’s on Market Street. We are
only a few yards away from the entrance to the underground BART train
that can deposit us a few blocks from our house in San Francisco’s Noe
Valley in exactly 7 minutes. But I am wearing my new Steve Maddens —
the ones constructed with 5 inch heels and tight apple green leather
trimmed in brown. I have been wearing them for the past 9 hours and
walking those last few yards to the train daunts me to all but tears.

“We’ll take cab,” the Ukrainian says feeling my wince our every
step. I am clinging to his arm as if an old lady while trying to brave
a face of youth that doesn’t scream “Yes, these shoes are new and
crippling and I am silly for wearing them, but aren’t they hot?!?”

There is a dearth of cabs on the east-bound side of Market St. where
we are standing. I allow myself a cursory remembrance of my past New
York life that included cabs everywhere as candy for the taking.
“Perhaps we’ll have more luck on the other side,” suggests the
Ukrainian. I agree, steeling myself for the pain that will be involved
in crossing the 4+ lane street.

As we begin to cross the 2nd lane, an elegant, shiny black towncar
pulls up behind us. “Taxi?” the slightly-pudgy E. Indian driver asks.
Without even turning around to look at him — for I can see the driver
and his car out of the corner of my eye — I dismiss him with my hand,
saying “No, you are too expensive.” “No, no ma’am. You say how much,
and I will take you where you want to go.” I hesitate. Tempted. The
additional 3 lanes and a bike path to cross may be more pain than I can
bear. But I also consider that the last private car that offered to
take us home wanted $30 for the honor, when a regular taxi would only
cost $12.

“Ok,” I say. “How about $15?”

“Sure, get in,” replies the driver with a smile. I am amazed at the
ease with which the transaction takes place. I had expected more
negotiating or the driver scoffing my offer away. But my amazement is
replaced quickly by fear and embarrassment as the driver does a u-turn
straight into the path of an oncoming bicyclist.

The bicyclist is not amused by the threat on his life. He rides up
to the car and starts chiding the livery driver through the open
passenger window.

“What are you doing, man?”

“What do you mean ‘what am I doing’? What are you doing? You see me, you brake. You are bike, I am car.”

“Hey man, I have full right to the road. You need to yield to oncoming traffic. You almost killed me.”

“No, no. You only get to be on the far right side. You were not on the far right side.”

The argument quickly ends as the stoplight turns green and both the
driver and bicyclist are more interested in their final destination
than the proving themselves right.

Or so I think. The driver continues his tirade against the bicyclist
at us. And we are his captive audience. “That bicyclist had no right to
be where he was…he should have stopped when he saw me…” It was the
classic case of methinks-thou-dost-protest too much, but I refrain from
saying anything. My silence is hypocritical of me for I also ride my
bike down Market St. during rush hour several times a week. But my feet
are too grateful for the ride home to put my foot where my mouth might
go, so I keep it shut.

The driver’s diatribe does not last long though. As we approach
Duboce Triangle — the part of Market Street where the Castro, Mission
and Lower Haight districts intersect — traffic slows to a crawl. A
vocal gathering on the sidewalk is beginning to spill out into the
street.

What is it? A protest? A celebration? Another typical San Francisco
day where the abnormal is the norm? And then I remember…the
California Supreme Court had overturned the ban on same-sex marriage.
The Castro is the center of gay pride. Of course! Progressives are
celebrating! Conservatives are protesting!

The driver switches is rant from bicyclists to gays.

“Look. I don’t care if they want to be gay. That is nobody’s business.”

Ok..I think…at least he isn’t completely closed-minded.

“But to allow them to marry! To have children! That is not right.”

But there are limits to his open-mindedness.

While I had kept quiet about his attitude towards bicyclists, I
can’t keep my mouth shut about same-sex marriages and parenting. I
decide to try a rational argument — the same rational argument I had
used on the Ukrainian just last summer when he had voiced similar
opinions after our attendance at the 2007 Gay Pride Parade on the very
same Market Street.

“I don’t see how one’s private sexual practices affect their ability to be good parents.”

“They can be gay all they want, but they shouldn’t be allowed to have children,” the driver reiterates.

“Why?”
I ask. “Are you afraid that their children will automatically turn out
gay? If the parents’ sexuality affects the children, then why do most
gays have straight parents?” Now was not the time to get into the
nuances of gay, straight, lesbian, queer, transgender and any other
categorization of sexuality that I had encountered since moving to San
Francisco. I wanted to keep the argument simple.

“They won’t be good parents,” he insisted.

“Why not? If they are caring and loving and supportive of the children? If
they help with the homework and set boundaries, etc…how is that not
being good parents? If they are in a loving committed relationship,
what is wrong with that? What about a single mother who brings home a
different man every night? Is she some how a better mother?” I played
into his conservative side to open his mind a little. “What about
parents who beat their children? Are addicted to drugs? Are they
somehow better parents because they’re heterosexual?”

The driver thought a little, conceded a bit, said “You do have a good point”. I
don’t know if the concession came from him wanting to get his fare, or
if indeed, his mind had opened a little. I hope it was the latter.

By now, we had arrived at our house in Noe Valley. I walk barefoot from
the car to our building, with the Ukrainian carrying my shoes — the
ones that had gotten us into this conversation in the first place.

“Put this in your blog, ” the Ukrainian says. “It’s important. I didn’t know better until you explained it to me.”

The
Ukrainian is referring back to the conversation we had while walking
the dogs after the 2007 San Francisco Gay Pride Parade. We had attended
the parade as a fun date and, afterwards, he had offered the same
arguments that the driver had again against same-sex marriage &
parenting. I gave the same counter-arguments, and over-time, maybe not
that day, but in the months that have passed, my Ukrainian’s mind has
opened. He now supports same-sex marriage and parenting.

Progress. Just a little bit at a time, but progress nonetheless

A little bit more of a wife

We stood at the corner of Bush & Montgomery. Already, it was 9:05 a.m. He was late. He leaned down to give me a quick kiss good-bye so I could head off to my office and he could go to his.

But before the kiss, there was first a question.

“Honey, what’re you doing after work today?” My Ukrainian has long since learned all the amourisms to call his beloved. I have yet to learn when he uses them to be romantic and when he has a more ulterior motive in mind.

“I don’t know. Go home. Do stuff.”

“Are you going shopping? Maybe?” There was the tainted sound of hope if his voice. He definitely had an ulterior motive today.

“I wasn’t planning on it. Why? What do you need?”

“3 Hugo Boss shirts. The kind that go under my long-sleeve shirts.” He instinctively pointed to the collar of his undershirt to be clear that I wouldn’t misunderstand what he meant.

“Ok, maybe. Where did you buy them? The Hugo Boss store”

“I don’t know. Maybe Bloomingdale’s. Maybe Macy’s.”

So tonight, I will go around Union Square and Market St and try to track down my husband’s favorite undershirts. I am definitely more of a wife today than I was yesterday.