After telling a friend the story about the “no communication” online dating site, he told me to try another site he had heard about.
This one was free, city-based (as in Yerevan only), didn’t have the endless pages of fluffy profile information, (seriously, who would have a favorite car color) and even though it was a Russian site, it had an option for English, and messages were exchanged like an open chat.
Since the last adventure was so entertaining, I decided to try actual communication with the members of the kingdom. I went to the site, and signed up. It was easy and in a matter of minutes, I had a profile online, waiting for a photo approval.
Within an hour, even without a photo, I had an onslaught of people looking at my profile. Hmmmm.
While online dating may be a norm in the west, I just didn’t see how it would fit with Armenia’s culture of dating. Here people mainly rely on connections. Somebody knows somebody who knows somebody. And even if one somebody likes another somebody; other somebodies have to investigate. A vetting process that would put most political consultants to shame.
But somebodies didn’t seem to be a part of this equation, and within a few hours I had reached the 300+ people viewing my profile, with over 100 messages. Ok, maybe we’re more progressive than I thought.
But language was an obstacle. Some of them were writing in Russian, most in transliterated Armenian, and a trickle in Armenian with Armenian letters. Since my Armenian language skills are so weak, I struggle with the transliteration, so I needed to figure out exactly how I was going to communicate.
I asked my friend about a few words I kept seeing repeated, and figured from the simplicity of the messages, that I could probably handle it. This was online, how much trouble could I possibly get in?
Before I continue, let me preface all this by saying that I have always held the theory that the internet gives people unusual boldness. You can wink, nod, applaud, even kiss comments made by other people.
Would you walk up to a person in public that you had just met, wink at them, clap in their face, blow them a kiss, and just sashay away? I think not. Not without getting punched at least.
I had listed on my profile that I spoke limited Armenian, hoping this would pare down the list of contacts. It didn’t work, and there were so many messages, that I was overwhelmed. Do I have to respond? Is it rude if I don’t?
The only way forward was to slash and burn. Too old, too young, too scary, or too shifty looking, and you were dumped right away. Fake photos were out all together. WHY would you put a picture of Hugo Chavez as your profile photo. And not even a good one, it was like posting Elvis during the bloated years.
Stupid user names were also deleted. Blue Blue. Really? If they didn’t pass the test, they were moved into the handy “ignore” file which banished them forever.
But it was still an onslaught, so I decided to ignore it all and sleep.
By morning the situation was out of control, I had over 200 new messages. There seemed to be a recurring/standard opening line. “Hello, can we get to know each other?” Very polite, and a few stated, “Only looking to hang-out”.
Ok, that’s nice, only to hang out, that seemed harmless. They all sounded the same, so I picked the kindest looking one who was online and answered.
Andranik: bari luis. shpvenk? (good morning, hang out/get acquainted?)
Me: Ok, bari luis. anglaren? (ok, good morning, english?)
Andranik: i don’t know
Me: absos (too bad)
Me: WHAT?!? Voch! (no)
Anranik: ba inch? (but why?)
Me: Lurj es? Voch (are you serious? no)
Andarnik: lurj em, sex em uzum. (I’m serious, I want sex)
Andranik: CHHASKACA?! (I don’t understand)
Andranik: BYE ES?!? (you are saying bye?)
Well, that didn’t go well at all. What the hell went wrong?! I tried again. I’ll skip the bad Armenian and just go straight to the translation:
Grigor: Hello, let’s get to know each other, I’m just looking to hang out.
Me: Hi, I’m just looking to hang out too.
Grigor: Great, give me your number.
Me: Why? I don’t even know you.
Grigor: Send me your number, and we’ll meet.
The next several conversations went the same way.
Well, not exactly the same, I argued with some of them and told one guy he was the reason the world was failing. He responded “the whole world is my fault?!”.
I logged out, closed my computer and put it in the back of the closet.
Wow. Something had gone terribly wrong. I called my friend and repeated the conversations. After a little investigation into local jargon, the mystery was solved.
“Shpvel” in the dictionary means to communicate/interact or in slang to “hangout”.
However, “shpvel” for purposes of this website means to have sex. I only want to hang out vs. I only want to have sex are vastly different. Hence the plethora of “WHAT?!?!”.
Google Translate had failed me.
I collected hysterical conversations for the blog world, and deleted my photo. That stopped most of the communications.
I don’t want to paint them all the same, I did have a few normal discussions, got the name of a good movie (Silver Linings Playbook), and a recommendation on a place to buy cool stationary supplies (Pen Box, I completely forgot about that place).
I learned some words that are not suitable to be put on a blog, or repeated aloud; and found out that the Armenian male while sometimes appearing hesitant in public, has been liberated by the anonymity of the internet.
My theory has withstood the test.
The account is still open, and one persistent contact keeps writing; who has some of the funniest comments I’ve read. I’ve promised not to use his name, but I’ve interviewed him and have to tell his story some day.
He seemed as lost as I was, which gave me hope for mankind. But no hope for internet dating in Armenia.