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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

LOVE AND DEATH: A Spinster Already f at 27

There is some strange conspiracy afoot to get you married in Russia. You may be a conscientious citizen, quiet neighbor, animal lover, patron of the arts or generally happy person f no matter. No amount of do-goodery will save you from the single odious fact that you have failed to make yourself part of a larger equation. Society will forgive you nothing until you can demonstrate you are capable of joining in that time-honored contract that's making everyone else so miserable. Even being divorced is better than saying you've never been married.

Primary responsibility for bearing this message falls, as all things do, to the taxi driver. Topics such as crime, corruption or how you should have turned right at the last intersection can lose their allure so quickly. But the reasons for your being single f and the sinister repercussions that most surely will follow f can seemingly be chewed on for hours.

This is already only moderately fun when you are 23. As you grow older, your enjoyment quotient drops precipitously. As Cosmopolitan and every other publication in the world will tell you, chances of betrothal shrink exponentially with every passing year; like sand in the hourglass; so slip away any last remaining chances at happiness. Taxi drivers know this, and they want to make sure you know too. This is why the follow-up question to "Are you married?" isinevitably "No? How old are you?" When they gasp and hold on to their heart after you have served up the staggering figure, you know you are being punished not only because you are alone in this world, but because you are terribly old as well. (This can happen to anyone over 27.)

What the taxi driver, or anyone else who sees fit to take on your sorry condition, can never tell you is what you're missing out on. One of the biggest mysteries in the entire debate about bachelorhood is that virtually no one who's crossed to the other side can convincingly state their case (unless you find a compelling argument in phrases like "nu, kak bez etogo?" or, "How can you not?). Happily married couples are in short supply in many parts of the world, and Russia f where people do not always have the financial luxury of taking their time to choose a mate f is no exception. Marriage often seems like just another cross to bear.

The idea, then, that you should fling yourself into this dubious union while you're still young and resilient, is a resistible one for many people, especially Westerners who have been brought up to believe that, with the proper attitude, they can make the blush and vigor of youth a decades-long experience. For people such as these, marriage is the fast track to premature aging and Russia is Diagram 1. No amount of soulful remonstration from a cab driver will ever convince them otherwise.

Of course, expectations can vary in different parts of the world.

Marriage can be about emotional gratification; more often it is a support network, a tradition, a practical arrangement. (A divorced Russian woman recently told me "I'm 31, but I still believe in love," clocking in as one of the single most disheartening sentiments I've heard about life here in a long time. It was as though she would have been equally proud to be 31 and still walking without a cane.) In the motivational forces category, love and romance still appear to be popular favorites in the West, where some people spend years tracking down the dream candidate. (The reason it gets harder as you get older is not because you've got more wrinkles, but because you are a much more discriminating shopper. The more you know, the less you like.)

The result can be a sort of resigned detachment from Mother Nature, paired with a profound terror of growing old f who's going to take care of you when your flame of extended youth suddenly burns out and you discover that you're 70 years old? With a scary little tableau like this staring you in the face, the idea of marrying young and in haste can sometimes make as much sense as anything else.

The determination of some Russians to draw you into traditional socio-familial patterns, however, can border on the pathological. And as all good behaviorists know, the do-as-I-say method of public persuasion rarely bears fruit, especially when teamed with remarks about your age f "well, I'm feeling really old and depressed about the human condition now, so I guess I'll go get married." If Russian cab drivers are so gung-ho on marriage, they should show it by taking down all those heaving-bosom stickers and putting a picture of their wife on the dashboard instead. "There's my Masha f 51 and still believes in love!" That would get results.