Tuesday, 13 May 2014

The Beautiful Polish Girl Meme

First, I live in the United Kingdom, specifically Scotland. The United Kingdom has higher wages and better maternity leave than Poland, and so adventurous young Poles have come in their thousands to work and play and, in many cases, escape the social expectations of Polish life. If Babcia is still afraid of long-distance telephone calls, she can't call you to say she wants to die but won't until you get married.

The United Kingdom also has a good reputation for university education, and so the brightest and most impatient young Poles come here to study. (Poles need visas for the USA, even as tourists.) As non-English members of the EU, they don't have to pay high tuition fees in Scotland. But they do have to speak excellent English, which means that their less quick-witted (or less hardworking) countrymen are left snoozing off their hangovers in the lecture theatres of Wrocław U or wherever.

These two points of view, of the worker Pole and of the student Pole, are not mine but were transmitted to me by Poles themselves. As a poor little foreigner far from home, I naturally gravitate towards other foreigners and, lo, since Canadians in Edinburgh mostly hide from each other, I have just latched onto the Poles. It helps that many (although certainly not all) Poles continue to go to Holy Mass when they get to Scotland, and that a number get involved in Polish cultural events. Oh, and of course there is the nearby polski sklep (Polish grocery store), where I go for the curd cheese, sour cream and dried forest mushrooms necessary for feeding such Polish guests as Polish Pretend Son.

Polish Pretend Son was is my primary source of information about Poland, which might be considered problematic, especially if you are a member of the Polish Left. Edinburgh has many members of the Polish Left, e.g. Polish hipsters at the university. Polish Pretend Son is not a member of the Polish Left and is super-patriotic, originally choosing to study in Scotland because "we don't have anything against Scotland." Sweden, for example, invaded Poland in 1626, so forget about Sweden, rat pit of hell.

Anyway, it was Polish Pretend Son, either out of patriotism or homesickness or horror at the legions of plump, orange-faced Scottish and English girls wearing denim shorts over black leggings, who impressed on me that Polish Girls are Beautiful. And his claims were backed up by another patriotic/homesick/horrified Polish friend who declared (I never forgot this) that all the English girls around him (for he moved to an English city) looked like "retarded whales."

As a matter of fact, the "OUR women are the most beautiful" meme used to be very widespread. C.S. Lewis refers to it in, I think, The Four Loves. The Germans allude to the perfection of theirs in a verse of the national anthem. The Beach Boys extol California girls. However, this kind of patriotism seems to have gone out of style for English-speaking men who, on the internet, extol foreign women, the miserable traitors, in a weird kind of racism of high expectations.

But, as a matter of another fact, many young women in Britain dress unusually badly, even for the English-speaking world, which is staggering when you ponder that Miley Cyrus is an American. My favourite American-in-Britain story is of a lost young American student who called up friends in a panic because he was lost and all he knew was that he must be in a red light district because he was surrounded by prostitutes.

"Sam," said his pal patiently. "Are those really prostitutes or are they regular girls?"

There was a pause as Sam took another look.

"Oh," said Sam. "I guess they are regular girls."

And I totally believe this story because when I first arrived in Edinburgh, it was very cold and yet there were bosoms on display everywhere. Many girls would wear scarves around their necks while being careful that their cleavages still showed. It was ridiculous. Meanwhile, in the department stories, there were BEAUTIFUL clothes, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. But I have no idea who is wearing them because I never see them on the street.

Also, since the 1960s and the end of proper meal times and the rise of snacking, there are a disproportionate number of obese young women in the UK. And the grannies of obese young women do not say, as do Polish grannies, "You'll never get a man if you look like that.", possibly because the grannies are also obese or because modern-day British grannies are wimps or because modern-day British grannies know perfectly well you can get any man into bed (even a Polish one with a wife and three kids in Szczęsin) if he is drunk enough and you have zero expectations.

Oh, and female public drunkenness is a thing here. In Poland, being drunk in public is a disgrace for a woman, but this isn't Poland, is it, and if ye dinnae like it you can go back to the ***** ye came fae and ah'm no' racist ken ah'm no' ah'm jest ah'm jest ah'm jest whaurs mah drink?*

So there is a reason why young Polish men in Britain might be exaggerating in their own minds about the objectively fantastic beauty of Polish women. As for American men, the Central/Eastern European women they see--real ones, born in Central/Eastern Europe--tend to be fashion models or tennis players, the visa difficulty having channeled the majority of the young, adventurous ones to the UK or Germany, and the older, plumper ones staying home.

Anyway, I totally bought everything Polish Pretend Son said about Poles because surely nobody that handsome (Jealous B.A.: "Not THAT handsome.") and charming (Jealous B.A.: "Not THAT charming") would make stuff up. Being disqualified from the eternal struggle for male attention, I was very excited when I bought my first ticket for Supermodel Land. It was only when I enthused about going to a land free of crime and pollution, etc., etc., that Polish Pretend Son began to backtrack and admit that sometimes a car or two might be stolen, and occasionally someone threw a cigarette butt on the chaste Polish pavement. Still, he didn't backtrack on the Beautiful Polish Women Issue.

Thus I was highly amused in the RyanAir queue at Edinburgh Airport to see that very few of the women waiting for the Krakow flight were beautiful. Indeed, some were downright squashy and plain. So as soon as I was in my Krakow room, I texted Polish Pretend Son to tell him.

PPP: If women are ugly you have mainly (chiefly?) seen tourists from the UK and Germany. Enjoy Poland!

The truth is that most Polish women in Western Poland just look like ordinary women, only always white (so far) and never obese. Oh, and lots and lots of them are young because Poles my age bothered to have children, and so there they are, now in their 20s. The young ones tend to be thin, and then they get plumper as they get older, which is normal for human women. They wear modest shirts, if tight jeans or short skirts, and their tans, if they have them, look natural. The middle-aged women wear a lot of make-up or none. Lots of Polish women have their hair short. They do not cover their heads in church, although the odd granny here and there (and me) wears a beret. I have never seen one drunk or eating greasy chips on the street.

On my first trip to Poland I saw exactly two women of the supermodel class. One was a blonde waitress in the Wedel chocolate shop in the Main Market, and my first thought was that she was not going to be a waitress for long because she was THAT drop dead gorgeous. And then I saw a breathtaking woman on the train to Warsaw.

Since then I have not been looking out for supermodel-type women, so others may have passed me by while I admired the architecture or decoded Polish signs or looked at paintings or prayed at church. I am much more likely to notice how many Polish men can be found in churches at any time of day or evening, e.g. many, especially compared to the English-speaking world.

And being blue-eyed and fair-skinned, and wearing little make-up, a beret, a chignon, a sensible shoes, a trench coat and a neutral expression, I blended in pretty well with the general population of Krakow, looking like what I am, which is a moharowy beret (conservative-minded religious old lady) in training. When people addressed me it was always in Polish, and as a matter of fact, my accent is now so good, I have to stop saying "Good evening" to customs officials in Polish because they do a double-take, stare at my Canadian passport and my foreign name and take a very long time looking at whatever it is they are looking at on their scary computer screen.

In fact, even the chap in the Młoda Polska art gallery who fell in love with my hair, or with me looking at Młoda Polska portraits under my Młoda Polska hair, asked first in Polish if he could take my photograph.

And this reminds me that I get more sultry looks from men in Poland than I ever (EVER) do in Scotland, and as my own Edinburgh-Canadian grandmother informed me that I was not pretty, this is a mystery. It may have something to do with Polish men. Oh! Maybe Polish men, like Frenchmen, are just more interested in women! Oooh!

I wonder what the air fare is from New York to Warsaw, do you? Incidentally I will be appearing in Rzeszów this autumn.

Update: I have a young Polish male reader, whom I have never met, but reads this blog, who is going home to Poland and would like to meet marriage-positive Polish girls. I realize it is a long-shot, but if any reader in Poland thinks it would be fun to meet one of my few Polish male readers, do let me know. I commend him on his sense in asking my aid.

*Full disclosure. In fairness, I should mention that it can be hard not to get drunk in British social life, in part because the British men pouring the stuff forget that British women cannot knock it back the way they do. Also, alcohol tolerance goes up and down. When I was in Poland, I think I had one glass of wine in ten days. Therefore, when I turned up at my Fifth Wedding Anniversary party, I got instantly tipsy on one little glass of sparkling wine.

"Don't top it up," I protested at whoever topped it up, and he or she topped it up.

Then there was red wine at supper.

"Just a little!" I protested at whoever filled my glass. "Just a little!"

And then when I began to cut the cake, I realized that I was too intoxicated to properly cut the cake, and I gave up.

So although it is the woman drinker who is to blame when she gets drunk, I am ready to admit that her social and biological circumstances may have a lot to do with it.


Anonymous said...

I am Polish :) I live in UK now....and I've never red
so much about Polish on an English blog! Wow! How many times have you visited Poland? Do you like Poland? How do you feel in this country?

Seraphic said...

Hello, E! Technically, it's a Scottish blog--it's sort of like Lithuania in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Edynburg! Ojcyzno moja! Jesteś jak zdrowie! Itp.

I have been to Poland five times. I very much like Poland. When I am there I feel happy and relaxed although very tired in the evenings. I have been to Kraków, Gdańsk, Sopot, Warsaw, Częstochowa, Wrocław, Karpacz and some villages, mostly in Sląsk or near Warsaw.

Julia said...

Whoops! I guess this post was inspired by my stream-of-consciousness commentary yesterday.

To make it up to you, something from the Babcia Files:

Mothers' Day 2014

Babcia:...and then the Chinese will take over Australia. Don't laugh! You won't be laughing in twenty years' time when Chinese people are dancing on my grave!

Me: Babcia, maybe I'll marry a Chinese.

Babcia: No! They're too small for you.

Seraphic said...

Ah ha ha! More Babcia stories, please!

Seraphic said...

Julia, you should start a blog called The Babcia Files. You would be guaranteed an audience by anyone with a Babcia.

Julia said...

That's definitely an idea! If only I had started committing her comments to memory at an earlier age instead of just rolling my eyes, I'd have heaps of blog-fodder by now, or perhaps a Logie Award-winning sitcom.

Maybe I could start a Twitter account like the one where that guy tweets everything his dad says.

I also wouldn't have to limit the stories to those about my own Babcia - my best friend's has said some real gems. Plus I've had various aunt figures who've said things that could be straight out of an episode of "Raymond".

This (or something like it) also happened on Mothers' Day 2014:

Dad: The son of that Czech family who used to live next door married an Asian girl.

Babcia: They weren't Czech, they were Ukrainians.

Dad: Oh yeah, that's right, they were Ukrainians. Their name was [insert Ukrainian name here].

Babcia: NO, they were CZECH. That's what I just said.

Seraphic said...

Ah ha ha ha ha! Go ask Babcia if all the girls she went to school with were heart-stoppingly beautiful.