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Unfiled March 6, 2007
 
Ladies Beware: Russian Men Bearing Gifts!
Champagne wishes and salmon roe dreams on our Very Special Day. By Nancy Deal Browse author
 
 

Hold onto your papki, you pitiful corporate peons! It's time for one of Russia's most beloved holidays, which involves a full-day off of work and one flower-filled, champagne-saturated day of smarmy pandering to the opposite sex at the office. Don't forget your garter belt!

"International" Women's Day, the Mother of all corporate gift-giving holidays, is just around the corner. Ladies, you've just spent weeks searching for the best-ever presents to give your male coworkers on Man Day (has any man working in an office today actually defended the Fatherland?): solar flashlights, crossbows, vodka, vodka and vodka, elitny hunting knives, flasks bearing your company's logo, etc. ad nauseum. The men were thrilled. They ate, they drank and they were merry. You even let a couple of them cop a feel -- it was their special day, after all. And now, ladies, it is your turn. Your very eagerly awaited turn.

Women's Day office protocol is the same from year to year. Ladies, you should dress up special, put on a little more make-up, dab those wrists with your favorite perfume, strap on your wonderbra and get ready to put on your best ear-to-ear grin - you'll be wearing that for most of the day (well, for show, at least). When you get to work, it may seem just like any other ordinary day. But never fear, my sweet rose petal: Yes, Natasha, there is a Women's Day. Groups of men will pass by your desk throughout the day, bearing frozen carnations, past-their-sell-by-date candies, knock-off perfume, and cheap polusladkoe champagne. Other fabulous corporate gifts include theatre tickets, fleece jackets with the corporate logo, and flasks left over from Man Day.

As the men enter the room, the women must rise and stand opposite them, as if preparing for a square dance. Each of the men will have something to present the women, and he will go down the line and kiss each one on the cheek. Then it is time for the champagne. The women have prepared for this and piled at least one desk high with candies, tea and cups. One of the brave men will grapple with the champagne until it finally bursts open and is carefully poured into plastic cups.

The men will now recite speeches and toasts, during which the ladies must grin ceaselessly, blush coquettishly, and make the occasional exclamation of: "okh!" "akh!" "da shto vy!" Men, you should practice your speeches and toasts before the big day. After all, as a manly man it is your solemn duty to ensure that the weaker sex gets complimented enough in one day to keep you from having to do any of this crap for the rest of the year.

At a loss for words? Here are a few suggestions to get you started. Remember, the key is to keep it sugary, over the top and completely insincere:

- "You are surprising, gentle and magical creations! Women embody the charm of love and beauty. We wish you attention, warmth and loving care not only on the 8th of March but on every day, every minute and every second!"

- "Dearest women! On this special holiday, please accept our most heartfelt congratulations and a word of gratitude for your very existence. Woman, she is priceless. Her destiny on Earth is essential. She is our caring mother, our loving wife, the keeper of the family hearth. She brings life, love and beauty to the world. She bears children, and keeps us men warm with love and care. May you always be happy, dear women! May you always be beloved and wonderful!"

- "We cannot imagine life without the sky, without the sun, without water. Just as we men cannot exist without our dear women, who understand our sorrows, who know how to listen and what to say. To you, sweet ladies!"

Let the blushing and eyelash-fluttering begin! Ladies, the key is to look as vulnerable and slow-witted as possible. This increases your chances of catching the eye of that sexy pinstriped troglodyte from the credit department. In response to each toast, the women will take a sip of their champagne (or pretend to) and make doe eyes at the men whilst competing to be the first to cry out "oh but we simply couldn't do without you big, strong soldiers!" In between toasts, the men will tell stupid jokes, and in response the women -- especially those who are the most hard-assed every other day of the year -- will ham it up by tittering and giggling overzealously. Some women will magically become tipsy from just half a glass of champagne, while other, more desperate members of the weaker sex will become inebriated simply from holding a glass with champagne in it.

In addition to the displays of wit and humor, the men will alternatively turn to one another and talk about very important business-related manners far beyond the comprehension of the fair maidens in the room, who can do nothing but stare up at them in sheer awe and inspiration. These men, so inept at conducting business, are nonetheless bluffing masters capable of using impressive big words and expressing profound concepts, sometimes even properly. The women are not to engage in these discussions -- it is muzhskoye delo.

If you are an expat guy new to this Spring ritual, you may be initially displeased with the fact that you will be required to chip in for all of these flowers, candies and other fragrant frivolities for women in the office you have never seen, let alone spoken to. But you can afford to be thrifty when it comes to these presents - after all, you end up having to buy so much! They can't tell the difference between good chocolate and bad chocolate, designer and knock-offs.

And even if they can, so what? They've been waiting a whole year for this! They're desperate! They'll take anything they get and grovel at your feet! Much like treating a dinner whore to lobster on a first date, the Women's Day chipping-in factor invariably has its benefits. For this one day you have the inalienable right to kiss any woman in the office. If you can just manage to suck it up for this one day, you can go back to ignoring and belittling them for the rest of the year, with little to no consequences. Consider it an investment!

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