I’m given relationship advice from a guy who has a lot of practice.
I imagine the guy across the table in front of me was probably the perfect example of an ideal man in Kazakhstan. He was tall, young, educated, successful, and had an important position on a project of national importance. He looked like the models in the pictures hanging in windows in shopping malls. In the USA he could be described with the term “All American.” I’m not sure if there’s a Kazakh equivalent of this phrase, but if there is he’d surely be it.
I’d just concluded my formal interview with him, and was moving into more personable territory — the point after your work is done where you bond with the person in front of you and become friends.
He told me that he wasn’t married, but I had a difficult time believing that someone hadn’t bagged him by now. I pressed him on it — surely he had a girlfriend that he was about to marry — and he finally responded:
“Do you know like in high school when you have one girl over here and another girl over there? Well, I do that.”
Right now, he has more than three girlfriends.
“Do they know about each other?” I asked.
“No, of course not!” he exclaimed. “If they know about each other they leave me.”
This is something that has apparently happened to him multiple times before. One time he was caught with by one of his girlfriends with another girlfriend at the movies. “Who is she!?!” they both yelled in unison. Another time he was caught by one girl kissing another in the street. Another time he was busted when a girlfriend looked over his shoulder at his phone and found that some girl was texting him kissy emoticons.
“Only a girlfriend would text you that!” she roared.
She was right.
“When I first meet girls,” he said, “they tell me ‘You are such a good guy.’ I tell them ‘No, I am not a good guy.’ Then when they find out about another girl I say, ‘See, I told you, I am not a good guy!'”
“So how do you manage this?” I asked him. If I so much as dance with more than one girl on any given night I invariably have one of them screaming at me “Who is she!?! Is she your girl now!?!” (Actually, my girl is in the USA with my two kids). So I couldn’t imagine successfully running a network like this long-term in a city as small as Astana.
1) Keep your phone private.
2) Stay out of the streets with any girl. Drive up to the entrance of the place that you are going to, get in, and go right back out into your car. Don’t walk around in parks.
3) Don’t tell your friends about any of them.
The last point was the most interesting. “So nobody knows about all of your girlfriends?” Not really. This guy figured out through experience that if his friends know that he has a girlfriend then it becomes very awkward hitting on additional girls in front of them. Also, if his friends believe he is taken they often naturally pass this information on to any prospective mates within range.
We talked a little more about this. Then he said something rather intriguing:
“Sometimes, when I start being with a girl, after a few times we meet she starts asking me to buy her things. She says, ‘Can you buy me an iPhone 7?'”
The deception here often runs both ways.