My Online Bride (Channel 4) featured the charming men who use the internet to scour foreign countries in search of a wife. I was all prepared to laugh at this programme but it was grubby and disturbing.
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The men in this programme weren't using the internet to find love or companionship or sex. They were doing it because they wanted, specifically, a wife and weren't able to find a willing partner in their own country. Yes, out of the 28.5 million women in the UK, those men couldn't attract a single one. Why? Was it their looks? Their character? Their taste in clothes? Their taste in breakfast cereals? There must be something wrong with them.
There wasn't something wrong with them, but with what they were seeking. They wanted a wife. Or perhaps I should say Wife, with a capital W. They wanted the 1950s class, Frilly Apron model, who comes equipped with Fairy Liquid, numerous curry recipes and extreme nymphomania.
We met Chris, 46, exotic animal specialist. He was fat, crimson and shiny but we warmed to him as he was searching for a wife with his little daughter by his side. This lent a fairy-tale quality to the scene, with the implication that Mummy was spirited away and so a kind stepmother was needed to tie his daughter's hair in ringlets and bake her fragrant apple pies.
It was almost tender until blubbery Chris left his daughter and went off to Bangkok to bag a mail order bride. He flicked through photos of the Thai women he'd meet as part of his £2,000 'Romance Tour'. The sleazy tour organiser said the photos were like a 'catalogue of presents he can unwrap.'
Some of the women were wearing strappy lingerie, posed on all-fours, and when he meets them in a nightclub the tiny Thai women wriggle and giggle on his lap. This was no fairy tale. It was just long-distance prostitution. But remember, these men wanted a 'wife', not just sex.
Never fear. The broker assured us Thai women were 'expert cooks, perfect housewives, like what our mums and grans were like.' Well, isn't that just dandy? Chris spent two grand so a mini version of his mum can gyrate in front of him. Yes, it's not a fairy tale. It's a Robert Bloch story.
We also met Mike, a call centre worker stripped of every social grace, who had saved two grand to go to the Ukraine - 'the bride basket of Europe' - for a wife. He was only 26 but, as with Chris, was insistent he wanted marriage.
The programme didn't say why or whether he had tried online dating. He admitted he'd had no 'intimate' experiences with women, so why not hire an escort? I believe such things are done. Why not date? Why not just hang out in bars and go wild and do whatever it is young men do? Why the urgent need for a wife at this tender age?
It seemed unhealthy, as though he needs to be cherished and chided and petted and wiped and burped and God knows what else? Unless you have religious convictions there's simply no need to crave marriage at 26.
Clearly, these were not men but horribly stunted children.
The programme narrator kept insisting they wanted 'love'. Rubbish! They wanted mummy. This programme wasn't about finding love. Neither was it about finding a 'bride' as that's a word laden with youth and gallantry and fluttery lace. This was about finding a wife who would play the role Betty Friedan warned women against in the 50s: the role of decorative possession, cleaner and sex doll, the role which will leave the woman depressed, anxious, redundant, nibbling smooth white Valium tablets in a painfully bright kitchen.
At least in Friedan's universe the husbands went off to work in Manhattan, earning loads and providing vast material comfort for the li'l woman. Not so for the wives in this programme who're being manacled to postmen, animal handlers and shifty little call centre workers.
So what will these wives gain from unions with these paltry men? It's unlikely they'll get any money. The best they can hope for is a Vauxhall Astra and some bottles of Lynx.