One of the truisms I've grown up with is that "The women are different over there." Where "there" is was never quite spelled out -- it was reputed to be, variously, Latin America, the South Pacific, Asia, various Mediterranian countries, once, somewhat incongruously, Germany and/or Sweden -- but the story was still the same. While American women tended to come with a variety of bugs and glitches (inconvenient headaches, aging, in-laws, minds of their own, etc.) Their women were, well, different.

For starters, they always made themselves attractive. No matter whether it was six at night or in the morning, they'd be well-dressed or un-, and always totally at their most adorable best. They were charming, attentive, and never sullen, disagreeable or less than totally fascinated with "their" man, on whom they lavished every kind of attention, from servile to motherly.

Conversationally, they didn't talk much, even if they did speak English (though their ability to understand it was unquestioned), preferring instead to giggle and wrinkle their noses, now and then repeating some cute catchphrase. If they had a larger vocabulary, they displayed a childlike naivite about -- well, pretty much everything -- always grateful for large and small favors, affectionate, faithful, and never disagreeing. When confronted with anything unpleasant, they'd dissolve in cute tears.

However, their childishness was always belied by their behavior in bed. Naturally, they'd leap hungrily into the sack the second it was suggested, or even mentioned, where they'd display an incredible knowlege of erotic technique (some versions of this legend hold they were trained from birth) that would shame the staff of the Chicken Ranch, the Penthouse Forum, and Dr. Ruth all together, instantly adapting to a man's wildest fantasies, without ever seeming "used". Just as naturally, with her in the house, a man would never come home without finding the whole house spotless and the laundry done, a beer and the remote near the recliner, and a delicious dinner ready to serve -- "I don't know how she does it. She doesn't use any appliances -- I think she must do everything by hand. Her family recipes -- they're so good, and yet, our grocery bills are so low. She really is the perfect woman."

This legend accounts for most men seeking mail-order brides and/or Thai hookers, the opera Madama Butterfly (and its updates M. Butterfly, Miss Saigon, Memoirs of a Geisha, and the like), Helga from the Producers and a fair number of lesser works. That such women come with families, cultures, and ambitions of their own, plus, often, an equally skewed idea of American men tends to be forgotten.

Sometime I'd like to hear "The women are different over there. They're smart, they're great at their jobs, wizards at raising kids, have a wonderful sense of humor, and they're so independent." That would be really different.

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