It has been said by wise people that dressing well is important. Young women in Armenia, a small country in the Caucasus Mountains, take this to heart with a passion. The result of their efforts is stunning, especially so among the young and the restless – the unmarried, fashionable princesses in Yerevan, the capital. Okay, contemporary Armenia has no royalty, but these girls can pretend, can’t they? They’re in the market for a husband and need to show their wares.
Bridal shop in Yerevan. Photo courtesy of Ani Melikyan.
During the years I lived in Yerevan I loved watching these girls, happy I’d found my prince already and could wear flat shoes and go easy on the make-up. Here’s the show I watched one lovely morning:
Stars of the Pavement
Advertising is the most fun of anything you can do with your clothes on. –Mary Wells
It’s spring and every morning young women hungry for love emerge like butterflies from the dark, claustrophobic cocoons of their Soviet-era apartments. But not before ten or eleven; they were up late and it takes time to get ready. I watch them with hypnotic fascination as I walk the streets of Yerevan running errands, or while I laze on the terrace of the Marriott Hotel at Republic Square drinking a cappuccino and taking notes. Hemingway had his café in Paris, Somerset Maugham the Raffles in Singapore, and I have the Marriott terrace in Yerevan.
Today I have one of my favorite tables, right at the edge of the terrace. It is June. The flowers are blooming, the sun is gentle and golden and my cappuccino took only half an hour to arrive.
People walk by – middle-aged matrons with shopping bags, old women wearing woolly socks and slippers, men in spiffy suits, teenage boys all in black, children in primary colors, and young girls and women in everything imaginable. The princesses are the most gawk-worthy.
They are tall and painfully skinny and their clothes fit them like satin paint. Pink or white pants hug their thin frames and tight tops strain to show off their ample (surgically beautified) breasts. Very high heels help to enhance the shape of their legs and butts. Their faces are made up with care and attention, but no blush, please. White skin is in.
God has blessed the Armenian woman with thick, black, lustrous hair that most often is worn long by the young and shines in the sun with health and beauty. But, as the sisters worldwide know, God’s work can be improved upon. So, as I sip my coffee, I observe among the glossy dark crowns sashaying past a number of heads blossoming in luscious shades of tangerine orange, cherry red, strawberry blonde and cabbage purple.
Nails are always perfectly manicured. Acrylic, often. Never a chip. This is easy. These beautiful babes, at age eighteen, twenty, twenty-four, live at home with their long-suffering mothers who scrub the toilets and peel the potatoes. And everywhere small beauty salons are available to aid their cause of looking glamorous like models. Success, of course, is not always guaranteed and proof of that wanders the streets as well. Not all have mastered the art of being glamorous.
A young woman crosses the street, luscious in a leather pantsuit of baby pink. Her hair is carrot red, flaming hotly in the sun. It’s a striking color combination. I watch her as she briefly totters on her pink stiletto heels, then my attention is drawn to another skinny girl whose breasts are straining energetically against the fabric of a strapless purple top. White cropped pants hug her bony frame. She’s teamed her outfit with high-heeled Jesus sandals, divinely adorned with sparkles and glitter and wobbly bits, the silver straps artfully draped up her shapely ankles and calves. She’s a precious sight.
It is not easy being green, a famous frog once said, and it is not easy being a fabulous femme in Armenia. It takes courage to face the day, to wake up every morning to the struggle of assembling yourself into a picture of sexy loveliness before you can hit the streets to join the fashion parade in search of a soul mate.
I’m in awe of the willpower and tenacity it takes to glam up every morning of every day. I admire these girls and wish I had their stamina, their courage, their time. It’s not that I haven’t tried, mind you, but I have failed miserably. Sadly, I have a problem with looking in the mirror: I get bored. Fortunately, I already have the man of my dreams, and he thinks I’m gorgeous no matter what.
So, as I watch the pretty babes while I sip my cappuccino, I know I am the lucky one.
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What does it take to find a mate in your corner of the globe? What do women have to do? Or what have you observed in other countries?