I never wanted to be the jealous girlfriend, but the first thing I did when my boyfriend, George, told me he was moving to Bulgaria to teach English was scour the internet for all the information I could gather. I did not research what the climate or food or economy was like. I didn’t even research if it was a safe country. My Google search was very simple: are Bulgarian women hot?

To my dismay, all the travel forums for Bulgaria raved about how exotic and beautiful the women are, and my albino ass clenched in fear at the sight of all the tan, fit, dark-haired goddesses mocking me as they lay sprawled about in their lingerie when I timidly clicked on images.

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking, because my boyfriend accused me of the same thing I worried he would: I must not trust him at all. This fear can be explained with the same expression my mother used to justify why she wouldn’t let me go see PG-13 movies without her, even after I turned 13: I trust you, but I don’t trust other people. I despaired at this realization, because at 19 years old I was not ready to become my mother yet, if ever at all. Besides, in our sex-obsessed culture, long-distance relationships are designed to fail. How could I ever compete with the bodacious women there when I could no longer deliver the goods?

There was something incredibly unsettling about everyone I saw: I could not guess how old anyone was.

“Look at all these sexed-up girls on the Internet,” I would complain to him. “They look like the kind of people who just jump you without a word.”

“Are you kidding? No one is going to ‘jump me,’” he would say, and that was basically the extent of that conversation we would have the few times I attempted to initiate it.

After a couple months of brooding and accepting my impending future of life as a spinster, with a teary goodbye, I sent him away to a land unknown, anxiously awaiting a report on all the Bulgarian women who walked around in their lingerie.

Once I helped him settle in and plow through the emotional hardships of adjusting to life in a foreign country via numerous Skype calls, I dared to tread the subject once more.

“So,” I said in the drawn out way I always use when I have to ask something I don’t want to ask.

“What.”

“How is everything there?”

“You know I don’t look at any other women, no matter where I am,” he said, impatiently cutting through my bullshit.

“I know, but has anyone flirted with you yet?”

“No, all the people at work have been nice to me since I’m the new guy. You’ve even come up during casual conversation and they all told me how perfect you sound for me since we’re both writers. They say how beautiful you are when I show them your pictures,” he said.

“Well, shit,” I said, my heart hurting from how sweet he was, and that was the end of my jealousy. While I do have an obsessive, masochistic personality and spend hours imagining the worst situations coming to life, I had to give him more credit than I could give to other people in their early twenties. I already had a promise ring on my finger and metaphysical children in my womb. His patience and dedication to me and our future has lulled the little gremlins that tramp around in my mind many times before.

It wasn’t until my winter break approached and I bought my plane ticket to Bulgaria when I remembered all the bedroom eyes and nipples I saw back when I was worried about the women there. I smiled to myself. Although it didn’t matter much anymore, my old, burning curiosity would finally be quenched with my own two eyes.

After he greeted me at the airport with flowers in hand, I could hardly be bothered to start my analysis of those around me. Despite not having access to a toothbrush for almost twenty-four hours, all we could do was kiss in the backseat while our poor driver tried not to watch. When we arrived at his apartment, it was dark and the streets were vacant. He hurried me inside and there we stayed for a self-prescribed quarantine where we dusted away all of our anatomical cobwebs. Once we completed our thorough cleanse, we emerged like moles who had been burrowed underground a long time. He could finally show me all the sights, and I could finally take in the women on the sly.

I’d never been on public transportation before this trip. The first and every other consecutive time we rode the tram, I was amazed by all the bizarre creatures I found. I discovered that the mythological babushka was, in fact, real: fat (in a very hard, unmaternal way), stubby, hunched over, wrapped in a headscarf, and covered with warts galore, just like I always heard they were. I also learned that they all liked to lurk inside the city’s navigational systems to do whatever it is babushkas do. After attempting to sit down in one of the chairs, George immediately ripped me from the seat and held me against his chest.

They’ll beat you to death with their canes if you sit in their chair, he whispered in my ear while a wild pack of babushkas eyed us suspiciously. Never again did I try to sit unless we were traveling late at night when we could feel reassured that they had all retired to their caves for nightly hibernation.

Everywhere we went, I was perplexed by the lack of attractive people anywhere, male or female. In fact, there was something incredibly unsettling about everyone I saw: I could not guess how old anyone was. There were many times I looked at a man and a woman walking hand in hand and I whispered concernedly to George, “Is that her boyfriend or her father?”

Everyone had the deep wrinkles and lifeless eyes I imagined that the anguish of fallen communism must leave behind. Everyone smoked, and that was the only time I saw the faintest of sparks light their eyes, probably because they were sucking themselves closer to death. I couldn’t blame them, though, because I was feeling myself slowly get depressed living in a sordid and freezing city, too. Every time I blew my nose, my boogers were black. I was convinced if I didn’t get out of there soon, my body would decompose from the inside out. Each person we passed was pale, sickly, and miserable, and the wintry vapor they exhaled looked like little clouds of life leaving their body. Somehow it felt wrong to be able to confidently announce that the women there were of no threat.

I couldn’t tell if I was flattered when people spoke Bulgarian to me because I was not the obvious American tourist, or if I was offended they had lumped me in with the rest of the strange people there. All I know is that my jazzy Italian hands rescued me many times while I tried to communicate with anyone who did not know a lick of English.

After returning home to the land of the Big Mac, where high fructose corn syrup rages through the vessels of a whole different kind of species, one question still remained. Where were all these models that men wrote about, and why did none of them look like the pictures I’d seen? The only satisfying answers I could come up with were that they all live sequestered on one of Bulgaria’s many islands, or those creepy “Horny [insert foreign nationality] Women Looking to Fuck Near You!” ads are evolving. Instead of bringing the women to us, they lure potential husbands there. Needless to say, the next time I’m researching another country to visit, as a straight woman in a committed relationship, the last article I need to influence my opinion is the “Top 10 Countries with the Most Beautiful Women in the World.”

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