The Institute:Daddy Issues(2)

By: Evangeline Anderson

Born and bred in Mother Rus­sia, Viktor Saltanov is pretty much as macho as they come. But not how we West­ern­ers think of the concept—it’s more of an in­grained per­son­al­ity trait with Rus­sian men. They are just simply more there—more male if you will. At least, that was how Salt seemed to me.

Right from the start, I thought my new part­ner was go­ing to be trouble. He was al­ways do­ing things like open­ing doors, pulling out chairs, help­ing me into my coat, giv­ing me a hand in and out of cars…all those little things that West­ern men used to do but mostly don’t any­more. At least none of the ones I had ever gone out with did them.

I don’t know why that kind of thing stopped—maybe be­cause so­ci­ety has shif­ted or maybe be­cause fem­in­ists like me have trained it out of men. But for whatever reason, Salt hadn’t got­ten the memo that treat­ing a wo­man like a pre­cious creature un­able to do things for her­self wasn’t done any­more.

At the be­gin­ning of our part­ner­ship, I fumed si­lently for about a week of this overly de­fer­en­tial and—to my mind—sex­ist treat­ment. But things fi­nally came to a head when we stopped for lunch at my fa­vor­ite res­taur­ant and my part­ner ordered for me—telling the wait­ress ex­actly what to bring me and ex­actly how to make it—be­fore I could even open my mouth or look at the menu.

“Just what do you think you’re do­ing?” I de­man­ded, after he gave the wait­ress our or­der and she left to go whis­per with her friend.

I was sure they were talk­ing about Salt. With his black hair, pale blue eyes, and his im­mense size, he was well worth look­ing at. He also has an air of quiet au­thor­ity that acts like cat­nip on a cer­tain type of wo­man—a kind of grav­ity that al­most never lifts. I think it’s be­cause he smiles very rarely, which is not be­cause he’s un­happy as I ini­tially thought—it’s just not done where he comes from. He once told me there is a Rus­sian pro­verb—‘a man who smiles con­stantly is one step from be­ing a fool.’ And you can call Salt what you want but he’s no fool—he ac­tu­ally has a brain in that big, mus­cu­lar body. You ought to see him play chess—I’ve never beaten him, not once, and I was on the chess team briefly in high school.

But back to the dis­astrous lunch.

“Why did you or­der for me?” I asked him, well and truly pissed.

He shrugged, look­ing mildly sur­prised.

“Is what you al­ways or­der.”

“Yes, but what if I wanted some­thing dif­fer­ent?”

“Then you should have told me. I would or­der it for you,” he replied calmly.

“You don’t get it,” I sputtered, get­ting an­grier than ever. “I like to or­der for my­self! And I like get­ting my own door and pulling out my own chair and put­ting on my own coat…all this weird ‘I’m such a gen­tle­man’ bull­shit you’ve got go­ing on is wasted on me! I’m your part­ner—not some date you’re try­ing to im­press so you can get laid. So stop it.”

Salt had looked more than mildly sur­prised at my out­burst.

“But as you have poin­ted out, you are my part­ner,” he said reas­on­ably. “So I must take care of you.”

“Would you hold open the door for an­other guy? Would you or­der his lunch for him?” I de­man­ded.

“Of course not.” Salt gave a rare laugh, as though it was a ri­dicu­lous idea. “But you are fe­male, Andi. So I take care of you.”

“Why…you…you chau­vin­istic…miso­gyn­istic…as­shole!”

Salt’s face darkened.

“I may still have too much Rus­sian ac­cent but my Eng­lish com­pre­hen­sion is quite good. I know the mean­ing of these words, Andi—I am not these things.”