- The Washington Times - Monday, January 29, 2001

SAN ANTONIO Julia Neal opens the door with a delicate swoosh, the very picture of soft-spoken grace and deference.

She is 22 and pretty, her peroxide-blond hair swept up in a ponytail, a little fur collar accenting the gray suit that hugs her svelte figure. She is tentative and shy, smiling demurely and gesturing toward the couch. She speaks only halting English, words that emerge like smooth, curved globes.

Later, Mrs. Neal will jump up every time the telephone rings to answer it. Otherwise, she sits quietly on the couch, hands folded in her lap, looking over adoringly at her husband, hanging on his every word.

She is the perfect mail-order wife.

Ashley Neal knew that, of course. He spotted her on his first night of filming in the Siberian disco and knew instantly she was the woman for him.

"It was like this," he said, dramatically snapping his fingers. "I was like, 'Wow, she's just so beautiful,' and she was just what I was looking for in terms of personality."

Such is the nature of love at www.ForeignSecrets.com, his 3-month-old, San Antonio-based marriage service. Mr. Neal assists men on the hunt for "traditional" women he always calls them girls or ladies, never women who live in Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union.

In his three years in the foreign matrimony industry, Mr. Neal said, he has arranged 150 marriages. In the past year alone, he has single-handedly videotaped more than 1,100 women for his on-line warehouse. He has created www.FacesofSiberia.com, a "sister site" to www.ForeignSecrets.com that adds yet another plank to his growing empire.

So confident is Mr. Neal of his service that he offers clients a full money-back guarantee.

"Of the guys that go over there, 90 percent get engaged," said the entrepreneur, who arranges occasional "tours" of his overseas offices, where male clients choose among females they have surveyed on line to find mates. The schedule is brisk, Mr. Neal said: "We introduce them to up to eight ladies in one day."

Spend time with Mr. Neal and it becomes clear he envisions himself as a romantic figure, a humanitarian on a mission to rescue poor, bedraggled American men from the uppity ranks of career-obsessed American women.

"This all goes back to the women's liberation movement," he said, warming to a topic he clearly has pondered a lot. The mail-order bride business "is just guys' natural response to it, to feeling trapped. At some point, guys just said, 'Enough.' Whatever happened to traditional values? What about the way God made man and woman?"

The result of unfettered female freedom, he continued, has been the sharp rise in divorce, a plague in broken families and general social decline.

Mr. Neal's own romantic history mirrors that of many of his male clients. He married his college sweetheart. Had a child. Got a divorce. He would not elaborate on the demise of his first marriage except to say that issues "culturally oriented to American women" played a part; his 10-year-old son now lives with his ex-wife in Bandera, Texas.

But it was what came after his divorce that set him on the road to searching for love in overseas places. He dated woman after woman, he said, none of them willing to sacrifice careers for family. He dated five women over a 12-month period.

Mr. Neal had seen an episode of "60 Minutes" on a foreign mail-order bride service based out of Russia and figured, hey, if those "goofball guys" can do it, so could he.

Today, www.ForeignSecrets.com joins more than 200 foreign-bride services that each year advertise around 100,000 to 150,000 women, most of them from impoverished areas of Southeast Asia, Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union.

"There hasn't been a women's liberation movement over there," he said. "When you explain it to them, they look at you and say, 'Oh, you mean like Hillary Clinton.' "

According to an Immigration and Naturalization Service report, a survey of foreign-bride services found that men who use such services tend to be white, well-educated, politically and ideologically conservative and economically well-off. Most have been married at least once; 75 percent wished to father additional children. The average age is 37. The survey found the men tend to be 20 to 50 years older than the foreign women they ultimately marry, a fact that led one researcher to conclude such men were seeking younger mates they could "mold."

"It's apparent that power and control are critical for these men," the INS researcher wrote.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide