My somewhat crazed coworker surprized me with this extremely glum and matter of fact statement the other morning. Because we share a 'workspace' and have been assigned to the same ridiculously mundane curse of a web project these past few weeks, we are often bored to the point of delirium and constantly chat about anything. Therefore, I thought I knew almost all about her current and recent past life events, from her daily trips to the bagel store to her father hitting her mother with a beer bottle, and certainly the little nuances about her scattered dating life.

I knew, for instance, that she is currently pursuing sex with her tattoo artist while fighting off advances from a good friend and still playing frequent games of naked Twister with her ex and two best friends. I rolled my eyes, annoyed at her cavalierness when talking about such things; assuming the tattoo artist in question had said something and this was her way of getting me to 'draw it out' of her. Already bored by the pile of data entry (hi, I'm supposed to be a designer) corrections our boss had given me, I happily took the bait.

To my amazement, she wasn't kidding. She even had the certificate in her back pocket, all poised and ready for a dramatic show of proof when I expressed my disbelief. Yep, there it was: Mich was legally wed to a ... Shartik Hasitpheradi At Branch 9 of Chicago City Hall on September 12, 2000. Who the hell was this guy?

The story unfolded. I'm sure you guessed it by now: She married this guy to get him a green card. Somehow she had stumbled upon a list on the internet of hopeful illegal aliens available for sham marriages in exchange for $3000 dollars to available American bachelorettes in their area. Aparently, all Mich's time spent surfing the net instead of helping me with our unbearable recent assignment (can you blame her?) had actually paid off, in some strange way.

So all the 'hopefuls' are men. Most of them are college or grad school students who are about to graduate and desperately need a green card so they can start working in their chosen fields. This Shartik guy is a law student, already being sought after by (supposedly) several upscale firms (how true could all of this actually be?) and had upped his offered price to $5000 because of the urgency with which he needed to marry.

Mich took care of the entire operation in under two weeks...she encountered the site, chose Shartik among several Chicagoland participants with a high 'dowry' listed, arranged a brief meeting with him where they 'got to know eachother' and laid down a few ground rules. Then they answered a few prescibed questions which they had primed eachother to answer correctly, signed a few papers and it was done!

As per their deal, she has to stay 'married' to Shartik for two years. She has no problem with this; she certainly wasn't planning on marrying anyone else during that time. She was payed a legitimate $5000 right away, $3000 of which she proudly spent the very next weekend on new clothes. (She proceded to model her new shoes and twin set to me as she spoke). Meanwhile, Mich never has to see this guy again unless she decides to call him up and ask him for some money from his paychecks, a percentage of which he is now legally obligated, as her husband, to provide her.

Can you believe this?! I was shocked and amazed at how easy it is in this society to accomplish sham marriages such as this one and get away with it! Not that I am appalled, hell, more power to her! She is going to be able to continue living her own, margarita-filled life without missing a beat, and she got a bunch of free money out of it to boot.

Conveniently, she couldn't remember the URL to the site that delivered her a husband, which makes it hard for me to believe she isn't making a large part of this up. But she is, indeed married to Shartik and people engage in green card marriages such as this one every day. She told me the graphic on the site depicted a 50's-ish woman smiling with her back turned, looking over her shoulder with a speech balloon saying, "I am now a married woman" as if all of us were sad and lonely with this one unfaltering dream. It should have portrayed a sheepish-looking man with a briefcase, looking over his shoulder and saying, "I am now a part of your stupid country's workforce, suckers!"

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