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I Want to Marry Her

March 23, 2015

My 102 class has been discussing the gender gap in education and how it affects agricultural productivity. To cap things off I showed a Ted talk on Friday. The speaker is a Kenyan woman who bargained with her father and agreed to undergo FGM to be able to attend high school. She eventually finds her way to college in the United States, works at the UN, and returns to the village to open a school for girls.

It’s a powerful presentation about courage, perseverance, and service to others and many of the students were moved by it. One girl spoke about her plan to open an orphanage. “I hear her story and I have hope. Sometimes I worry my dream is too big but she makes me believe I can do it.” A boy raised his hand at the back and said, “Even though I want to be a soil scientist I want to be like her. Education makes you bright and I want to return to my village and use my light to improve things.”

But there’s one mouth in every class and I have several this semester.

Emmanuel raised his hand. Judging from his smirk I knew I didn’t want to hear what he had to say, but I couldn’t ignore him. “Yeah, Sis RB. I like her. I want to marry her!

It was one of those moments that I know is teachable and I’m supposed to have a brilliant, witty response but I drew a complete blank. My brain was just a big flashing “IDIOT!” sign and I knew I couldn’t say that. I just stared at him vacantly and everyone in class started laughing. “You don’t want to BE like her, Emmanuel? You just want to OWN her?”

It’s good to have an educated wife and we’ve talked about that… but… face palm.

I gave him my best teacher-death-smile, acknowledging that everyone has a right to speak his or her mind, and called on someone else. I would have loved to see one of my professors from Bryn Mawr respond to that.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
-Reinhold Niebuhr
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