Help Me, Emily Post!

Early on in Dakar, I made it clear to my Senegalese friends that no subject was off limits. An innocent victim of cultural ignorance and sheer naiveté, I hadn’t the foggiest idea that over the next two years, I would spend countless hours fielding invasive, intensely personal questions about my love life that Emily Post herself would be unable to handle gracefully.

The baffled expression of sheer horror on a Senegalese woman’s face when I tell her that I’m unmarried is something akin to what I imagine my Mother would look like if I sat her down and told her I’d decided to grow my hair to my feet and become a Moonie.

It doesn’t make sense to the western mind, but in a culture where ten year old girls are betrothed to men that they marry as soon as they hit puberty, a twenty-three year old woman who’s working and unmarried is somewhat of a anomaly. The assumption is that there must be something dreadfully wrong with me-as seen in the pitying looks of Muslim friends that have, in an attempt to rectify my unfortunate marital status, offered to cornrow my hair,  slim me down, dress me up, teach me to cook,  and help me master the subtle art of flirting.

Personally, I think I would be much too irresistible with cornrows. The world is not ready-it simply wouldn’t be fair to the male population at large.

Given that I apparently passed my expiration date years ago, well intentioned friends have sweetly offered to marry me off to their brothers, uncles and cousins. Lucky old maid that I am, I have my pick of the litter! Never mind that I have a boyfriend back home-because goodness, this is an emergency! A select, hopeless few have involuntarily committed me to a life of celibacy, and are of the rather dismal opinion that it’s time for me to buy a pair of overalls, saw off a shotgun, settle into a back-country rocking chair and start picking off pigeons from the porch.

…or the Senegalese equivalent.

Miriam, however, isn’t buying me cats quite yet. As one of the few women I know that is more tolerant of my “alternative lifestyle”, her big question for me this week was not when I’m getting married-but how many babies I want to have.

Help me, Emily Post!

It’s a question that I’m intimately familiar with-and the ramifications of answering it truthfully are always the same. You see, my African counterparts come from families that make Mike and Carol Brady look just lazy. Enormous families are expected and lauded-many of the women I interact with ardently believe that my life will be utterly wasted and devoid of all meaning if I have fewer than seven.

[Hamsters eat their young. I’m not sure how that’s relevant-but it needed to be said.]

I hemmed and hawed for a moment, and without missing a beat that charming girl stared straight into my soul with a startling air of assured finality and proclaimed:

Bon. You will have many twins!


many twins?

She was being thoughtful. After all, in Senegal, twins are considered to be good luck! In Ashley’s world, however, twins are considered to guarantee stretch marks and dark circles under ones eyes for no less than five years.

Twins. The very word made my ears bleed.

Miriam, I don’t want twins.

 Yes you do! I will pray for it every day.

 This was about when the color started draining from my face and into my trembling toes.

Miriam, seriously! Don’t pray for that!

With a confused look about her, Miriam paused for the briefest moment before a slow understanding brightened her brown eyes.

Ah bon! I will pray for triplets.

I surrender. Somebody tell me where I can get a shotgun.


Filed under Cross cultural hilarity, My ghetto-fab life, Senegalese culture, The daily grind

21 responses to “Help Me, Emily Post!

  1. Cindy Peterson

    Twins DO run in the family! :) Let’s face it, your eggs aren’t getting any younger so multiples make sense. I think I’ll pray for it too. :)

  2. vgreear

    Don’t worry. When you get there, you won’t care nearly as much as you thought you would about the stretch marks and bags (and believe me, of the two kinds, you will care much more about the OTHER kind). Somewhere in the back of you mind there will be this vague thought that pops up from time to time that your 30 year old self would REALLY depress your 20 year old self and that these things really should bother you more, but then someone screams for something and you can’t think about why it should at the moment in the face of such demand and cuteness, so the thought slips away again…

    • V, I can’t lie. Your comment prompted an all-team discussion tonight on what on earth the “other kind of bags” is referring to. NONE of our hypotheses were encouraging! ;)

      But I’m sure you’re right. The older I get, the more excited I am to have kids one day. Watching you with yours has helped that process! …triplets, though, sounds rather daunting. ;) When my thirty year old self starts to depress my twenty year old self, I’m going to have to kidnap you for coffee and you can talk me off a ledge. That, or go play with my kids. Probably both. :)

      • vgreear

        hahaha! time helps all things, that is, except the bags. yes, i would NOT WANT ANY SORT OF MULITPLES. clarification: the other bags are of the ‘saddle’ variety. ohh, they are sad, especially when one used to sort of appreciate her tushie, and it was one of only a handful or less attributes of which that could be said:(

  3. vgreear

    I meant of the two kinds of bags-did you know there even were 2 types?

  4. Laura Adams

    Oh my goodness…I laughed out loud when I read your mom’s comment! Add me to the list of one’s praying for twins/triplets! Just kidding!

    • You. Traitor. You know better than to encourage Cindy!

      Slash, miss you dearly. I hate that I missed you on skype the other day-let’s try again soon!

  5. jmann

    in reference to twins and triplets: “that’s ok..i make lamb.”

  6. Tuuli

    Quints are all the rage now. So I’ve heard.

    Just sayin’.

  7. Kristin

    Your eggs are fine. I’ll hush your mama.

  8. Christy

    Just because it’s your birthday… I’ll pray that you don’t have multiples. ;) But only for today.

  9. Christy

    PS- Raise your right hand and repeat after me. “I solemnly swear to never become a GCM no matter how many kids I have.”

  10. Aicel

    BAAAhahahah. SO SOSO great. What made it better was the very first ocmment – your moms! Oh precious!

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