News anchors have all been atwitter at the bold proclamation of love from a Nairobi lawyer, who goes by the name Kiprono and is offering President Obama 50 cows, 70 sheep and 30 goats in exchange for the hand of his beautiful and eldest daughter, Malia.
He’s serious, and his ardor, albeit pretty creepy since it began in 2008 when Malia was about 10, can be felt in the letter he has drafted and turned over to embassy officials, hoping it will be passed on to the President upon his arrival in Kenya this July:
“If my request is granted, I will not resort to the cliche of popping champagne. Instead, I will surprise her with mursik, the traditional Kalenjin sour milk. As an indication that she is my queen, I will tie sinendet, which is a sacred plant, around her head. I will propose to her on a popular hill in Bureti near my father’s land where leaders and warriors are usually crowned. The place is called Kapkatet, which means ‘victory.’”
When you take into consideration the vast cultural differences between America and Kenya, even I have to admit to being slightly swayed by that declaration: sacred plants, leaders, warriors, crowned a queen? Pretty romantic, heady stuff. But then, oh, yeah, here’s what follows after the bloom is off the sinendit:
“Ours will be a simple life. I will teach Malia how to milk a cow, cook ugali and prepare mursik like any other Klaenjin woman.”
Which, essentially, is the American equivalent of a fresh-faced bride immediately being expected to drive a minivan and spend her days clipping coupons for toilet bowl cleaners and Hamburger Helper.
It’s a pretty safe bet that Malia is going to turn down Kiprono’s offer with the eye roll and curled upper lip that only a teenage girl can dispense with devastating results, usually accompanied with, “Whateverrrrr,” but I still applaud his generous offer and think that perhaps if, here in America, we used a barter system to secure a spouse, our marriages would fare far better than the present rate of only 50 percent not resulting in divorce.
Let me tell you something: 70 cows, 50 sheep and 30 goats is a huge deal in Kenya. It really is all your worldly possessions — possessions that would actually keep you alive, if need be. So perhaps if Americans, instead of beginning marriage fighting over debt accrued from exorbitant weddings and Caribbean honeymoons, gave each other everything they had in the first place, prior to the wedding, not only would they stay together forever (as they would be too broke to go anywhere else), but they would also know for a fact that their sweetheart was truly besotted with them.
“If you give me your hand in marriage,” we would hear “Tyler” say to his paramour, “Amber,” “I’ll give you my crossbow, my Gator ATV and (gulp) my 2013 Dodge Ram. With gun rack.”
Now, that’s loooooove.
“And Tyler,” Amber would gush, “If you will be my husband, I will give you my entire collection of Gun and Garden, front row tickets to see Jason Aldean and my iPhone 6.”
Done! That’s what I’m talking about: giving until it hurts from the get-go. Knowing that you’re willing to sacrifice everything with your pledge of devotion. Knowing that material things pale in comparison to what is honestly felt in the heart.
Which is why Paul and I remain, after 24 years, white trash common-law. I don’t want his stupid roses, and he doesn’t want my stupid horses. And neither one of us ever wanted any stupid kids. But it works beautifully because horses are a 24/7 production facility for what is needed most to keep roses happy.
Sorta like “The Gift of the Magi.”
Plus we both have to shovel it if we want the benefits. Not exactly romantic, but practical, and it works for us.
And no mursik needed.
Reach PAM STONE at firstname.lastname@example.org.