A Ugandan man asked me to marry him and stay in Fort Portal forever. He said I would enjoy the weather and have a good life. I told him that neither my mother nor my best friend would ever allow such a thing, so I have to decline. He thought for a moment, and then suggested that we invite anyone who protested to come live in Fort Portal as well. When I did not budge, he was rather upset and urged me to reconsider – he would wait for me, he said.
In an American rom-com, this would have been the end of the second act, with just 30 more minutes of film to show how the woman falls in love after all. Well, let’s just say that the audience for the imaginary movie about my life went home disappointed.
However un-theatrical it may appear, it is one of my new favorite tales to tell. And, as anyone who knows me knows, I love telling stories. So I was relaying the newest addition to my repertoire to Tabu (our driver), he said I should have asked him about his wealth and then declined him on that front, because as a journalist, he most certainly couldn’t afford my dowry!
I knew that Ugandans still practiced the art of the dowry, but I hadn’t given it very much thought. Certainly I had never thought of a personal application of the idea. As an arrogant American woman, I like to think that I am priceless. No man has the amount worthy to buy me from my parents, because I am more irreplaceable than a herd of cattle ever could be. I can certainly be more obnoxious than a herd of cattle sometimes.
So, naturally, I inquired what my dowry would be.
Tabu said I was worth at least 100 cows! Maybe even more, Tabu said. He said I’m pretty and smart, so I would fetch a high price on the marriage market. I would marry a rich man, because only the wealthy could afford to trade 100 cows for a woman. In neighborhoods like Tabu’s own, a woman is lucky to have a dowry of one cow. And as horrifying as it sounds to me, to be traded for 100 cows (worth about $40,000 USD) at least Tabu was generous.
Steve said he thought I was worth only 60 cows!