Is Felix Kiprono Nuts?

When I first saw that Obama had been offered 50 cows, 70 sheep, and 30 goats for his daughter Malia’s hand in marriage, I was pretty shocked.  After all, that’s a really high bride price.  On the other hand, just the thought of Obama dealing with flocks of animals is pretty funny.

A Kenyan lawyer?  Well, two points to him for not dating anyone else in the meantime.  Ten points for not being already married.  Five points that he’s willing to teach her and wants to live a simple life (i.e., not after money).  But minus fifteen for the fact that he’s probably over thirty.  Ughh.

Until I saw his picture, that is.  He can’t be more than twenty, and she’s sixteen.  So he was a smart, black, fourteen year old interested in a ten year old, of his own race, whom he thought was pretty, smart, and from what he’d seen of her personality, he liked her.  And, he’s learning in Oxford University.  Listen, a young Kenyan learning to be a lawyer in Oxford is not bad.  Nix the minus fifteen and add seven more points.  And a fourteen year old (maybe he was twelve?) interested in a ten year old isn’t too weird, either.  Kiprono also has support from his family, which is a big thing.

Is it really so bad?  At first it sounded kind of gross.  But if they’re about the same age, it really isn’t that bad.  At all.

I don’t know what Malia will think of it, and I’m pretty sure that even if Obama lets them meet (and give me a break, that’s not even in his control), he won’t take the bride price.  What I do know is that Malia was raised in a Western culture and she will be the one to decide who she marries.

So, Felix Kiprono, I wish you the best of luck in your dates with Malia, and hope that if you are meant to be married, it will happen when you want it to.  See if you can get in touch with her, and what you think of each other in person.

One tip: Wait until she’s at least seventeen before starting to date, and until she’s eighteen before proposing.  Also, remember that she might already have a boyfriend.

Oh, and to all those who call pedophile, because he was interested in her at ten and still is interested her when she’s sixteen, I have news for you.  Ten may be a touch young (depends on how old the proposed partner is), but sixteen is legally a minor, physically an adult.  Yeah, you read that right.  Pregnancies in 15-19 year olds go the same way they do in 20-22 year olds.  It’s the under-15 crowd who isn’t physically adult yet, and if we weren’t living in a skewed Western society that promotes marriage at age 25 or 30, and children at age 29 or 33, then we wouldn’t think it’s weird for a sixteen year old to be getting married.

I agree, and I admit to being part of skewed Western society.  But honestly?  Either you have lots of girl/boyfriends for ten or twenty years, from when you’re a teen until you finally get married – and that’s not good;

or you never end up getting married because somehow you just missed the boat;

or you get married “young” at 22, and everyone raises their eyebrows;

or you become a teenage parent, who should be responsible, but doesn’t know what the word “maturity” means.

But really, people, sixteen is young, but it’s not that young.

The other thing that really bugs me is the tone of the comments on news websites.  Why is everyone laughing at Kiprono?  Sure, I chuckled, too, at the thought of Obama with all those animals.  But if you do the math, just the cows are probably worth around $100,000.  That’s a LOT of money – and unlike money, which is gone after it’s spent, animals reproduce, thereby allowing you to keep your wealth and do things with it.  What Obama has been offered is a very, very, very high, respectable price for a bride.  There is no point in marrying for money if you are paying so much just to get the girl – you may as well keep your money and let her father keep his.

I understand that there is something of a cultural clash here, and that most of the Westernized readers do not see the significance of Kiprono’s offer, but it is, and remains, a very respectable offer and a very impressive offer.  And I don’t think it’s appropriate to make fun of it.

And about the bride price?  Maybe in your world that’s a little outdated, but in Kiprono’s world, it’s not.  And not necessarily is that a bad thing, either.  It’s just a different way of looking at things.

Think of it this way: Most men reading this blog, for the privilege of getting engaged, paid a lot of money for a diamond engagement ring.  If you couldn’t afford an engagement ring, well, then, you evidently weren’t settled enough/ mature enough/ whatever enough to get married, right?  So engagement rings are like modern bride prices, except that: 1. They are “paid” to the girl herself, not her father, 2. not every girl wants one, 3. you can fake gold or fake a diamond, and it’s very hard to fake cattle.  Yitzchak also points out that in the process of courting, the man usually gives the woman gifts here and there; these, too, are part of today’s modern “bride price”.  So in Kenya they give it all at once, and to the father, to ask for the father’s permission/approval.  And in the Western world, they give it bit by bit, to the girl, and [/in the] hope that the girl’s father approves and gives permission.  But it’s really not that different.*

I would also like to say that I Googled “Felix Kiprono” and saw his Facebook page.  He really is as young as he seems to be . . .  and his Facebook page really is a teenage boy’s Facebook page.  Ughhh.  Kiddo, grow up a bit and get some class.  I couldn’t stomach the stuff on your page.  But hey, maybe Malia will think it’s cool.  You never know with teenagers . . .

One more point: True, they’ve never met.  But how many people “fall in love” with a “friend” on Facebook?  How many couples met through an online dating website or forum?  Assuming that they will meet before deciding to actually marry, being interested in someone you’ve never met is no longer that rare.

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* I was one of those girls who did not want an engagement ring, at all, of any form.  I do not regret that decision.  But my mother was mad and felt embarrassed for me(??) and Yitzchak’s mother was convinced that I didn’t really mean it and just didn’t want Yitzchak to waste money, and pressured Yitzchak to go out and buy me one anyways . . .  because that’s what people do when they get engaged, they buy a ring.  And you’re not considered properly engaged unless you have one.  As is illustrated by my extended family, who didn’t think that Yitzchak could be a mature person, ready to get married, if he hadn’t spent the money on an engagement ring.  And my not wanting one was just “an excuse”.  True, I can do what I want, with or without family approval.  But I think it’s pretty clear that today’s version of a bride price is an engagement ring.  What would Obama say – for that matter, what would you say – if your daughter came home, engaged, without a ring to show for it?  Would you approve?  Would you pressure them to call the match off?  Many people would – which is why there isn’t that much culture clash, after all.

When I asked some people why an engagement ring is so important, one of the answers I got is, “So you’ll have something to sell when you need money.”  In other words, an engagement ring is a piece of property meant to help you out in times of need.  Which means that cattle is better, because once you’ve sold a ring, it’s gone forever.  But you can keep your cattle, breed them, sell milk, meat, cheese, and plow fields with them . . . and you probably won’t have to sell all of your cattle, if you’re smart, nor is it a one-time guarantee.  

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