Library Moments: “Are you married?”

I have to say, working at the reference desk is my joy. I love interacting with patrons and sometimes the strangest questions just make my day. And I am learning to be ready for any question. Ready for anything! Today, I got asked if I am married. This is the first time I’ve been asked this, very bluntly, at the library, and I think this is where my growing up in Africa really becomes useful to me a work. See, in the country where I grew up, random strangers can show up and ask you, without knowing you, if you are married (and if they can marry you, right now!!!). Mostly, men are the ones asking. And the women receiving these sudden proposals, annoyed about this as we might be, we are very used to it. We answer or we don’t and we move on. So when I am at work, it is like I am in Africa all over again. And someone can show up to the desk and ask me if I am single. And the patron, a man, might even go beyond this and suggest the I consider having dinner with him, giving things a chance. Yes, I am sure my inner and outer feminist wants to scream. But my inner and outer African Woman is right at home. Bring it on! Bring it on!

2 thoughts on “Library Moments: “Are you married?”

  1. The reference to life in Africa, and cultural appropriateness is very interesting. At the root of feminism is the belief that women do not require a man to complete them, that they are self-sufficient and a whole person without being part of a couple.
    When I tutor ESL, students sometimes make comments or ask questions that highlight how many ways of seeing the world there are. I’m rarely offended, I usually see the humor in cultural differences.
    Having said that, I am sure that here in the United States asking a stranger if they are married is not a common question.

    • I am really working on being open to what questions come my way and also what cultural views I encounter…in so many cultures, a woman is not a full person, she is an object or an extension of a man. SO it is not unusual for a woman to be spoken to or treated in ways that indicate her lesser social/cultural status or personhood. Gender is part and parcel of culture, too, so being offended at someone who asks me if I am married seems like a bad idea…I cannot go into that person’s background and alter their view of women…and I probably should not try to do that. 🙂 The best I can do is be understanding and respond politely, and if it crosses a line into disrespect then I will call my manager and have her or the senior library staff assist me in dealing with the patron. For now, no major crisis over my marital status…hehehe. Thankfully. Whew.

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