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The Choice Is Yours
One Year Ago…
I put my final belongings into a small bag and zipped it up; I was ready to go. I carried my bag over my shoulders and made my way out of the hut which is our house. My mother was working in the back yard and straightened up when she heard me approach. She stood there glaring at me. I pretended not to notice and tried to say a few words of goodbye instead, but she turned away from me. And that’s when I turned the other way and headed to the bus station which was a couple of miles further from our neighbor hood. Once I boarded, we started out our 300km journey to Addis. The road snaked its way up the mountains and down the valleys. Sometimes it was plain and on both sides’ flat fields spread out. Cows grazed. Scattered puffs of clouds drifted lazily across the open sky. I pressed my face against the window and looked up. The day was blue as a forget-me-not. Suddenly, without realizing, tears were streaming down my cheeks thick and fast. Neither my family nor my friends were supportive of me going to the city to continue my studies.
I was born and raised in the countryside, where a girl going to school was still a big deal. But I was one of the few girls in our neighbor hood that was lucky enough to learn and I seized that opportunity with all my might. I attended my classes and listened attentively. After school, I worked on the farm, brought the money home but kept certain amount to myself, hidden from everybody else. And I usually stayed up late at night studying. I worked hard and I knew that all has paid off when I finished high school and had a place to go to college at Addis. Coincidently, that was also the time when a man of forty-three asked my hand in marriage. He was willing to give my parents 10 oxen, 10 cows, 40 sheep and 40 goats. But I refused, for I didn’t want to live in the countryside being a house wife for the rest of my miserable life. I tried to explain to my parents that I want to learn and lead a successful life. But for them, having 100 cattle in their barn was a successful life as far as they could see. We argued a lot. But once they realized that I won’t budge, my father disowned me and my mother never talked to me and whispers followed me whenever I step out of the house. I was the talk of the town. ‘The insolent girl!’
So when the time finally came, I packed my bag, took the money I’ve collected over the years and was ready to leave and start a new semester as a freshman, at a school in a city I barely knew.
It was overcast, murky morning that matched my mood perfectly. I was brooding about the day ahead while I was putting on my makeup. After applying my gloss I took a step back to examine myself on the mirror. I was wearing a short, A-shaped black satin skirt with baby pink sweater on top. My eyebrows and lashes were dark as the night against my fair skin. My hair was held in one long ponytail. I turned this way and that. True, the outfit was great but that’s just not me. Because it simply emphasized the fact that I’m just a pathetic old maid. I could never be those pretty, vivacious young thing those city girls are. It was rather like fastening a brightly colored feather duster to the back end of a turkey and attempting to pass it off as a peacock. But I had to go through this routine each and every morning before class because my teacher said so. And no, I’m not taking modeling classes.
I made my way to the school building through the hustle and bustle of our campus. Just as I stepped into the double-doors, the rain that has been threatening to fall since dawn finally splattered all over the ground.
My professor, whose name I don’t want to mention, is in his early 40s with a big set of yellow teeth. His eyes are bloodshot due to heavy drinking at every dingy pub his enormous feet would take him. His face is covered with blemishes and acnes. Complete with the foul he emits from both his mouth and body as a whole, he was more than enough to repel a skunk. What more, his personality and character most certainly did not help to uplift his appearance. True, he is great when he is teaching and lecturing. But when it came to grading, you’ll be judged upon by the size of your bra not your brain. And the only way to pass his courses was by playing his little game of ‘love’
Alas, I now had to go to his office, situated at the very end of a long corridor. I knocked gently. A grunt was issued from within. Taking that as a ‘welcome’ signal, I opened the door and went inside. The door slid and shut itself behind me.
There he was sitting behind his cheap wooden desk looking up at me and giving me a toothy grin.
“You may sit.” he said, motioning me with his hands to the chair in front.
I stood fixed where I was and said, “I came here to collect my papers.”
“And I had a great morning, thanks for asking.” he added sarcastically.
I ignored that remark and went on saying, “It would be very convenient if you hand them to me now as I have a class starting in a couple of minutes.”
He went through the papers that were lying on his desk and picked out one. He ran his eyes over it and then looked at me.
“Nice out-fit. I see you’re finally catching up with the trend.” he said airily.
That’s exactly how we’re evaluated; looks, body, out-fit, flirtatious behavior and of course, willingness to do whatever he pleases.
“What do you say if we jazz things up a bit tonight? I’ll take a break from work and you from your studies.” he drawled stretching on his big swiveling chair covered in fake leather.
“The papers, please.” I requested impatiently.
He leaned over his desk, picked up his pen. His hands, as I’ve noticed, had more than enough hair to account for what was missing on his head.
“I’ve read it several times,” he said at length. “It was really fascinating. It deserves an A+ But in order for me to give you full marks... My stomach turned. I was utterly sickened.
“The choice is yours; you’ll either get an A+ or an F. Take it or leave it.”…..
Right! I wish I could leave it, walk away and never look back. Never look back and never set my eyes upon this twisted and wretched creature ever again!
But what about my pursuit of success? My dreams, ambitions and goals? What will become out of them? ….
This is the problem that women of today have to face. Most are left in a dilemma to either to give in to get what they need or refuse to stoop low and rather drop the whole thing, hoping to find another alternative. And those who choose the latter are regarded as failures. Yet who is to blame for their desperate actions and decisions they’re forced to make? Stop telling our women that the choice is theirs when you actually haven’t given them any. When in fact, one is worse than the other and neither is assuring. Don’t force them to give up their dignity, self-respect and principles they value.
We all know that some things in life are never fair and justified. But couldn’t we change that? Let us promise ourselves not only a brighter tomorrow but a better today. And upon that resolution, the choice is yours.