Or, my return to the States. Because with every Pohnpeian I talk to, these two subjects are inexplicably linked. This is strange and amusing to me for a variety of reasons, not least of all being the fact that looking for a husband is NOWHERE near the top of my to-do list. But here are a few examples of how the topic follows me around. (Translated & approximated from Pohnpeian)
[While walking to school]
Middle-aged Pohnpeian man: Good morning, Mollie!
Me: Good morning!
Middle-aged Pohnpeian man: Find a Pohnpeian husband so that you don’t leave!
Me: Maybe one day. (This is how you brush someone off in an indirect culture)
Okay, so this one kind of makes sense and is flattering (in a place where telling single girls to get married isn’t considered sexual harassment or meddling). To me it says, “We like you and want you to settle here!” mixed with “Pohnpei is the best. Pohnpeian men are the best. Why go elsewhere?”
[In the teachers’ office, after school]
Female coworker: So what will you do when you get back to America?
Me: Oh, you know, visit my friends and family. Maybe find a job or figure out grad school.
Female coworker: You should find a husband right away.
Depending on the coworker, the conversation either ends there, or we get into an interesting comparison of cultures, e.g., what wonderful things life can hold for me as a 20-something woman without any dependents.
[Afternoon in the kitchen – I’m 100% at the same table as the conversation]
Host mother: Mollie leaves in November!
Visiting woman: Wow, you’ll miss her. Will she get married and come back?
Host mother: Maybe one day. Our white daughter with skin the color of an eggshell is not in a hurry to get married.
Visiting woman: [under her breath w/sidelong glance at me] How old is she?
Then the conversation branches in two directions. First, gossiping about the prospects of my 25-yr-old host sister, who is also unmarried. Then talking about my actual parents’ ages upon marrying & having children and comparing the size of American & Pohnpeian families (most Americans don’t have pigs to feed and bananas to pick; most Pohnpeians need more than two kids to get all those chores done).
In summary: I’m single. That fact really bothers most Pohnpeians. I hope someday to return here with a husband and a kid or two to put their minds at ease. Maybe in like 10 or 15 years…