On Shooting Myself in the Foot

Having taught a couple of lively zenior zitizens English as a Second Language (ESL) for a month, Chinese-Americans and Hispanics have gravitated toward me, believing me trustworthy. Being in awe that I speak a little of “La Lengua de la Raza”, i.e., Spanish, I am now attracting quite a motley crew of friends. One of them, a native of Mexico, is refreshingly bilingual but when she signed a birthday card for someone, she wrote her name with difficulty and misspelled with letters topsy-turvy. One day during lunch at a zenior lunch, she told me she didn’t pay attention at school, so can neither read nor write. She said, “but I am too old to learn” (she is only about 80).

A week or so later, one of my ESL students brought friends from her country of origin including a former missionary and his wife, who speaks only Spanish and, as my student told me, “is illiterate but very smart”. Her husband speaks several languages fluently and tends to wander away from the lunch table where Hispanics dine to chat with a different crowd.. While my Spanish was somewhat bungled, I explained that I would be starting a literacy class soon and she sounded delighted.

The next day, during lunch I asked which time her husband would prefer to bring his wife for literacy classes. He spoke of her illiteracy with a blush on his face and explained in Spanish that in her small village in Central America, boys were educated but girls were not. This marked the time when I unconsciously slid my psychic pistol out of my psychic pocket. “Why not?” I asked partly of curiosity.

He blustered around his answer. “It was important for boys to be educated.”

I bit my tongue. “But, not girls?”

He cleared his throat and tried to sit taller. “Well, that was the way back then and hers was a rural village.”

Still unconscious, I unlatched the psychic safety on my psychic pistol. “Girls needed to stay home to cook and clean?”

The eyebrows of my potential lady student flew up and she leaned back and slid down a bit in her chair. Her husband adjusted the cap he wore as a bishop in his church of choice. “No, I don’t think so.” He laced his arms.

It was too late. I had shot myself in the foot. Gunpowder rose as I thought to myself that I might as well have said, ‘barefoot and pregnant’.

I hope he will allow this femi-nazi to teach his wife how to read and write. I can only hope that he will blame my blunder on my lame Spanish.

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