Updated: Mar 31
You may already know this story, but it has a profound truth worth remembering. It touched me more than 30 years ago. (Any errors are mine, I’m paraphrasing as I remember it from the Reader’s Digest.)
The Ten Cow Wife (Anonymous)
People laugh, when they tell the story of Johnny Lingo and the price he paid for his wife.
It would be kindness to call her plain. Sarita was little and skinny without “endowments.” She walked with her shoulders hunched and her head ducked, as if she was trying not to be seen. Her cheeks had no color, her eyes never opened beyond a slit and her hair was a lackluster mop. She seemed to be scared of her own shadow, frightened by her own voice. She would never laugh in public, never draw attention to herself, so her family despaired that she would she ever attract a husband.
But she attracted Johnny Lingo. The family urged Sarita’s father to try for a good settlement. “Ask for three cows,” they told him, “and hold out for two until you’re sure he’ll pay one.”
Her father was afraid if he missed this chance to marry off Sarita, he wouldn’t get another one, so he wasn’t inclined to “hold out” for anything. Maybe he’d get one cow. He would be grateful to get that much.
On the big day, Johnny Lingo walked straight to Sarita’s father and stated, “Sir, I offer ten cows for your daughter.” Quick as a wink, before Johnny could back out of such a preposterous deal, the bargain was struck. Johnny handed over the ten cows and Sarita’s father handed over his daughter.
They moved to another island after the wedding. Some months later, a visitor told Johnny Lingo that everyone was talking about him.
“What do they say?” he asked.
“They say the marriage settlement you made for your wife was ten cows.” A tactful pause. “They wonder why.”
Johnny’s eyes lighted with pleasure. “So people know about the ten cows?!”
Johnny’s chest expanded with satisfaction. “Always and forever, when they speak of marriage settlements, it will be remembered that Johnny Lingo paid ten cows for Sarita.”
The visitor was disappointed. All this mystery and wonder, and the explanation was conceit. Just wanted to make himself famous for the way he bought his wife. It was tempting to deflate him by reporting people thought he was a fool.
And then the visitor saw her. Through the glass-beaded portieres that shimmered in the archway, she entered the adjoining room to place a bowl of blossoms on the dining table. She stood still a moment to smile with sweet gravity at her husband. Then she went swiftly out again. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Not with the beauty the cheap, common, or earthbound.
This girl had an ethereal loveliness. The dew-fresh flowers pinning back her lustrous black hair accented the glow of her cheeks. The lift of her shoulders, the tilt of her chin, the sparkle of her eyes gave her a startling beauty. She moved with grace that made her look like a queen. An enchanted queen who could turn into a kitten. When she was out of sight, Johnny Lingo’s eyes reflected a similar pride to Sarita’s.
“You admire her?” he murmured.
“She --- she’s glorious. Who is she?”
A blank stare. “A second wife?”
"I have only one wife. That is Sarita.” The way he said the words gave them a special significance. “Perhaps you would say she does not look the way they said she looked?”
“Excuse me for saying so, but no she doesn’t. I was told she was homely, or at least nondescript. They make fun of you saying you were cheated by her father.”
“Do you think he cheated me? You think ten cows were too many?”
A smile slid over Johnny’s lips when the visitor slowly shook his head.
“One day her family and her hometown will see her again. I don’t think anyone will make fun of us then. She is not the same.
“What do you think it does to a woman when she knows her husband paid the lowest price for her? What do you think it does to her when other wives talk and boast of what their husbands paid for them? One says four cows, another say six. How does a woman who was sold for one or two cows feel? I would never let that happen to my Sarita.”
“You paid TEN COWS to make your wife happy?”
“Happy?” He seemed to turn the word over on his tongue, as if to test its meaning.
“I wanted Sarita to be happy, yes. I love Sarita. But I wanted much more than that. In her hometown, Sarita believed she was worth nothing because she was treated as nothing. She is a different woman now because she knows she’s worth more than any other wife on the islands. But more than her happiness I wanted a Ten-Cow Wife.” ***
Gentlemen, your perpetual “auditioning” [meaning hooking-up or dating without purpose] is the modern equivalent of producing a One Cow Wife! When you put no effort into being with her, it tells a woman she’s not worth much to you.
Someday, in frustration, she may demand, “Marry me or I’m leaving!” Under that kind of pressure, some guys go through with it. But she’ll never forget, it wasn’t really his love for HER that put the ring on her finger. She feels bitter and cheated. She thought marriage would change him into someone who worships the ground she walks on.
“I’m his wife,” she says, “of course he sees me as superior to all other women. Didn’t he say he would love me until death separates us? He promised.”
She doesn’t know he didn’t change at all. He just got tired of fighting. Sure, they may be legally tied together, but he doesn’t see her any differently that he did before they said “I do.” His attitude might even be, “I gave her what she wanted [meaning marriage] so she ought to be grateful.”
I’m sure that describes couples you know.
But it’s very different for a woman who’s pursued. TMOMD (the Man Of My Dreams) says “Every guy marries UP. There’s basically one reason a guy wants to get married --- because he’s afraid she’s going figure out he’s not good enough for her. He’s worried that some other guy will cut in on him. A guy in love marries his girl to get her off the market. Then he spends all his time working like mad to prove she made the right decision.”
Gentlemen, that’s what a woman wants. She wants to feel as if she is the center of your universe. She wants to be the one thing you need more than air. She wants to be your source of strength and refuge. She wants to feel that you would die for her and without her.
When you “play” a woman, when you use her for sex (or until something better comes along), the damage you do is everlasting. A woman whose been “played” starts to believe she isn’t worth much. She lowers her expectations and her standards, hoping against hope, that the next guy will find something about her that’s worthwhile.
You think it doesn’t matter how you treat the women you date before you find The One. But one day, you will want a woman to believe in you, especially when you stop believing in yourself. Someone who will be your biggest fan. The one person who already sees you as the man you hope to be. Every heterosexual male, deep down, wants a Ten Cow Wife. How do you expect to win her if you’ve habitually treated every woman who’s gone before her as if she were disposable, like trash?
There is something to be gained from making every woman you date feel treasured. Taking pride, as a man, in keeping her safe physically, emotionally, and sexually. Being the kind of man who treats every woman as if she were a rare and precious jewel. Being the kind of “ex” who increased her sense of worth, instead of decreasing it. Isn’t that what you want from the guy who’s dating the girl YOU might fall in love with someday?
[This article is an excerpt from the book, Sex Makes People Stupid: How To Avoid Ending Up With a Loser.]