Story Title: A Woman’s Dignity
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The club was started by an old lady to assure a steady availability of virgin brides at Christian weddings, especially with so many girls growing up in this profligate city where the Alhajis could always admit one more in their harems, and when so motivated spared no expense to acquire her. The late old woman was fabled to have married off all six daughters as virgins; she was an expert on how-to-be-the-proud-mother-of-a-virgin-bride. And the motive of widening her parenting circle to other people’s daughters was her distaste at seeing so many young girls with potential burning out their lights at the feet of sensuous, old Fulani men.
Most of the women that started out with her remembered some stimulating arguments like:
“For cake and suya I surrender my life!”
In their time, it was humourous sarcasm. Or even
“Fanta! Fanta! Shoes and laughter!”
The grandmother had downplayed every instinct to grapple for material things. She’d taken time to explain that a woman’s virginity was all her glory, all her pride. Imagine the unspeakable joys when your mother received that gift from your new husband! How your parents would congratulate themselves and call down heaven to bless you! Your virginity was your dignity. Simple.
Over the years, the club changed. The pioneer members had married grateful men – mostly, others then took their place and got married themselves and somewhere along the way they had changed their name to the more youthful Girls on Fire. It was a fellowship with an upbeat vibe.
“Young ladies,” a member would address the house.
“On fire for Christ,” was the traditional response.
All mothers knew the vagaries of raising virtuous young women; some felt the anxiety more keenly than others but no girl was ever prevented from being a Girl on Fire. As one of the recent grandmothers remarked, Sokoto was crawling with bad examples of Christian girls who had slackened their hold on the church until they drifted out of it forever. You raised a Mary and in her bloom she turned Maryam and brought you a grandson named Mubarak. It was all very startling.
Talitha could be said to have been born a Girl on Fire. She was her mother’s pride in every way, a precocious child who somehow managed not to play any rough games adults would disapprove of. She was quiet, did well at school, and nothing fascinated her so much as a new book.
“Your little girl loves to read,” some mothers would observe with envious admiration.
Her mother usually just smiled and smugly let them compare her prize daughter with the crass, noisy imps they were raising in their own homes. Talitha, it came about, roused a lot of attention at her young age. Though she honestly didn’t know, all her playmates saw the golden star on her forehead and either resented her or were proud to be associated with her.