Women is...: The Bride's Tears

The Bride's Tears

Amina||, beautiful and elegant, going to marry Lamine||. It at first caught one's eyes with it good taste in clothes and in course of time, Lamine|| arrived to discover and love its unprejudice. More than it, it has a body of dream, that it knows how to cherish. Lamine’s|| a body never complains, when it sets to the hands of Amina||. Certainly, they do not sleep together but a few caress and good massage from time to time never hurt somebody.

Lamine sent his best friend, his uncles and his aunts to Amina’s parent’s home to officially request their daughter’s hand. Neither Lamine nor Amina were present at the meeting. Their relatives spoke in their place. Amina visited with neighbors as the two families agreed upon the sum to be paid and the date of the marriage.

After Lamine’s representatives left, Amina returned home. It was one of her uncles who was granted responsibility for giving her hand.

The marriage is set for the beginning of next month. There is only one month to do all the preparations. Lamine and Amina each get their friends together for a meeting. Neither Amina nor Lamine attend. They have no choice but to trust their friends. The friends get to know each other. The girls, representatives of Amina – Lamine is represented by men – brought a list of everything they need.

The girls and the men each meet separately. Three days before the wedding, Amina is forbidden to go out. Her friends are there to spend the day with her. The traditional ceremony begins tonight.

Since morning, the female relatives and friends of her mother have been moving about the house. A little while before sunset, other women come as a group. The house is full of noises and laughter. It is just a little taste of what the next day will bring.

Two aunts have come to grab Amina. Hands tied well at her biceps, they bring her into her room. There is scarcely room to put their feet but, in the middle there is no one, just a mat and two cups. In each of the cups there is henna – dried leaves, ground and used as a paste to color the hair, hands, or feet. The two mixtures are different: one pasty, the other more powdery. Amina was obliged to undress down to her slip in front of sixty pairs of eyes all focused on her. An old aunt applied henna on her head, and then all over her body while muttering verses from the Koran.

--Why aren’t you crying?
--Why should I cry, who died?
--Keep quiet, said an angry aunt.
--I have never seen a bride like this, eyes as dry as fire.
--It just goes to show, you have much still to see cousin.

Once the aunt had finished, she took the second cup, and then three aunts came forward. This second step is meant to be a scrub but, the way these women do it, you’d think they were trying to peel her. Amina understands now why young brides cry. The henna is well perfumed, it has a nice odor. She has henna everywhere on her body, in her ears, eyes, and mouth. Wishing to rub her eyes, the aunts immediately block her hands on her thighs, believing that she is trying to struggle and remove everything.

--Let go of me, I have henna in my eyes.

The old aunt tightens her clothes, then covers her with a new clean sheet.

--Do not wash before tomorrow morning, we know you. Let the henna penetrate into your skin.

Starting now you will stay in your room with your friends and your cousins and you will keep the sheet on you, whatever you do.

--Remember, Amina, you cannot let people see your face. You cannot watch your marriage ceremony through the window. You cannot dance. You cannot watch your guests having fun. You cannot live your wedding. You do not have the right to be happy on your wedding day. Cry Amina, cry, empty yourself of all the sobs in your body, believe that you are unhappy, that you are sad and everyone will be proud of you. Cry and your name will serve as a shining example.

It is almost seven o’clock in the evening. A cousin has come to take Amina to her bath. She is carrying her on her back, covered by a sheet. A young bride does not walk during the wedding.

The bathroom is improvised. The real one is not big enough to hold all of the women. In the rear courtyard, the women formed a circle of at least twenty people. Once Amina was in the center, those who were in front made a wall with woven mats. Amina is completely undressed by the aunt who had applied the henna. She is seated on a stool. Next to her there is a large gourd filled with water, floating henna leaves, dates, white kola nuts. There is also a pail of clean water and a container of soap. She is washed by her aunt like a baby. She is well soaped, then rinsed. The aunt handed her the soap so that she could do her “intimate” washing but the women protested, it’s for the aunt to do, so she did it. After the “intimate” washing in front of twenty people, the grandmother recited verses from the Koran over the water in the gourd. The aunt poured the water over her head and then all over her body while reciting suras and offering advice.

-- Now you will kneel before your parents and ask their forgiveness. After that, all of your sins will be erased and you will have only those committed at your husband’s house. I hope you will have the fewest possible. Go, my daughter, and listen well to the advice your parents give to you, above all keep them always in your head, for you will need them.

Before leaving the room, her friends advise her to cry, to at least pretend, just while asking forgiveness from her parents. Tradition asks that the young bride cry from this moment up until her arrival at her husband’s home out of the sadness of leaving her family. Of course, the desire to respect this tradition brings some young brides to put on an act.

-- Be strong, you are not losing your parents. It is the destiny of each woman to one day leave her family to go and live with a man.
Upon arriving at the husband’s home, the old women removed the bride’s covering.

-- You are home now, you can remove this covering and moreover stop crying, or you risk scaring your husband with your red eyes.

Imagine their surprise, and moreover their anger, upon discovering that the young woman had dry cheeks and completely white eyes

At Lamine’s house, an old woman makes the bed, mumbling something between her teeth and her receding gums. She puts a white cloth on the bed. It is sewn to the four corners of the bed so that it won’t slip and so that the newlyweds do not end up on the sheet. This cloth will be recovered tomorrow morning by the old woman who made the bed, and it will serve as proof. If it is stained with blood, it will mean that Amina has escaped shame.

If the cloth is stained with blood, the mother will give a party. She will send roasted guinea fowl to her son-in-law, she will be congratulated, and the women will dance.

If the cloth comes back as white as it was before, the mother will spend the day crying. Friends and relatives will help her. Women will come to take the news of the bride or rather some of the cloth so they will be able to gossip, and they will parade into Amina’s room to insult her and to remind her that she has shamed her mother and dishonored her family. There will be no guinea fowl, no party, no jewelry, and no fifty-thousand francs and the husband will be free to either keep his wife or renounce her. Lamine’s family will come to make a scandal.

In the end, the women were left unsatisfied: the day after the wedding, the old woman came to wake Amina. Lamine did not hand over the cloth; he kept their wedding night a secret.