myself, have no fear of the old woman. She was an anomaly in
her time. I understand her frisky character better than the
others. My intimate knowledge has come from past conversations
when she whispered in my ear that she supported me in my
quest for small female freedoms. This auntie had bragged to me
that she was the world's first feminist, long before the
European women thought of such matters. She said that on the
night of her marriage, she had insisted to her startled
husband that she handle the money from the sale of the sheep,
since she could figure numbers in her head and he had to use a
stick in the sand. Not only that, her husband had never even
thought of taking another wife, saying often that my auntie
was too much woman for him.
a toothless laugh, my auntie had confided in me that the
secret to controlling a man was in a woman's ability to keep
her husband's "leather stick" rigid and ready. I was
a young girl at that time and had no idea what a "leather
stick" might be. Later, in my adult years, I often
smiled, thinking of the lusty activities that must have shaken
her husband's early death, my auntie confessed that she missed
his tender caresses and that it was his memory that kept her
from accepting another mate.
the years I have jealously guarded her happy secret, fearing
that such a confession would nibble at my auntie's soul.
several hours my family pore over the translated pages and
satisfy themselves that no one else alive, or traceable
outside of our immediate family, is aware of the family dramas
and squabbles divulged in the book.
see that my family feels a keen sense of relief. In addition,
I catch a trace of mild admiration that I had so cleverly
altered the pertinent information that would have led the
authorities directly to my door.
evening closes with Father and Ali warning my sisters not to
tell their husbands of the night's business. Who knows which
husband might feel compelled to confide in a sister or mother?
My sisters are instructed to say that the meeting involved
nothing more than personal female matters not worthy of their
sternly ordered me not to "come out" in public and
announce my "crime." The fact that the book is the
story of my life must remain a well-kept secret within our
family. My father reminds me that not only would I suffer dire
consequences, house arrest, or possibly imprisonment, but that
the men of the family, including my own son, Abdullah, would
be scorned and shut out by Saudi Arabia's patriarchal society,
which values nothing more highly than a man's ability to
control his women.