Queen Ucheoma 1 year ago

The Fattening Room

"I am fast becoming a woman. It won't be long before I enter the fattening room", Zimuzor bragged to her playmates Akudo and Uzoma.

They had been playing in front of her house, where they usually gathered to play and discuss after they had finished their chores at home. They had been playing riddles before she made the declaration. There was pin-drop silence as the other two girls gazed at her. "You are too young to enter the fattening room," Uzoma countered enviously. "I am not too young. I already have a suitor, and my mother has started making arrangements. At the beginning of a new moon, I shall enter the fattening room", she retorted with pride. They stared at her in envy.

They were all fourteen years old, but Zimuzor was on the plump side, so puberty hit her faster than her friends. While the other two girls were still playing sand girls, she had already started seeing her period. She bragged to them one day that she had 'killed a cock' as it was figuratively referred to. She also started developing breasts faster than them. When she walked together with the other girls, she looked like she was five years older than they were. They looked skinny and smallish in stature, while she had round and succulent breasts and a big backside that got heads turning whenever she passed. They were low-key jealous of her because of her looks and fast development, and now the news of having a suitor and entering the fattening room.

The fattening room was a tradition of the Mbaudo community. It had been upheld for years. Every young girl of marriageable age was required to be confined to a room for two weeks. Throughout the weeks, she would do nothing but eat and sleep. A lady in the fattening room had the right to demand anything she wanted, and her family would make it available. Every morning she would bathe, apply 'otanjele' and 'uli' to decorate herself, and tie beautiful wrappers, then she would stuff herself with any type of food she wanted. She was not allowed to go through any stress.

After spending two weeks in the fattening room, the lady would be taken to a hut where older and very experienced women would circumcise her. The process of circumcision was usually painful. Most times, the lady involved had to be held back by two other women while she was being circumcised, and her screams would travel beyond the hut into the village. It was a horrible process. However, the pain of the circumcision did not stop young ladies in the Mbaudo community from longing after the fattening room like a special award.

After the meeting with Zimuzor that day, Uzoma went home full of envy and anger. She went to her mother's hurt with a frown on her face. "Mother, I want to enter the fattening room," she demanded. Her mother smiled knowingly and asked her to sit. "My child, you will enter the fattening room when the time comes. I don't want you to fill your head with thoughts about all those things. You are yet a child. Relax and enjoy your childhood; you'll have enough time to do all these things you long for", the older woman advised. "Zimuzor will enter the fattening room at the beginning of a new moon. She is not any better than I am. I'm old enough to enter, too", Uzoma insisted. "You will enter the fattening room when the time is right," her mother replied dismissively. Uzoma left the hut in anger.

A month after that conversation, news reached them that Zimuzor had completed her stayed in the fattening room and was to be circumcised the following day. Uzoma's mother was to be among the women present for the process. "Mother can I go with you?", Uloma pleaded. "Yes. I want you to see the process of the circumcision", the older woman replied. Uloma was excited. She could hardly wait for the day to break. At first cock crow the following morning, she woke up and began to do her chores. They finished up early enough and set out for the circumcision hut. By the time they got there, the process had already begun. Uzoma heard screams, howls, and groans of unimaginable pain and agony even before they entered the hut. She stopped in her tracks.

"What is that noise?" she asked her mother in fright. "That is your friend Zimuzor. The circumcision must have begun", her mother replied. The screams were wild and loud, like the scream of an animal being eaten alive. It was chilly and horrifying. Uloma began to shiver. "Mother, I don't want to go into the fattening room again. I'll rather not get married than go through this pain. Mother, this tradition is bad", she said as she shivered in fright.

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