Excerpt from “Saman”

When I was nine I was not a virgin. People didn’t consider a girl who didn’t yet have breasts to be a virgin. But there was something I was keeping secret from my parents:

When they got wind of the fact that I was secretly meeting an ogre, my mother revealed a big secret: that I was actually made of porcelain. Statues, plates and cups made from porcelain come in hues of blue, light green, even brown. But they mustn’t be allowed to crack, because if they do they will be thrown on to the rubbish dump or used as tombstone ornaments. My mother said I would never crack as long as I kept my virginity. I was taken aback: how could I preserve something I didn’t yet have?
She told me that there were three openings between my legs. Don’t ever touch the middle one, she said, because that’s where it’s kept. Later I was disappointed to discover that I wasn’t unique; I wasn’t the only one who was special. All girls were the same. They might only be teapots, bowls, plates, or soup spoons, but they were all made of porcelain. And as for boys? They were ivory: and all ivory cracks. When I grew up I found out that they’re also made of flesh.

When my parents discovered that I was going out with an ogre from the forest, they gave me their second piece of advice. Virginity is a woman’s gift to her husband. And virginity is like a nose: once you lose it, it can’t be replaced. So you must never give it away before you get married, because then you will be damaged goods. But the day before I was sent to this foreign place I made a decision. I would give my virginity to my lover the ogre.

On that last night, under a purplish moon, I crept out to the pavilion and tore it out with a teaspoon. It looked like a red spider’s web. I put it in a wooden Jepara box and gave it to the dog. He was in fact a courier between me and the ogre.

—Ayu Utami, Saman

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