On the 5th day of Christmas: Meet Kenne the traditional lady in search of maintained honor


Kenne, lady of the house (from etiquette hell) - thanks to this website for this image: http://www.alaturka.info/en/culture/theatre/the-galanty-show

Today, I want to formally introduce Kenne Hanım (Mrs. Kenne, essentially, as Hanım, pronounced hah-num is an honorific), as she would not prefer to be introduced any other way but formally.  This is one uptight lady in this regard.  But, I can relate to this, there are certainly times and places for fastidious manners and etiquette.  This turns out to be a major bone of contention between me and M., who as a bohemian of the highest order, does not always feel this way.  In any case, it is and will likely be a long strange trip on the road through figuring out this element of our cross-cultural marriage – and here by culture I am referring not to Turkey vs. America – but Bohemian vs. Yankee with old fashioned values.  Kenne is front and center in Battle Etiquette between us. Sometimes, I wish she would take a long vacation.  Sometimes, I just can’t get enough of her stalwart support.

You may remember Kenne, when we first met her, complaining in a rather shrill and entitled fashion about how Khadijah had ruined her henna designs the night before a wedding…and lord knows, did she ever complain. Kenne is a very traditional, appearance-oriented woman with a myopic view of the world. There is her way, and that’s it, not even the highway. Life is all about manners, etiquette and what other people think. Kenne is obsessed with maintaining the honor of the ladies around her – and of course of her human – me.  She sets out my outfits every night before I go to sleep – she favors monochromatic coordination and this drives M. nuts as an artist interested in composition. “How about some contrast? Some textural difference? Try another scarf, perhaps?”

She was, for example, totally, utterly and completely shocked that I would be caught in my nightgown in the middle of the day in my house, when M.’s friend showed up unannounced and walked in expecting tea service. She was equally horrified and apoplectic and my use of once-horrors-once-boiled tea in that service. I don’t think she will EVER get over it and she reminds me of that all the time – horrors.

Ever since she has shown up here in my mind, she is the one that leads me to the “etiquette” book aisle in the bookstore, or searches through mt Granny‘s house to find all possible copies of any etiquette book to create a collection. Really, who has a collection of etiquette books? Well, she does. So far, she has Ms. Manners’ guide to Internet etiquette as well as her guide to, simply “eating.” She has etiquette books from Emily Post, Dr. Seuss and everyone in between. She even picked up an etiquette tome on golf, though she has not a clue about it – nor do I. The lady is obsessed with “KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES” so to speak and is horrified at her human’s fascination with the Kardashian Klan – and their television show “Keeping up with the Kardashians” in all of its trashy and inexplicably interesting glory.  She cowers in the corner when I turn this television show on.  The rest of the puppets really like Khloe Kardashian, who despite her outlandish ways (which Karagoz applauds) feel that she has such good common sense and joie de vivre that they jump up and down when she enters the screen. But, let’s not get lost on the Kardashians.  They are a topic for another time.

Kenne was the one pulling my skirt down when I passed out in Maastricht – even though I had leggings on. She is the tut-tut sound maker, the hurumph shrugger and the tsk tsk finger wagger. I do lots wrong – and whenever M. does something “wrong” she is the one that seems to pull my marionette strings re: letting him know about it. And we thought humans ran the puppet strings – nope – in my life, it is the other way around. Kenne is especially anxious when we visit my family, and she really grabs my attention during those visits, always nagging at M. to cover his mouth when he yawns, take his elbow off the table (she and I were both raised with the saying “all joints on the table to be carved” indicating – no elbows, wrists or fingers on the table). She is one seriously uptight lady in need of a major dose of valium most of the time. If she could only take that chill pill, maybe she would enjoy life some more.

She is the perfect tea brewer, makes börek dough that is as thin as a whisp (the recipe for which is used at the famous Börek Online in Istanbul, delicious) and knows just where to get the freshest most pristine fruit in the market. She is a whiz at whipping up sahlep (a winter drink made of dried orchid roots) in the winter and swirls fresh ayran (a salty yogurt drink) in her sleep during the summer. She is the moral core of the puppet troupe – but takes it too far most of the time. She is often with Khadijah, given their mistress-worker relationship – and Khadijah is one of the only people that sees the good in her and can take her crap. After centuries of working together, I suppose it happens.  For better or worse, Kenne is here in my head.

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32 thoughts on “On the 5th day of Christmas: Meet Kenne the traditional lady in search of maintained honor

  1. Kenne Hanım sounds a bit like my grandmother. She didn’t have two pennies to rub together but wouldn’t even open her front door to the postman without slipping on her court shoes.

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