Karagöz hoots at the statement “I’ve been better”


Karagöz is literally dancing and rolling around the living room. He is hooting and hollering with gut-splitting guffaws the likes I have never seen before.

And I am mad as hell. Karagöz has been listening in on a phone call between me and M., and it has him in a giggle fit to end all giggle fits. I am not sure anyone else would think it was funny, but for some reason, well, Karagöz does.

Daily life with M. involves a lot of small miscommunication moments in which we miss each other’s meaning. I often speak in English language “phrases” that do not necessarily translate when interpreted verbatim. I am sure I would be totally lost in Turkish as the English translations M. regales me with re: Turkish sayings often leave me scratching my head.

This is really the essence of difference re: frames of references. I have learned that I need to be less frustrated about these moments. This is something that is central to the experience of a life in a partnership in which language differences exist.

Let me give you an explanation about all of this.

So, there I was, sitting in my chair, when M. called. I was feeling grumpy and overwhelmed by the gargantuan set of tasks before me for the day. Impossible for any one human to finish. M. had called to check in and send some love, always a welcome call, and asked me how I was. My response was – “I’ve been better.”

Canım sweetheart,” M. sang out over the phone, “I am so glad to hear it.”

Sighing, I breathed in my grump, and breathed out the following “No, it means I am not having a good day.”

“But you said you have been better today!” M. said, ardently.

“It is a manner of speaking, it means that you have been better than you are right now.”

“Oh, I see, so,” M. was confused, “so you mean that you want to be better, that you are not good. Why don’t you just say you are not good? That you don’t feel good. I am sorry you do not feel good, canım.”

These moments of clarification are many in our life…and they are so numerous, in fact, that I am not really sure why they bother me so much. I guess I just presume that my relationship is my sanctuary from my difficulties in life. I guess I wish for it to be free from the drama and difficulty of interactions with all of the other people in my life – but this is rarely the case.

This, of course, is part of relationship having. Lately, as I have tried harder to “hold a candle” for M. in these moments, I realize that he does this for me, shows kindness when I make a mockery of Turkish. He is always patient and calm in his corrective teaching. I have a lot to learn. In this way, I’ve been a better person to my students learning statistics than I am to my husband who is achieving the last vestiges of English fluency – aphorisms and odd turns of phrase. I can do better.

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6 thoughts on “Karagöz hoots at the statement “I’ve been better”

  1. Haha! It does get better though.
    I remember when i was 18 and courting hubby he had only been in England 4 years. His English was booklearned and basic English language in school. We had an argument and i told him “go jump in the lake!” i will never forget the hurt in his face when he walked away from me and the weeks we spent apart because of what i had said. When we got back together again he told me he did not understand why i would wish him dead as he could not swim roflmao. Obviouly not at all funny to him.

  2. . . being, like you, in a cross-cultural relationship with the same added challenge of growing up speaking languages totally alien to each other, J and I have similar misunderstandings. I see you are puzzled – J is from South Yorkshire -’nuff said!


    I’m waiting for you to empathise!

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