When I last left you, I was sharing my story of exposure to the Arabian Nights thanks to my mother, who championed imagination and a broad world view uber alles when it came to raising her girls. She did not, however, do much, as I recall, to counter any kind of gender stereotypes – or gender realities that might have been implanted in our young minds when it comes to gender relations.
These days, however, her daughter thinks A LOT about gender stereotyping, gender relations – and the exponential complexity of all of this when one is married to someone from a country that most people think is in the Middle East. Of course, most Turks I know don’t think of Turkey as being in the Middle East – they think they are in Europe – and not just the folks on the European side of Istanbul, mind you. I will, however, leave that topic alone, and get back to the item of the day, gender stereotypes.
These days, gender bending and discussions of the deconstruction of gender are a dime a dozen. And perhaps this is why, a few years ago, a new term came into the vernacular – “metro-sexual.” Wikipedia describes this as “a neologism derived from metropolitan and heterosexual coined in 1994 describing a man (especially one living in an urban, post-industrial, capitalist culture) who spends a time and money on shopping for his appearance.” And this, the term “metro-sexual” is what leads me to today’s commentary. Let me start at the beginning.
Yesterday, when we awoke, M. was getting ready to walk our dog, which he does every morning on the early side, and complained that his feet were really hurting. His heels were cracked and dry despite his best efforts to take care of them, and he was in pain. “I know what you need,” I said without thinking much, “you need a paraffin wax pedicure, that will help a lot!” I sort of heard the shock and awe of my statement make its impact like a tsunami on the little chorus of dancing lady puppets, but before I could even think about that, M. responded without much thought at all by saying, “sure, good idea, let’s go today, we can do it together.”
At this statement, Karagöz began to holler and pound his chest like never before – and in fact – all of the male Karagöz puppets began to shake and shiver in shock. Now of course, M. can’t see these puppets, so he had no idea what was behind the look of complexity on my face – instead he just focused on leaning in to kiss me goodbye before his walk with our canine companion – and in the process, knocked Karagöz dead off of his perch on my shoulder.
Crying out in rage and anger at this slight, Karagöz proclaimed “what kind of Muslim macho are you married to? None at all, I say! He must keep up with the manly culture! How can he do that when he is in a lady salon? Horrors! What kind of ‘metro-sexual’ nincompoop would allow himself to enter into the Wicked World of Women called The Salon? This is NOT acceptable!” Not in the mood for engaging in cross-cultural dialogue with my puppets, I just turned to them, and said “welcome to 2012, puppets, no biggie, his feet hurt, he needs a paraffin wax. Get over it.” Not my best moment, but we all have our days. The puppets decided to hop on my shoulders and just watch what happened, and that was the last I heard from them all day – I think they were really just ensconced in culture shock.
Later that day, as we walk ed into the salon together, we joked about how M.’s posh brother (otherwise known as Mr. X.) often gets his feet “done” by a pedicurist. I laughed to myself about trying to explain that to a recalcitrant stereotype-buying American when talking about men from Muslim-majority countries such as Turkey. I also wondered about the roots of self-care in the hamam – or Turkish baths - which men certainly did, and do frequent in some families (although not in M.’s, they are too Euro-focused if you ask me and worry about all of those germs).
I felt really happy and free to have a male partner in life who was not at all uptight about the idea of going into a salon for a pedicure. When I first met him, I noted that he loved buying lavender-scented hand cream for himself – and laughed off my friends’ comments that he might not be straight after all. In this way, M. couldn’t be farther from the stereotypical macho male from a Muslim land. While he may have a few macho moments – like the time he irked my stepsister for being to loud and competitive in a word puzzle game – there isn’t much of that to deal with that I can recall.
We had a great time relaxing our aching feet in the hot water, getting hot stone massages on our legs and dipping our feet into scented paraffin wax. M. made merry with all of the people around us, it was a wonderful afternoon and our feet still feel super.
As I watched M. have his feet scrubbed and encased in hot purple paraffin, the song “macho macho duck” came into my head. For those of you not in the know, Disney put out a disco record in 1979, and I used to know every word of it. Donald Duck was featured as a “macho man” in duck form. As I secretly whistled the tune in my head, I thought, M. sitting here, encased in hot wax, well, this makes my job of explaining that he ISN’T a macho, macho duck (to quote the old song), so much easier. M. is just who he is – and no worries about more or less – and indeed, shouldn’t we all have that luxury?
- On my writing about cross-cultural marriage (with the Karagöz puppets) (elizcameron.wordpress.com)
- Karagöz daydream #2: Flying from west to east with Khadijah and Kenne, my first female Karagöz shadow puppets (slowly-by-slowly.com)
- Korean Men Are Buying Into Makeup (bellasugar.com)