When I last left you, I was on my way to Kos Island, in Greece and, more importantly, was in the midst of a détente with Kenne and the chorus of dancing shadow puppet ladies, who vehemently opposed my plan to attach cement beach with burqini-based street theatre in protest of the anti-tall-thick-girl sentiments expressed there. M. and his brother were verbally cavorting away, deconstructing all of the Galatasaray-Fenerbahce news of the day, and I was trying not to get sucked into the lady-like non-burqini street-theatre argument going on around me. I was feeling more and more like I should trash my plans – but not for the right reasons – to be a ‘good lady’ vs. being ok with myself.
Karagöz, thank goodness, showed up just as we took the right turn into the Şehir Merkezi (city center). He was immediately surrounded by the ladies, who made an uncharacteristic non-moon-dance-inspired exit from the purse to surround him with their verbal lady-toned protest. I felt in that moment that he was there to save the day – my fervor for the burqini was renewed before he even said a word, I knew he would be on my side. “She is an agent provocateur, she is! You cannot change her mind, nor her character!” Pointing upwards with the spirit of true correctness in his soul, Karagöz’s pointer finger extended towards the heavens as if it were a combination of Jack in the Beanstock and Pinocchio all in one. I had forgotten his silly-putty body-stretching skills, and wished I had a few of those myself for the swim parade on cement beach, that would show them!
Dispensing with the pointing and re-engaging in his usual speaking-while-twirling stance, a significant feat for a miniscule waxy-paper puppet, Karagöz giggled with abandon and began the nonsense-rhyming that he uses when he is really, really worked up about something. “The idea is superb, shock them with burqini reverb, they’ll think you’re smoking the good ol’ herb, they’ll make your actions into a verb!” The din from his insane rhyming and spinning crowded out the protests of the cluck-clucking and tut-tutting ladies with Kenne as ringleader. I re-commenced reveling in this burqini-involved street theatre fantasy and decided to ignore the puppets for the time being.
As M.’s brother dropped us near the harbor, I set my protest-vision aside for the time being. The ladies made their presence known as my purse bounced its way through the crowds of day-long-visa purchasers and onto the ferry, which was rocking from side to side in the water. M. plopped down beside me at one of the stationary tables on the deck, and without hesitation, I revealed my idea. His first reaction can only be described as one of pure horror. “You are not serious,” he said, taking his glasses off quickly and wiping his brow, “are you?”
Sitting forward in my ready-to-convince mode, I worked on a parallel to explain my idea. “I thought it might be a little bit like the ACT-UP protests around access to HIV medication in the late 1980s and early 1990s, you know, everyone shows up to the protest and simultaneously reveals their pink triangle t-shirts? You know, shock value?” The parallel took a nose dive, as M.’s blank face reminded me that he had never heard of all of this, as he had lived in Turkey until 1993. The high-speed ferry began to pull out of the dock and an elderly lady next to us almost fell down. M. gallantly caught her mid-fall, before delivering her to the safe hands of what must have been a son or nephew.
As he returned to our spot, I realized that I needed to be taking a different tact. M. just sat, defeated, looking at me, mouth agape. I began the process again, “um, imagine their shock and awe when I emerge from the changing room in my burqini? They wouldn’t know what to do with themselves!” I forced a laugh – hoping it would catch on like wildfire. I had counted on M.’s counter-cultural stance, anti-etiquette bias and general embrace of shock value. This was, after all, a man who loved to do anything that was NOT expected of him in social settings and prides himself on this. Given that I am way more etiquette-interested than this man, I thought for sure he would be in on this plan. I was surprised to find this was not so.
I heard the sounds of Karagöz cracking up, and I could see Karagöz spinning with laughter, waiting with bated breath with each spin to see what M. would do or say next. “Brilliant,” he cried, “you are a genius! You have even stumped the master trickster, this M. fellow of yours.” Solemn now, as if grey clouds inhabited his usually firm sparkle, I realized that M. was somehow sad all of a sudden. All M. said was “I support you in whatever you need to do, if you really feel you must put on a burqini, then fine, but I think you are just great as you are. Who cares what they do or say? Why do you care so much? Why do ladies check each other out so much, I mean, really? Who cares?” Slumping back into the hard but smooth plastic chair rooted to the floor, he began massaging his temples with a fury. “My eyes hurt, I am getting sick, maybe it was a breeze last night from the window on my neck, but I should not have brought you here, it is too much for you, this locked-community scene, all of these rich skinny ladies, this is not the place for us. It is my fault you are feeling this way. Um, by the way, don’t you worry that you would get carried away by a current in all of that material if we were out floating far from the cement beach? I mean, really?”
My mental balloon, buoyed by my excited idea about the burqini, was losing steam – and fast. I could see that I had not successfully appealed to M.’s usually flamboyantly-resistant, favoring the trouncing of tradition side that I had counted on. He has always bucked tradition. As a child, he waged epic battles around his father’s insistence that he wear short pants given that so many around him did not have the funds for fine clothes. Deeply sensitive to this, the fight against the short pants still dominates his clothing choices – which hail towards threadbare, soft cotton t-shirts, worn-in jeans and generally dressing completely down. Dressing in any way shape or form that is for someone else’s pleasure, unless he is 100% ok with it, is not ok with him. It is a bone of contention in our relationship that has started to soften some on my front, but we were just at the beginning of that journey at the time of the events written about here, which shall be chronicled elsewhere.
That day, as we sped along towards the gated compound outside of Bodrum, I decided to change the topic – and made my maiden voyage of tea-ordering in Turkish. M. revived a bit with this event, and with the tea. As I practiced my verb conjugation out-loud with M., with much hilarity on his part, the high-speed ferry bounced along towards Greece, making the unfamiliar sounds of Turkish words bounce in my throat. My grand plans for burqini street theatre slipped away bit by bit into the trembling waters around the boat streamed off across the Aegean. In my meta-mind, above the Turkish lesson conversation, I felt myself getting closer to my more self-esteem-builder-oriented feminist roots – of being who you are, not being a slave to fashion or the unhealthy messages poured down upon women by the beast of dominant society media. Perhaps it was all of the stolid tourists around me, including an embarrassing gaggle of somewhat sneaker-loaded and loud ugly Americans combined with beer-drinking Germans to boot. Perhaps it was just getting away from the cement beach scene. “I don’t need to do this burqini thing, I just need to be me,” I thought…and then….I saw the lady emerge from the ferry bathroom in her burqini – ready for the beach on Kos Island, I thought…hmmmm (to be continued)…