Perihan Hanim speaks: On the limits of sharing

Perihan Hanım, my fairy Godmother puppet paid an unusual visit to me tonight. You may recall meeting her, several months ago, in this post.  I found her on my shoulder, stroking my hair and watching over my shoulder as I alternated between my newfound love of and the data analysis I am supposed to be working on tonight.  I noticed her presence, but waited for her to speak.

“M’lady,” she began, in the most loving tone possible, “it is one thing to want to do good by sharing, but it is another thing to create discomfort in your loved one’s life.  It is not a great discomfort as he is about to walk up the stairs and tell you, but it is enough for you to listen to.  You can be true to your goals for this blog without putting in the kitchen sink, you know.”

Of course, Perihan Hanım was referring to the disagreement M. and I had the other day, and the ruminating that has been going on since about which aspects of our various responses were culture-bound.  Some of this was shared in my last blog post.  All is well, dear readers, no emergency here, just normal marital murky moments, as I like to call them in a lighthearted way.

Hopping off of my shoulder, my fairy Godmother floated down the stairs like the seed of an oak tree only to capture M. in her invisible turkuaz-colored ribbon and guide him up the stairs into the mango room, where we commenced to having a good and productive discussion about what does and does not go on this blog!

When I began the slowly-by-slowly book/blog project, M. and I talked about it ahead of time. He said “I support you no matter what and I will never censor you.” As an artist, anti-censorship has a special importance for him.  From time to time, I have run posts by him to make sure that he is ok with what I am posting. While my intent is to push the envelope, so to speak, with respect to what is discussed in the public world about cross-cultural relationships – I don’t want to overstep.  I thought that by sharing, normalizing the challenges of cross-cultural marriage without the vilification that is so common in what writing exists out there, I would help some people to not feel quite so alone or confused in their own marital murky moments.

In many ways, this blog is about a reaction to the seemingly constant stereotypes about men from Muslim countries – that they are macho, patriarchal, have many wives, abusive, fill-in-the-blank negative adjective, falan  (yadda yadda).  I do feel that it is obvious that all couples have disagreements and challenging moments…but I see that we have reached a cultural impasse on the limits of sharing – when it is it ok to share and when is it not.  Is it a Turkish tradition to be fiercely private? I am not sure one could lump that in as Turkish.  Is it a Turkish tradition to be fiercely loyal to one’s family? In M.’s family, yes, thus the use of a pseudonym here…much to my regret.  Is it a Yankee tradition to be private and loyal? Yes, but somehow I have broken the mold on the Yankee side of my cultural upbringing.

As our friend A. likes to say, we work hard to “take care of each other” and this should involve as much “holding out the light for one another” as possible.  So, thank you, A. and thank you Perihan Hanım for your words and wisdom. It takes a village to raise a marriage, and thank goodness for it. 🙂

This entry was posted in Cross-cultural learning moments, On writing about my life with the Karagöz puppets, Visits from the Karagöz puppets and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Perihan Hanim speaks: On the limits of sharing

  1. Liz Cameron says:

    You’ve got the picture. But we are feeling better about it all today, and clearer too, about us, and about this project, so that is good! LOL’d when I saw the cartoon – which popped into the pinterest cue at just the right moment!

  2. Jack Scott says:

    I always check with Liam if I’m thinking of posting anything that might be a bit personal or private. There are some things I won’t share with complete strangers!

  3. Liz Cameron says:

    This is good blogtiquette (blog-etiquette – must be a better word mixture) indeed!!!

  4. I am quite convinced I would have a best-seller blog and a best-seller book if I let all my dirty laundry hang-out. Gosh I have so much juicy stuff going on in my extended family, it would make a soap opera seem dull. But my husband would divorce me, my kids would hate me and my in-laws would probably try to find a Mafia hit man to get rid of me. I guess if we want our relationships to last longer than our blogs, we have to treat others with kid gloves sometimes, even though we don’t always feel like it. But there is another side of the coin. I just read finished reading “Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness” a lovely book by Alexandra Fuller in which she delves into her parents lives and experiences as white farmers living in Africa. She goes into great personal detail about her parents and her mother’s mental problems. At the end of the book in the acknolwedgements she mentions her husband and three children. I felt that something was missing, that she should have shared more of her own family and not just revealed personal details about her parents. I wondered if her husband had put up an “off-limits” sign. Similarly Amy Chua tiptoes very lightly around her husband in “Hymn of the Tiger Mother” and again I think he put up an “off-limits” sign. It is my impression that M. is more lenient and flexible on this topic than many others.

  5. I agree, Trish, you would likely have a best seller. It is not for nothing that some writing websites recommend that you wait until people are dead to write the real deal! I do think M. is more lenient and flexible – and I appreciate that so. It is a constant process of negociation, though, which is hard, as he is anti-censorship in any form – and I think it is hard to know how to resolve this. We’ll see…

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