While walking the dog the other morning in Provincetown (sleepy puppets in tow on my mantle, tabi canım) I was studiously conducting my usual eavesdropping activity.
Now this activity could more *positively* be referred to, Celebi (the modernist puppet) tells me, as the collection (and curation) of my most favorite and surprising overheard snippets from fellow walkers, bikers, drivers and porch-sitters along Commercial Street.
At times, there can be some hum-dingers, but today I will focus on one of those, as it led to an interesting occurrence, let me tell you how this all unfolded.
Kenne unfurled her judgemental puppet-hanky at this point, while scolding, me “one should not listen to another’s conversation, you know, m’lady.” I ignored the unfurling (brushing it off of my face) as well as the scolding. “Kenne,” my retort began “I think it was the very basis of the Ottoman court, the listening in to others’ conversations, don’t you?”
As we traded snappy sentences that morning on the way to Wired Puppy for my daily cup of gourmet coffee, I slowly edged closer and closer to the rambler roses – letting her get caught up in them as her Isadora-Duncan-like trailing scarf became entwined in the thorns.
Feeling only a bit badly, as I knew she would, with her puppet magic, catch up to me, I resumed thinking on my “early exposure to Islam” series of blog posts – as these posts are the basis for the first part of the memoir I am writing about this cross-cultural road trip otherwise known as my marriage.
So there I was, at 6:30 a.m., being walked by walking my dog by the scads of hot pink rambler roses, trying to remember how the ways in which Islam and the Middle East in general first became known to me – years before meeting M. – when I caught a fabulous snippet of conversation while dodging the early morning traffic.
Provincetown natives will recognize the challenge of navigating Commercial Street with a dog during high season when bikes abound. Tiryaki, my narcoleptic, opiate-addicted puppet often intones what sounds like a surfer prayer as I cross the street, saying “dude, may the wave of energy make way for us” before taking another toke on his long, intricate mother-of-pearl-inlaid pipe before slipping back into ignorant bliss.
True to form, the biking population of early morning Provincetown was burgeoning – and I heard two bikers carrying on a conversation that must have been about a recent trip to Egypt. A dark-haired, bespectacled Izod-shirt wearer called out to his friend – a man in drag at this early hour – saying “Egypt is hot as hell in summer, but add Ramadan onto that and hell is not a strong enough word for that trip.”
“Woo-hoo,” Karagoz, the oppositional-defiant puppet cried out, “now THAT’S some controversial action there – and said on on Şeker Bayramı (Eid-al-Fitr) no less!” Cartwheeling around with charisma, he screeched after the bicyclists “Atta boys, shake it up!:” Kenne held her head high, grimacing in silence at this behavior. Although she is the Queen of Maintained Honor and Ladylike Behavior (amongst other titles), she doesn’t even bother with Karagoz most of the time.
In my haze of grief and disconnection from the Turkish press, I had forgotten it was Şeker Bayramı – marking the end of Ramadan.
Not that we celebrate that, particularly, although I get lots of people attempting to be “culturally competent” in asking me about it at work. M. usually at least notes the presence of the day, if nothing else, and tells stories about the holiday in his youth when he would visit his elders and get a sweet treat.
Apparently, I have learned, even secular Turks who rarely (if ever) went to mosque celebrated this holiday. I was not, however, thinking about Şeker Bayramı, I was thinking about what those men had said. After all of my recent thinking on how the commons should be constructed in a globalized, multi-religious world, the tip of the yarn of that yelled out comment led somewhere that my brain wanted to follow. Although I valiantly craned my neck forward to catch more of their quickly-whizzing-away conversation, I lost it – but what I didn’t lose actually really and truly surprised me.
As I turned my head back to our dog, crestfallen at missing a listening-in moment, what I saw on the sidewalk coming my way couldn’t have shocked me more. It was TWO LADIES IN VEILS – they were swiveled back towards the apparently anti-Egyptian men now far down the street on their bikes – and boy were they hoppin’ mad. I can only assume that they had heard the comment and were upset. The ladies were engaged in hot, impassioned conversation in what sounded to me like an Eastern European language – it wasn’t Turkish or Arabic. Now,. these were not the chador-draped Saudi Arabian ladies of our stereotyped imagination, rather the kerchief-heads carved ladies so common in Turkey, but still, it was a first for me in Provincetown, of all places.
Kenne, the Queen of Manners, perked up at the prospect of my bad behavior, and proceeded, at that very moment, to give me a hard and fresh slap to bring me back to attention. “DON’T,” she snarled, “stare at these foreign ladies, m’lady, and I do apologize for slapping you, but you are really staring, and you don’t want them to feel out of place – although indeed – they are QUITE out of place even in this live-and-let-live town.”
Gathering myself together, I stooped down to pick up my dog’s poop before heading for my original coffee destination. “Surely,” I said to the puppets around me (who were all perched like tall Mardi-Gras mask feathers on my back, staring at the veiled ladies going the other way) “I am seeing things.”
Later, as I walked back home on the beach with my extra-large cafe latte and my seagull-happy dog, lo and behold, there were those same ladies, dressed in modest Islamic gear, with greyish-white simple scarves covering their hair. Clearly out for a morning walk just as I was. Were they tourists? Probably.
Why Muslims in Provincetown – a town often best known for what some might call alternative lifestyles and loose morals in some quarters. Maybe that is my own stereotype about what Muslims may or may not want to see – I mean look at Postmodern Muslima who openly blogs about her relationship to sex as well as her Muslim faith. Or, for that matter, check out Deonna Kelli Sayed, who writes about similar matters here.
Regardless, those headscarves that can be so controversial in Europe and parts of the Middle East, well, they have hit Provincetown as well…we are truly a globalized world even out here on the Cape Tip. I wonder if they wear burquinis. That thought even got me thinking back to my guerrilla theatre escapades in 2004-2006 on the beaches of Bodrum. Perhaps not the MOST respectful writing on people who choose to wear the hijab, but if you read all of those posts, you may sympathize with me.
That morning left me (and the puppets) with a lot to think about. What do we care if veiled ladies walk in Ptown? What does it mean? Do we have to analyze everything (yes)? What does this latest drip of globalization mean for the whole melting candle?
Faced with these questions and more – not to mention some apparent homesickness for their beloved Ottoman court in Bursa, those puppets, well, they have retreated to their normal what-to-do-when-confused activity – spin Sufi-style, en masse, on the wooden lazy Susan on the center of the table. It’s whirring away, so we are sure to have more posts on veiling soon enough.
- Ramazan/Ramadan 2012 in Turkey (1eladenecli.wordpress.com)
- Me and myself celebrating Eid (californiahijab.com)
- Iyi Bayramlar! Happy Sugar Festival in Turkey! (turkischland.wordpress.com)
- Eid al-Fitr 3rd day (khabrustan.wordpress.com)
- A Time To Celebrate! (beautifulwriters.wordpress.com)
- Eid greetings around the Muslim world (dawn.com)