The Foreign Feminist

feminist11Spend a short time in Turkey and you will notice that on the surface, women here are more feminine than the majority of their American counterparts. That’s not to say that American women have abandoned their bras and their razors, but the gender roles here are just somehow different. If you look at the number of housewives (homemakers, whatever) in Turkey versus the number of housewives (homemakers) in the States, I feel like those figures would support my claim. While plenty of women have careers outside of the home in Turkey, it seems that as a whole, Turkish society still allows for women to stay at home.

Since the “f” word has appeared in the title and the photo for this post, perhaps you are expecting me to complain about gender roles in Turkey. Well, I’m not going to. Over the last few days/weeks, I’ve been wondering what the “feminist” spectrum really looks like. Of course, I believe women and men must be socially and economically equal. I believe both sexes are loved equally by God. Both sexes deserve the same opportunities to achieve their goals and pursue happiness. If they have the same job, their salaries ought to be the same. But does being a feminist mean that I HAVE TO want to be top dog at my job? Does it mean that I HAVE TO want to put my career before everything else, including my marriage and my family?

While working on my master’s this summer, I told my advisor about my promotion at work. She liked to patronize me and suggested I only got the promotion because I speak English. I corrected her right away and let her know that I work with many other English-speakers. Then she said,”Well, good for you. Keep climbing that ladder. God knows you definitely wouldn’t want to be a Turkish housewife.” WHY IS THAT A BAD THING?!

Could being a feminist ALSO possibly mean that if I choose to, I can have as many children as I want — which is realistically no more than two — and then stay home to raise them myself? I worked in a daycare for four years. I took care of infants (8 weeks old and up), which meant I regularly had to take babies away from their crying mothers and assure everyone that the babies would be just fine when they came to get them 8 hours later.

Don’t get me wrong – 90% of those mothers were doing what they absolutely had to do in order to support their families, and they were spending a FORTUNE to make sure their babies were taken care of. But deep down, it always terrified me to think that I would most likely be one of those mothers one day, and I wouldn’t have $15,000 to send my infant to the “best” daycare in my area. I would most likely only be able to afford those sketchy home daycares that may or may not double as a meth lab.

I live in a country where it’s normal and acceptable to be a housewife. I’ve seen the extremes, too. There are the Desperate Housewives, who leave their villas looking like a walking advertisement for their plastic surgeon, in an ensemble that costs more than my entire wardrobe combined. Then there are the desperate housewives (there’s a difference) who have at least three kids dangling off of their exhausted bodies, which they have to hoist up onto the bus, along with the stroller and groceries, and they probably haven’t had even five minutes to themselves just to shower in two days.

I’d most likely fall somewhere in the middle, which isn’t a terrible place to be. But of course, at this point, being a stay-at-home mom is more of a pipe dream for me. I’ve crunched some numbers, and I would have to work at my current job for at least 3 more years before a baby could even be a twinkle in my eye.

Then of course, there’s the other side of the coin. Even if Canim won the lottery and we could live in a penthouse overlooking the sea and I could afford to fly to NY as often as I’d like while still being able to afford having my hair blown out thrice a week, what kind of a housewife would I be? You decide:

– I used detergent to mop the balcony (apparently that’s a no-no).
– I look up recipes on the internet – which women here won’t explicitly poo-poo, but they’ve remarked on it with some disdain. Meanwhile, I feel like I should be applauded for actually using Pinterest for recipes and attempting to make them Pinterest-perfect to catch up with my peers in the States!  Excuse me for not having the recipe for dolma in my DNA!
– I have no qualms about paying another woman to clean my home.
– I have no qualms about asking my husband to drop our work clothes off at the dry cleaners so everything can be pressed to perfection (because neatness matters MUCH MORE here than it does in the States).
– If I don’t have polished nails, I can still sleep well at night. How can I clean my house AND maintain a perfect manicure???? CHOOSE ONE.
– I am comfortable leaving my house without makeup, although admittedly I will not go to work that way.
– I can relax and even SLEEP knowing that there is laundry to be folded, floors to be vacuumed, windows to be cleaned (and what’s the point of that?  They always look streaky and the dust outside makes them dirty again a few hours later).
– I love having my own money and spending it or saving it (LOL) as I please. If I had to ask my husband for money, I think it would make me sick.

So, I could be a successful housewife, just not by Turkish standards. But my husband loves me, even with all of the things I listed, and he doesn’t measure me by Turkish standards. My value as a woman does not depend on my domestic capabilities or my professional accolades. It depends on something else, which my husband already seems to understand (hence his decision to be my husband), and I, for some reason, am struggling to figure out.


Spoiler Alert: We ELOPED!

"It's a beautiful night. We're looking for something [fun] to do. Hey baby, I think I wanna marry you."

“It’s a beautiful night. We’re looking for something [fun] to do. Hey baby, I think I wanna marry you.”

Your eyes do not deceive you. The yabanci bride who only wanted one small, simple, intimate wedding ceremony will have had THREE celebrations (of varying degrees) before the end of 2015. But hey, at least the first one was small, simple, and intimate. 🙂 

We eloped for practical and romantic reasons. Practical: Housing. It’s a long story, but I was going to have to change (read: DOWNGRADE) my apartment and we were tired of living in two different cities, so in an effort to keep things helal (or halal or kosher or whatever you want to say), we decided to be married on paper so we could live together without feeling a black cloud of ayip looming over us. Romantic: There was no way we could wait until January to be husband and wife. We’re each other’s best friends, partners, teammates, all of that good stuff. To us, engagement is not about figuring out whether or not your fiance is “the one”. That’s what dating is for. I told Canim not to propose unless he was prepared to marry me the next day if need be (why would “need be”? I don’t know but I had to be dramatic to make my point). So, we were ready to be married as soon as we got engaged. Engagement (again, to us) is about planning, preparing, and making arrangements for the future. Where will you live? How will you balance finances? Blah blah blah boring adult things. 

In July, we got my parents’ blessing to go ahead and be married on paper as long as we will still have the reception in January and the American reception in July. Fair enough. Everybody gets a little bit of what they want. I bought a simple lace sheath, my brilliant and artistic friend made me a brooch bouquet (which will be used at all three weddings), I Pinterested a hairstyle, ordered some pink shoes and sixpence coins, and two weeks after I returned to Turkey (August 30th), I became Mrs. Canim. 

In another post, I will explain the process for an American-Turkish marriage ceremony. Most of that was a blur, to be honest, because Canim is SUPER efficient (a quality that did not really shine until I returned to Turkey), so I just had to sign along the dotted line for most of it. 

The Wedding Day: 
Canim took me to the kuafor for hair and make-up at 10:30. Before that, we made a stop at Platin to buy new nail polish for my “professional” manicure. I had a meltdown the night before over my inability to successfully apply two coats of nail polish to any of my 20 nails. I just can’t do it when I’m nervous!

After I was dolled up, my brother-in-law (BIL) and mother-in-law (MIL) picked me up. I was disappointed to learn that the bozos at the jeweler had failed to have my wedding band ready in time for the ceremony. However, I opted to not go Bridezilla on said bozos because, to quote my husband (hehehe), “Darling, here is Turkey. Every time something is wrong.” The end. Full stop. There’s always something wrong, so don’t sweat it. 

One hour before the ceremony, when we were less than 1 KM away from the house, the bozos called and told my BIL that the wedding band was ready. So, BIL turned around to go exactly where we had just come from. He drove like a bat outta Hades to get the ring. While MIL and I waited in the car, she turned to me and said, “The box in the bag is yours.” So I opened it and discovered a SIX PIECE lingerie set. Gorgeous white satin. I was flattered, humbled, and then REALLY embarrassed to think about what must have been going through her mind as she picked out the set. I mean…you know. And she’s his MOM. Agggh. Anyway. 

So, I got ready at his parents’ house, and sat on a bed staring at the clock thinking,”30 minutes until I become Mrs. Canim. This is a big deal.” And I started shaking a little and my eyes were welling up with tears, so my darling MIL swooped in with some baklava (I had 3 pieces – sue me) and helped me buckle my shoes because I couldn’t do it myself. 

The Ceremony:
I’m not gonna lie to you guys. The Turkish marriage ceremony is rather…unceremonious. Canim’s father and two best friends walked me into the belediye wedding salon (aka city hall). He was pacing and waiting anxiously for me to arrive. When we saw each other, we hugged and tried really hard not to cry. After taking lots of pictures, everyone left us alone to say our vows to each other (Turkish couples normally don’t do that, as it is assumed that by showing up for the ceremony, you already promise to be the ideal spouse until you die. But I’m American. I like contracts and having things spelled out explicitly and without confusion – plus I thought it would be more romantic than “evet”). We said a slightly tweaked but mostly traditional version of American vows, but I said them in English and he said them in Turkish. Then, we walked upstairs where everyone was waiting. We sat down, the officiant sat down, said a lot of things that I barely understood because I was waiting (and maybe even leaning in very closely) for the question that sounded something like, “[Yabanci Bride], Canim eş olarak kabul ediyor musunuz?” And I said,”EVET!” But I was too eager and she held up the microphone so I could say it again. Then she asked him, he said, “Evet,” she said some more things, we signed some papers, and she left. One of our witnesses pointed to the floor very urgently but I didn’t know what she was saying. Someone else said,”Ayak!” and I remembered to do this: 

Ayak Basmak - Foot Stomping I stomped on his foot to show who's "boss" - but really, he had made no attempt to stomp on mine - so who's really the boss?

Ayak Basmak – Foot Stomping
I stomped on his foot to show who’s “boss” – but he had made no attempt to stomp on mine – so who’s really the boss? 🙂

We switched our rings onto our left hands, had a short and sweet kiss (once on the lips and once on my forehead, which I found so adorable), and then cut the cake. Oh, this was our cake topper: 

International Love Courtesy of Giving Ink on Etsy!

International Love
Courtesy of Giving Ink on Etsy!

After the ceremony, we took pictures in a park along the sea, but it really felt like taking pictures on the surface of the freaking sun. Then, we went back to his parents’ house to freshen up. After that we had dinner at our favorite restaurant which means “Snow White” but has absolutely nothing to do with a princess or dwarves. 

After dinner came the real party – our “mini-moon” at the Hilton. Let me tell you – I’ve never stayed in a Hilton before, and now that I have, I don’t know how I can ever stay in a pansion or even a different 5-star hotel. That place was a piece of American heaven, I tell ya. It was like sleeping on a cloud. We were treated like stars, with far too many free drinks (including a bottle of champagne), impressive room service, and they let us check out several hours later than we were supposed to. It was paradise. 

All in all, every time I think of that day (aka 5 days ago), I can’t help but grin ear-to-ear. I’m glad we didn’t wait. 

Got the ring (mine is obviously on the right) just in time, so I didn't have to foam at the mouth like Bridezilla. Crisis averted.

Got the ring (mine is obviously on the right) just in time, so I didn’t have to foam at the mouth like Bridezilla. Crisis averted.

Brooch bouquet. :)

Brooch bouquet. 🙂


Poppin' bottles

Poppin’ bottles