Challenges and Girly Stuff

A commentary on girly stuff.  Normally I do not write often about my issues with Turkey, or with feminine issues.  However, living in Turkey, sometimes there are challenges.  Especially with the girly stuff.   What I mean by that, is that in many areas of life my husband can aid my cultural assimilation, but he really has no idea what the Turkish terms for some of the things I ask him, especially when they pertain to women’s health or beauty issues.  I research things on my own, but sometimes the translation for beauty items is not direct.

Some of the challenges pertaining to women’s products, is lack of variety.  For menstruation products, they sell pads and OB tampons (without the applicator) ONLY.  There are several brands and sizes of pads.  There are several sizes of tampons as well, but OB seems to have cornered the Turkish market.   I know this is a problem for some of my friends.  Also, tampons are not sold in all grocery stores, which can definitely be a bummer.  Though, they do sell condoms EVERYWHERE.

Well, away from feminine products and on to girly stuff.  The other day I really needed a special  shampoo.  The saga went on for a few weeks.  It all started like this…

I have very fine, fly away hair.  I tried out a new product I had bought in the US.  It is supposed to take care of flyaway hair and make it look smooth and sleek.  Well—It does just that, all too well!  This product was made of silicone and I could not seem to get it out of my hair.  My hair looked lank and greasy even *right after* I washed it.  Gross.  Also I was limited to pony-tails, as otherwise I looked as if I had poor hygiene.   I washed and washed my hair, but it did not improve.  I looked it up online.  I was supposed to use Clarifying Shampoo–whatever that was.  Bülent did not know what it was, I asked some friends (in Turkish) and they were confused too.  There was no direct translation.  So I decided to do something I am know for—improvise.

First: I used Dish Soap (Dawn)—I thought, well it cleans dishes right?   No go!  Just dry and dirty hair!

Second: I used Dish Washer Detergent—because you know that stuff literally dissolved food left in pans.  Didn’t work.  Now I had a dry scalp and dirty hair.

Then I tried an apple vinegar and lemon juice mix which was supposed to “clarify” hair.  The result—the bathroom smelled like vinegar, Oh Yay!

So then, I decided to bite the bullet and go to some super fancy hairdressers.  I did buy some Kérastase Bain Clarifiant (Because Clarifying DOES translate more directly into French!  Woot Woot!)  So for 50 liras I got a bottle of fancy shampoo about twice the size of a travel bottle.  Worth every penny.  But if that hadn’t worked, my friend had given me some kitchen degreaser to try.  We even tested if it would bleach my hair.  I am SO glad I didn’t have to bust that out.

Moral of the story…

1)Bring clarifying shampoo in suitcase when travelling to Turkey,

2) Don’t use products in your hair that contain ingredients used for heavy duty engine protection.

3) Dishwashing Detergent is not meant for hair.


Junk in the Trunk? Not in Mine!

The other day I was having a conversation with some male colleagues.  They were asking about the dress code at work.  For women, the rule is–if you wear pants, you need to wear a long jacket, or a tunic.  They weren’t sure of the point.  Why a jacket or a tunic with pants and not skirts?

That is when I had to point out the obvious.  Pants enhance and showcase the posterior more so than a skirt.  That posterior would otherwise be known as “Junk in the Trunk” or the “Badonkadonk.”  Not to create a stereotype, but as my husband says, the women of Turkey have a different chassis.  The general figure here is more curvaceous than the general Anglo build.  (I stress general in both cases as there are always differences within any population group.)

When I started dating my husband and I asked him how he liked my figure.  He told me I had a cute “American behind.”  I did not quite know  how to interpret that.  When I moved to Turkey I realized that  “American behind” was code for tiny heiny.  After I  moved here and tried to buy pants I found I had to get them to tailored.  They had to take out the extra fabric at the hips and behind.  Thank goodness  tailoring is inexpensive.

There is a term here called “balik etli.”  Literally translated it means something like “with fish meat.”  The actually meaning is plump, or full figured but with a positive connotation.  Here women with a little  meat on their bones are considered sexier than thinner women.  One way to see this is the translation of thin.  In Turkish thin translates as “zayif,” but it also means weak or poor.  That the word for thin actually means something else with a negative connotation is very telling.  When people, particularly women and children are slender they are often seen as being sickly, weak or potentially ill.  Last spring, when I  lost a few pounds for my wedding I was chastised quite often about my weight.  I was told I needed to eat more, and gain weight.  I was practically force fed at family dinners.

I have to say it is nice to live in a culture where I could gain ten pounds and be considered more attractive.  While it is good to eat healthy, it is nice to know the focus is on health and not weight.  It is lovely to be relieved of some the pressure and internal guilt about food and weight that is so stressed in American society.  I suppose for that, I am willing to wear a jacket to cover my non-exist behind.

Amasra: Last Road Trip with the FamFam

Before the wedding, when my parents were in Turkey we took the opportunity to see as many parts of Turkey as possible.  We went to Cappadocia and saw the fairy chimneys.  Then we started on our Black Sea tour.  The first stop was Safranbolu, and the next was Amasra.

Amasra is a small town on the Black Sea,.  The industry is primarily fishing and tourism.  The trip there is pretty amazing.  You have to drive through the mountains, there are one lane bridges and high passes through the mountains when the road ends six inches from a hundred foot sheet drop with no guardrail.  While the driver has to have their eyes glued to the road the passengers can enjoy the troop.  The drive is incredibly scenic.  From the last mountain you drive up and over there is an amazing view of the town of Amasra.  AmasraIt is on a protected cove with two small peninsulas shielding it from the main sea.  Amasra is best known for its delicious fish and the “Amasra Salad”

Amasra 130

A mix of lettuce, arugula, green onions, green garlic shoots, dill, radishes, parsley, pickled beets, carrots and some other delicious and spicy additions.


We were there in the off season so it was nice and quiet.  We were just there to enjoy the sights and the fish.  What was interesting was that people were trying to pick us up.  There were some older women waiting on the streets, and when we parked the car they raced up to us, competing over offering us rooms at their pensions or homes.


We ended up staying in a hotel right on the water.  The pensions offered by the women who were cruising us were well priced and safe, but not on the water.  We were only there for one night and so we wanted to be able to appreciate the sea.


We had a fantastic time and it was a lovely trip with my parents.  We headed back to Ankara the next day to see some of the local sites and get ready for the Turkish wedding.

Waxing and Homonyms

On Wednesday I did something I have been wanting to do for a while, yet at the same time dreading it.

For weeks I have not been shaving so I could participate in the Turkish practice of waxing.

Turkish women wax their body hair as culturally body hair on women is considered unclean.   They wax *everything*.  I asked my friend about the practice, she said that she waxed everything in the past, even her arms.  She gave me a recommendation for a waxer.  Then she demonstrated the depth of her friendship.  She called, made my appointment (I did not have the necessary Turkish vocabulary,) and then told me she would meet me there to translate what I wanted to the esthetician.  She did say I was on my own for the waxing–which is best for our friendship considering the positions I had to assume.

While it was not butterflies and kittens the waxing was not nearly as painful as I thought it would be.  Actually, it was not really painful at all, though that may be due to the skill of the esthetician.  It was an interesting process, and also interesting to think that a majority of Turkish women do this on a regular basis.  While I was assimilating culturally I also found my first Turkish homonyms

Aci—means spicy.  Aci—also means hurt.  So at first  was confused when she said, “This will be a little bit spicy.” (in Turkish.)  However the word confusion was quickly cleared up when a large chunk of hair was removed.

Bir az aci= This will hurt a little

The second homonym is “paket.”  In Turkish “Alo Paket,” means take out.  In a restaurant if you ask for “paket,” it means take home package otherwise known as a “Doggie Bag.”  As it turns out “paket” also means the nether regions.   So when an esthetician asks you if you want a “paket” wax that means both front and back and everything in between.

Both words are good to know.  Beware yabancis, if you ask for paket in the wrong context you may end up getting something you were not expecting.

Beauty Mishap and Translations

I needed a haircut. Bulent suggested go with his mother to the hairdresser again. I decided against this because :

A) Last time he cut it too short and I did not know how to protest.

B) She doesn’t understand enough English to translate and vice versa I don’t have enough Turkish.

C) He was snooty and I didn’t like the style.

So Bulent and I went to the hairdressers a couple of days ago. He dutifully sat beside me and translated back and forth between me and the hairdresser. He did a great job, no comment was too small, and he was very patient. I came away with a lovely cut and a bored, but gratified man.

Today I realized that my eyebrows were starting to resemble caterpillars marching across my face. As great a job as Bulent did at the hairdressers, I did not want to repeat the translation job while getting my eyebrows waxed. My first mistake.

My second mistake…enthusiasm.

My eyebrows are much thinner now. Thinner than I would like. If someone else had done it, I would have wanted my money back. Also, they are uneven. It looks like a skinny momma caterpillar is marching across my face with a baby caterpillar in tow. I am not particularly thrilled with the situation, but have no one to blame but myself. I was stern when chastising myself for doing a bad job, and reminded myself that I would have to live with the consequences of my actions. I do not think I will do it again. Thankfully Bulent looks at my legs more than my eyebrows, so he will not really notice. But to will haunt me until my eyebrows grow back and that poor baby caterpillar marching across my face grows up.

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He Rocks My Socks

We have been together for five years, and every night is still like a slumber party.  He still opens doors for me and carries my bags.  It is just how he is.  In the beginning, I was not old enough to go to bars with him.  He  bought me my first legal drink.  When he learned I was a feminist he took me on a date to see Benazir Bhutto speak.  In the grungy student apartment in Cambridge, he braved the kitchen to make me breakfast in bed every Saturday.

When I went back to school at night, and was working full time during the day, he made me breakfast and packed me a lunch and dinner.  Every. Day.  When I need to cry he hands me a tissue, holds me until I am done and pours me a glass of wine.  If we don’t have wine, he will go out and buy it.

Today is his day, and it will be a good one.

Happy Birthday Aşkım, the 5th together so far, with many more to come.


With lots of love, from me, and Butterfinger.

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