I'll show YOU conservative.
19.3.10 - 19.3.10 10 °C
Turkey's population is 99.8% Muslim. This fact has many implications for daily life, the worst of which is the lack of bacon or pork products of any kind (although sometimes the meat tastes similar, only to be described simply as 'meat.' Suspicious). Culinary misfortune aside, another part of life that has been affected since moving here is dating.
Keep in mind this writer moved to Turkey from Ottawa, otherwise known as Nomenawa, so it is not as if her dating status has plummeted from Hero to Zero by any means. This is not to say she has had no opportunities - to be clear, many Turkish men have expressed interest through comments on the street (the best was, 'I wish I was your horse!'), creepy stalker messages on facebook, and once using a discarded Visa receipt to find my name. Wonder why I didn't call? Creeep!
You would think that after living in a city with little to no attention from the male species and moving to a city where men practically worship me I would become a dating machine, like an Energizer bunny that runs on complements and dinners instead of batteries. I wish! Instead, quite counterintuitively, I have retreated once again from the dating world (by choice this time!) and at best have become a conservative dater.
You are probably laughing and picturing this ironically, a gal who ONLY kisses on the first date. Think again dear reader! For it is so much worse than that. Last weekend I went to see a movie with a nice Turkish guy I had been out with a few times, and some other friends. We snuck bottles of wine into the theatre and drank our way into our own colourful Wonderland. The combination of Johnny Depp in makeup and drinking in public was exhilarating, and in my excitement I allowed the Turkish fellow to advance to the hand-holding stage. Big mistake, it was way too soon for such a bold move.
The thing is, over here there are some common misconceptions about both foreign women and blond women. I am both, cause for celebration in Canada but for a headscarf in Turkey.
To Turkish men blond hair is the mark of an Eastern European woman freshly liberated from oppression and poverty of the Soviet Union and desperate for a better life. Large numbers of these women came to Turkey after the end of the Cold War and soon found that their slim physique and blond hair made them exceptionally desired by Turkish men. It was common for these beautiful, blond, Russian women to enter the sex trade, and thus the stereotype was born.
Clearly though I am not Russian nor a natural blond so that outdated belief is not preventing me from dating. The real reason I become more like a nun as each day passes is because some Turkish men have picked up on a key characteristic of some western women and developed disturbing dating habits as a result.
You see, compared to conservative Muslim women, liberal western gals are seen as morally loose. We are more inclined to sleep with a man we have no intention of marrying, sometimes even after a very brief courtship (if you can call a tall raki a courtship). This belief is so prevalent that social norms have developed that are actually quite horrifying. A Turkish man will date a western woman and sleep with her for practice so that once he marries a good conservative Muslim woman, who has of course been saving herself for marriage, he will be able to better please her in the bedroom. It's horrible - and it's true! I have heard many stories of this happening and was even warned by my Turkish roommate that men think this way about foreign women: 'easy sex.' I heard one story of a German girl who dated a Turkish guy for two years only to hear through a friend that he had recently been married to an unfortunate, oblivious Turkish girl. His parents had met both women and were in full support of his two relationships: one for marriage, and one to practice for marriage.
I suppose the discrepancy between these two groups of women is much the same as it is in Canada: there are the girls who guys try to take home from the bar, then there are the girls who guys try to take home to their parents. In Turkey it is disturbing that the dividing line is based on nationality rather than neckline, and appalling that parts of society condone infidelity and dishonesty as practice for a conservative partnership.
So back to holding hands. The thing is, if anyone tells me to do anything my first instinct is to do the opposite, regardless of how silly it is. It is completely immature but it seems I am hardwired to try to be the opposite of how people expect. This trend began early. Before my age was in the double digits I had shown everyone that I would not conform by inventing bizarre hairstyles, wearing pajamas to school, and performing the role of Prince Charming when my grade 2 class performed Sleeping Beauty. (Side note: technically my first kiss was with Laura Nairn when we were 8, for the sole reason that no one thought a girl should try out for the part of the prince. We weren't told to actually kiss but someone told me it wasn't necessary so of course I deemed it so).
Anyway. You can imagine my reaction to the notion that all western girls are easy but make good practice for the relationships that count. It is almost enough to make me demand a proposal of marriage before I allow any further hand-holding. At the very least all I can think of are ways to show him how un-easy I can be. Case in point, holding hands after hanging out a few times was WAY too soon.
I predict my dating experiences in Turkey will remain similar to those in a nunnery, but I am ok with that. After all, how can a relationship blossom when you constantly wonder whether he sees you as his ball and chain or batting cage? I see myself as more of an antique convertible anyway: flashy, spontaneous, full of expensive fuel, and speeding away from this bizarre dating scene, of course going the wrong way down a one-way street.