I recently returned from a 10-day trip to Turkey, where my best friend from college, Tas, lives and works. Before I left, my New York friends teased me by saying that I’d have “plenty to blog about” because of all the Turkish men I’d meet. To which I dryly responded that there was no way I’d be hooking up with some undeodorized European who may be chockful of STDs.
Because the thing about Turkish men is that they are aggressive. Not ALL of them, of course, but (as is the case with men everywhere) the ones you wish would talk to you never do, and the ones who you least want to spend seven minutes in heaven with are attracted to you like mosquitoes to fruit-scented lotion.
I traveled with Tas, who is Indian, and our friend Monica, a natural blonde, and our ambiguous ethnic identities made for massive male curiosity. Everywhere we went, men on the street pestered us with pick-up lines and kissing noises. I didn’t learn Turkish for “hello,” but I did learn how to say “I’m Indian” and “I’m American” because of all the times Tas had to say these phrases to persistent guys. As a means of a conversation starter, men tried to speak to me in Korean and asked me if I was from China, from Japan, from Uzbekistan. (I told them Kenya.) One man approached me to say, “You are photo?” while waving a camera phone in my face, to which I replied, “No. I am not.”
This got old fast. Tas, the Turkish pro, was quick to flick off the most annoying pursuers, so I learned response tactics from her. On the last night of our trip, when a car stuffed with men making hissing noises followed us down the street, I whipped around, made an obscene crotch-grabbing gesture, screamed “EH! F*CK YOUR MOTHER!” in my best “Cake Boss” accent and flashed them the face of a Japanese dragon monster.
There were some creative stabs at flirting, though, that should be rewarded. A sampling:
1. My friends and I were referred to as “Charlie’s Angels” in the market, which, if you think about the fact there there is an Asian angel and a blonde angel, is two-thirds accurate.
2. Monica tripped on a curb, and a shopkeeper speedily called, “Don’t break your leg – break my heart!”
3. We went to the spice bazaar, which was just rows and rows of men trying to sell you stuff by shouting out “all the single ladies!”, “you give me pleasure in my eyes!” and “hey, fat one!” But one honest guy said, “Please, come to my shop! We have everything inside!…except customers.” He muttered that last part, so we almost stopped out of pity. Pretty effective.
Sadly, none of these attempts were clever enough to woo me into any Turkish beds (or onto any Turkish rugs). I would’ve sooner gone home with a doner kebab.
But there was one man who might have changed my mind. Here’s a fun fact: getting your hair blown out in Istanbul costs $2. Screw you, DreamDry, Drybar, Blow, and all other $40 blow-out businesses – in Turkey, hot, bearded men blow you for a price that’s cheaper than a single subway ride. It’s criminal. We went three times during our trip, and I developed a crush on Kaan, the auburn-bearded, hipster gent who dried my ’do. One visit, I was wearing a halter jumpsuit, and the halter became untied. Kaan handed me the loose string. Our eyes met in the salon mirror, and our fingers almost touched. It was super romantic, as all eye contact is for me (when it’s not making my stomach turn).
Did I act on this romance? Have you met me? Oh, you haven’t? Well, I don’t act on romance unless sandwiches are involved. But Kaan will live on in my memory, as will the feeling of his fingers running through my follicles. He probably doesn’t remember me at all. I have less hair than a baby feather.
Oh, Kaan. Oh, Turkey. I weep for all our possible futures.