The brand name of the black dress I bought is “Missguided.” To wear this dress in public anywhere in Turkey would be exactly that: misguided. I attract enough stares already for being foreign. I don’t want to attract any more stares for being foreign and showing too much flesh. But the dress makes me feel good. It’s a knee-length number with a scoop neck and a slit going up the left thigh. The dress itself is impractical but it’s not impractical to want to feel good. The slit is what moves the dress into scandalous territory, but in the dressing room, I reached the verdict that I could wear this dress secretly under a raincoat when I go to a friend’s apartment and then strut my sartorial stuff when I’m safely behind closed doors. The other dress, a pink and black floral ensemble, announced itself as the winner of what I would wear to the opera in Budapest next month. I bought them both.
Meanwhile, my friend Kelley shopped for athletic equipment on the other side of the mall. When we met up again, she asked me if I wanted to look for stud earrings. My left ear had become infected from my sensitivity to strange metals, so I thought after dabbing my irritated lobe with tea tree oil, I would return to the smallest of studs, the kind of earrings tween girls wear when they first get their ears pierced and are waiting for their ear piercings to heal. Kelley and I asked to see the gold and diamond earrings, although diamonds are way beyond my budget. I purchased what Patrick from Auntie Mame calls a pair of “almost diamonds.” I still have a lot of big dangly earrings, which like my new black dress, I will have to hold off on wearing for a while.
On the metro, going back to the Asian side, a man glowered at us for a few minutes, for no reason, except that we must be horrible, disgusting Americans in his eyes. Just imagine how much more hateful his stare would have been if I’d had on my new black dress.
Kelley used the speech-to-text feature on her phone to ask our friends waiting for us at a restaurant to order us menemen with cheese. The text read, “We’re almost there. Can you order us many men with cheese?”
On the final stretch up the hill to the restaurant in Uskudar, the dolmush driver asked where we were from. I answered, “America,” which sent him on an anti-American rant. The woman sitting behind me was kind enough to translate his anti-American tirade. Everyone on the dolmush, about ten of us in all were listening to the opinionated driver. “He doesn’t like your country,” the woman behind me offered. “He doesn’t like your government. He doesn’t like your politics. He doesn’t like your war in Iraq. He doesn’t like Donald Trump.”
“Neither do we,” I said.
“Trump hayır!” Kelley said, meaning, “NO Trump!”
The driver loosened up a little when I said, “Istanbul çok güzel,” (Istanbul is very nice) and Kelley said, “İstanbulu seviyorum.” (I love Istanbul.) When the man continued his inhospitable remarks, I said, “Çok ayıp. Amerika güzel,” (Shame on you! America is nice!) at which my fellow passengers all laughed. What can I say? I’m a comedian! Or maybe there’s just too much tension between our countries and people are happy to break the tension with laughter, even if it’s at me using my Tarzan Turkish to shame a dolmush driver for badmouthing Americans. I think we all need to try harder to break the tension.
As Auntie Mame would say, “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!”