On Being Foreign and Female in Istanbul
We all think we have a brilliant sense of humor, but I think mine has been getting a workout lately. It’s a matter of being American female in a country ruled by those with dangly bits. Not women, in other words.
I’ve wracked my brain, but no- I’ve never been to a place with so many… how does one say?… testosterone-crammed streets? Men are everywhere. All the time.
You might assume it a sort of mecca for single girls, but no.
Or at least you don’t see any single girls that don’t have a red-light district job (and even then, a large proportion are trannies, with afore-mentioned dangly bits). Seriously.
Even as I write this, in a restaurant with two men, there’s a man standing across the street doing what men here do best: stare. I realize there aren’t many blondes in these parts, but for a so-called international city, Istanbul takes the cake on Gawk.
You’d think they’d a.) never met a foreigner before and b.) they’d never seen a female of the species up to the moment they set eyes on me.
We’ve been wondering out loud (Armando and I) whether or not most of these men actually have jobs, since they seem to spend their hours upon hours sitting in the street.
They drink tea or some such derivative, and muttering under their breath. ‘Humuluh humuluh (add hawking noise here, with a fist raised for emphasis) Humuluh!’
Can you actually get paid for that? If so, where do I sign up? Whoops, I lack the necessary accouterments here for any sort of acknowledgement that doesn’t involve a leer or a scowl.
Even our local homeless guy (the Captain, who we saw sitting in a café this morning drinking an over-priced coffee- wearing nice shades and chatting on his cell phone), who lives in our local park, doesn’t respect me.
‘If problem sleep me,’ was his advice* about staying in the van.
This is the point where I refrain from making Ahab or Moby references, for obvious reasons.
I have nothing against men, or even Turkish men. I just wish they’d stop playing with their junk (not the discreet hand-in-my-pocket-looking-for-change way, but the getting down to business in the street, in detail, way) while they watch me pass.
I wish they’d be less condescending, stop talking at me or looking to Armando for the simplest of exchanges. I wish they’d stop trying to add a coin or two to any price, just because they think they can.
To be fair, there was a fella that tried to charge Armando 3.50 for some coffee, where the price was clearly written ‘3,’ and that had nothing to do with his manliness (as you can see below).
But yes, sometimes it gets to be too much to feel like the sole woman in a city of millions, who isn’t covered head-to-toe and seems to be the bane of Turkish sensibilities.
Or maybe I’m just giving in to my hyper-sensitive female urges, with an American flair for the dramatic.
It still doesn’t change the very simple fact that I am. Surrounded. By dudes.