Step 2 Yield yourself to a higher power....
Today is the day of my Nişan—this means engagement, or rather, socially recognized engagement, since the ring was given and the marriage suggested some seven months ago. My friend Ekrem assures me that there could have easily been two other celebrations before this, one the isteme, or the official requesting of the daughter’s hand, and another that was so obscure and superflous to my mind that I can’t even remember what it is or what it’s called. After this are the Henna Night, the Düğün (translated as ‘wedding’, but I’m not sure it works since what we Americans do in one fell swoop, the Turks and Kurds do in several smaller steps) and the nikah which is the legally recognized signing of the documents at the Marriage Bureau which will be where the white dress has to be worn. There are not twelve steps to this ordeal, however there are enough that I think I can safely say I feel like I am going through a twelve step program.
When you do a Google image search for ‘The Banality of Evil’ and ‘Wedding’ this was one of the first images to come up.
Both books have connections with Israel and after the purchase, I wondered if everyone would assume I am trying to push the agenda of the American Jewish Lobby, since, after working for the CIA, that’s the second most popular job that Americans have—according to a great many citizens of Turkey.
It’s cold today, and sleeting in big blobs of frozen rain. I decided to get a little gussied up and ducked into the barber shop for a shave and a haircut. In the course of conversation, my barber discovers that tonight is my engagement party, and as an added bonus, he gives me a mud mask. ‘It will take five years off your face,’ he assures. He is from Kars, a very cold city in the east on the border with Armenia. He looks like a man in a film about Kars, called ‘Kosmos’, who was a little off the wall and otherworldly.
Kosmos, my Barber (or his Kartian movie twin)
The barber shaves my face, clips my nose hair and ear hair (since when do I have ear hair?) and in a surprise move, sets his lighter on high, lights it, and puts it in my ear. I have never had someone put fire in my ears before (Mom always said, don’t stick things in there) and I tried not to flinch, inwardly or outwardly, and made an effort to just roll with it, to look and feel like I did this every day. The scent of burning hair wafted through the frigid little shop (since when do I have ear hair?) and I desperateiy yearned to scratch at the drying mud which was itching like hell.
When he removed the mask, I did indeed, look a little bit younger, though that may be because my glasses were sitting on the counter. After a glass of tea, I hopped over to the grocers and picked up some eggs. My contribution to tonights dinner is the old standby, Deviled Eggs—my way of doing it kind of a combination of my sister’s and my friend Jessica’s—the only Southern contribution to the evening.
Delal and I are a bit of an odd pairing. Most of the mixed couples I know are rather well to do—either both man and woman, or one or the other. Both of us come from what the rest of our countries consider backwaters, and while not poor, I think we both are bit more earthy, say, than the Istanbul or Boston elite. Who would have thought the granddaughter of a Mesopotamia Kurdish villager and the grandson of a Georgian tobacco farmer and lay preacher would ever fall in love and get married?