It’s been a week since we arrived in Turkey and there are two things to which I have already had to resign myself.
Firstly, I am now mostly called “Stiv” not Steve.
Secondly, I suspect – in the eyes of the average Turk – I’m not very good at being a bloke.
Society here is, let’s say, a little more chauvinistic than back in the UK. It’s still a secular country so I’m not suggesting women are kept from education or forced to wear the burqa. It’s just that it seems, traditionally, the man is expected to do certain things which, over time, I’ve let slide.
For a start, I don’t usually carry a wallet. I’m too adept at losing them so, when it comes to shopping or meals out, I tend to defer to Bec when it comes to bank cards or cash. Friends in the UK have joked that I’m like royalty – but I’m not sure how the Turks see it.
Several times now, at the end of a meal or in the shops, waiters and shop assistants have turned to me expectantly, anticipating that I’ll be the one settling the bill. A shrug and a gesture with my hand has usually been enough to indicate who the cash or card-carrying member of our family is – and, almost without exception, a look follows which is hard to define. I suppose it’s more momentary consternation than anything; the look you might get, for example, if you were sitting among a group of Rolling Stones fans and admitted you like Justin Bieber.
The same happened the other day when the landlord came round unexpectedly for the rent. As Bec was out, I had to admit I didn’t know where she’d put the Turkish lira she had set aside – and, again, there was that momentary puzzlement.
But, this time – casting an eye over my shoulder as we spoke at the doorstep – our landlord could also clearly see a basket of laundry and evidence someone was doing the ironing. There was a moment’s awkward silence while he seemed to struggle to decide if I really was doing household chores or if Bec was hiding somewhere.
In our house, there’s always been a division of labour. I’m not that fond of cooking so Bec does most of it and, in return, I’m washer-up in chief and ironer.
But, as the landlord returned to his car, spoke to his driver and they both glanced up for a second or two before starting the engine and driving away, I got the feeling that’s not necessarily how works here.
In Turkey, women have the vote, dress as they please, run businesses or take executive roles in commerce – but, in subtle ways, it seems there may still be some roles defined by gender
As a result, I think I may have to learn to carry a wallet – and iron like a ninja…