It’s 8pm local time, and with a full and heavy heart I lock myself up in my hotel room. The floor radiates heat, coming from nearby hot springs. I really want to hit the sheets, but hold myself back. The crispness needs to wait until I’ve arranged my chaotic thoughts.
Today was women’s day. Not officially, rather for us personally.
We revisit Ilhan, Ramazan and the kids and yet again their hospitality is absolutely incredible and so so touching. We fill up the carpets, with tea in our hands, when grandma enters the room with her -per usual- firy personality. From underneath her cap beeps green clay, and also her leathery, endured hands have gone trough a warm, orangy transformation. She explains vividly she just wanted a fresh look but went a little overboard with the henna. Giggles fill the room, and while she takes her little jar of henna, she grabs my hands decisively and rubs some of the substance into my skin. Although I, as a make up artist,vlike my hands clean and pure, I decide to go with the flow and accept the fact that everything will have a brownish hue for a month or 2.
Also Ilhan’s sister and niece drop by and the atmosphere is cosy and light-hearted, especially when they start dressing me up in local dresses. Honestly, I have to get used to wearing a veil and hiding my skin, because nakedness comes naturally to me. The pureness of skin makes me feel feminine, human and free. Still I don’t want to disappoint my friends, respect is everything to me, and a few minutes later my muslim alter ego twirls around in princess-like dresses.
Honestly, I have to get used to wearing a veil and hiding my skin, because nakedness comes naturally to me. The pureness of skin makes me feel feminine, human and free.
In between all the twirling I pick up on a conversation about Ilhan’s neighbors, Turkmen gypsies, that have put up their home base next to Ramazan’s restaurant. My mom and I can’t control our curiosity and ignore all the safety warnings. We hàve to meet these people and run over next door where we find women of a bewildered kind of beauty. Spattered skin, eyes that are both raving and devious, hair untamed and sticky like cotton candy. I see arms littered with henna drawings and proper tattoos appear from underneath the long, colorful dresses. After some comforting conversation (their significant others forbade them to be photographed), we propose to buy a few of the fashionable robes and commotion spreads out over the camping site. The girls quickly drop their timidity and camera-shyness and pull me in all directions. I’m stuck in a whirlwind of hands and voices while they try to squeeze my voluptuous body into tiny tiny dresses. We finally find a gown that somewhat fits my curves and all I can hear is “Dance, Dance!” I feel overwhelmed by the hard-handed attention and want to hide, but there is no escape, so I show them my best Shakira-like hip action and the crowd goes crazy. That intensity and brutal roughness… I’m impressed! My head spins and fear makes place for intoxicated enthusiasm. But my mom decides to remove me from this intense moment, with the notion that we are expected at the local bridal shop anytime soon!
Yes of course! How could I forget! Today I’m gonna be transformed into a local bride, with all the necessary make up and hair styling!
I collect myself and when we arrive at the shop, the owners and beauticians react reserved. Our sudden Belgian invasion might scare them off a bit, and I can’t blame them. But in a few instants the head make up artist takes control of the situation and works my face with such confidence and knowledge, my suspicion, driven by professional deformation, cools down a bit. And I hour later the Yasmine-ressemblance is totally real!
They finish of my look with accurate precision, and I start talking to a woman next to me who has her ombre retouched. This gorgeous lady lives in the city center of Kiziltepe and is clearly done with all traditional rules and regulations. “ My mission is to have a blossoming career. I want to work, go out, vibe with friends, and maybe then go and look for a man I can really love and appreciate! Being happy and smiley makes people exude réal beauty, so that is how I wanna be!”
Being happy and smiley makes people exude réal beauty, so that is how I wanna be!”
I respect all (harmless) choices in life, traditional or not, but seeing these kind of women standing up against social and cultural pressure pleases my soul. By doing so, this lovely woman clears the way for young, independent individuals in the future, for those who don’t find their happiness in expected marriage and motherhood.
By doing so, this lovely woman clears the way for young, independent individuals in the future, for those who don’t find their happiness in expected marriage and motherhood.
I leave the salon with a dreamy look and feelings of solidarity. Until a few hours later, during a fun and rather intimidate talk with the ladies at Ilhan’s, I get banned from the conversation because as an unmarried lady I should not be able to talk about intimacy and sex. I can smell their disappointment and judgement when I confront them with the fact that I see myself as an independent and sexual human being, married or not. Sadness takes place and I don’t know how to behave anymore. Who do people feel so threatened by someone else’s free spirit and independence?
And so, that same night I lock myself up in the hotel room, trying to figure out the questions in my head…