Look, I'm not a big fan of religion. I'll just say it right out. I think it's daft to alter your behavior based on the fact that there might be a supernatural being watching your every move, who punishes and rewards you according to some secret plan which you can't find out about until after you're dead. BE is not comfortable with my atheism, though he's not big on religion either. He's kind of like an agnostic who's afraid of God. He figures it's a win-win situation. He doesn't have to do religious things like forgo alcohol and pray all the time, but he believes in God just in case there's a God. He doesn't want God booting him out of Heaven on a technicality.
"Right," I told him. "Like God isn't onto that trick."
Now, superstition I'm a little funnier about. I'm not comfortable with umbrellas being opened indoors. I trace this to the time I was like 6 and my mom told me it was bad luck to open an umbrella indoors, and I was all "We'll see about that," and opened an umbrella indoors and knocked something off the table and broke it an got into trouble. So it's true that opening an umbrella indoors is bad luck, and I have some empirical truth to back it up. Turks, by the way, open umbrellas indoors like it's going out of style.
I also don't walk under ladders. Especially here, where guys on ladders are pretty slaphappy about letting things drop. I'm not scared of Friday the 13th but I do have some feelings about it. And I don't quite think karma is a crock of shit either. Today, though, I stepped in gum. I try to keep my Gum Karma good by never throwing gum on the ground, but sometimes I still step in gum anyway. I admit to altering my behavior because of karma by always throwing my gum somewhere that someone else won't step in it.
So for me, that's enough to worry about. But according to my MIL, I'm definitely irresponsible in the area of Evil Eye protection. The Evil Eye is Nazar in Turkish. I'm not 100% clear on what the evil eye is. It has to do with jealousy, I think, and bad things happening to you if someone is jealous of you or something you have. The Evil Eye is sometimes related to blue eyes, at least according to the occasional villager who snatches her child away if I'm looking at it. I've been told that my blue eyes are evil for some people, and will bring them bad luck. So I'm very sorry to all those people I've given bad luck to because of my eyes. I'm very powerful, apparently. If only I could wrinkle my nose like Samantha and have the house be clean and the laundry folded and put away.
But even if you're unclear on the Evil Eye and how it works, you can still prevent it. One way to prevent it is with a Nazar boncuk, which is a pretty blue bead that kind of looks like an eye. You can put a Nazar boncuk at your front door, or hang one from your rear-view mirror, or wear them as clothing and jewelry.
This, for example, is our nazar boncuk. I haven't hung it yet because I haven't worked out which walls are soft enough to pound a nail into in our new house.
Our Nazar boncuk has Ali because BE is Alevi. Those two things on either side of the boncuk are Ali's special swords. In movies, you're not allowed to show guys like Ali or Muhammed (I'm not clear why it's okay for Ali to be on our Nazar boncuk but it's not okay for him to be in a movie). I don't know how they do Muhammed, but when Ali is in a movie he's signified by the tip of his special sword wiggling at the side of the screen.
We also have this in our house:
From the left, it's Ali, Atatürk, and Haci Bektaş. I'm amazed that somebody invented something like this that pleased BE from every direction. And yes, that's my bible in the background. I have to look things up sometimes when I'm reading. The bible was found in a food donation bin at my old job. It clearly was previously owned by a crazy person who highlighted hundreds of pages line by line with red marker. He or she also seems to have used certain passages for rolling paper.
Anyway, you're also supposed to pin a Nazar boncuk on a baby when you take it out. That's because all the people coming up to tell you what a beautiful baby it is can bring Nazar. Again, I don't get this. Is it because every person who compliments a baby is jealous? Or is it just in case they're jealous? I don't know. But even I'm not so impolite as to compliment someone's baby without saying "Maşallah" (sort of like God bless or God protect), which is supposed to protect the baby from the Evil Eye. People get really uncomfortable if you don't say "Maşallah." The good thing about "Maşallah" is that if someone's baby is all mono-brow and pinched and ugly with a snotty upper lip, you can just say "Maşallah," which will be considered a compliment and you don't actually have to come up with anything nice to say about the baby. It means "I'm not even going to tempt the Evil Eye by saying all the nice things I had in mind about that baby, and I'm going to say "Maşallah" just in case my thoughts might have provoked the Evil Eye."
The Evil Eye, apparently, is a very serious concern.
Very serious indeed. My MIL has lately become weirdly fanatic about Nazar. She's always gone on about Nazar in a folksy way which never really bothered anyone, and I found it mildly interesting, like something you'd read about in National Geographic. But in the last few months, she's even started to piss off FIL and BE with her Nazar madness. I mentioned in a previous post how she muttered to everyone it was my fault LE fell and hit his mouth on the corner of a coffee table because I don't pin his Nazar boncuk on him when we go out. I'm so coldly logical in that I think the pin coming open and stabbing someone is a more pressing concern than Nazar. But I also have insane beliefs about germs according to her, because I don't believe that dangerous germs continue to live in your underpants if you don't iron them after washing. I'm just unpredictable and zany like that. All that education and book-learning and I don't know a damn thing about anything.
MIL has always taken care to call LE "ugly" as much as anything nice. There's always "Maşallah"-ing and other muttered "Allah"-ing that I can't understand, but it sounds ancient and serious. And if we talk about him for too long, she invariably cuts into the conversation with "Nazar demesin," which I think isn't spelled exactly right but I've always understood it as "Let Nazar not be said" which I think isn't exactly right either but you get the idea.
In the last few weeks, MIL has taken to calling BE 3-4 times a week to tell him something he should or shouldn't do to avoid nazar for LE. He gets mad and hangs up on her, which just causes her to press the issue more. MIL loves nothing more than to find something that pisses someone off, and keep doing it until they get mad for real so she can accuse them of being unreasonable. A lot of times she calls to tell us to do something with salt or whatever and to be extra careful because one of the neighbors had said that day that LE was cute. BE says she stops herself playing with LE all the time because she doesn't want to cause Nazar.
Last weekend, she didn't want BE to bring LE to a funeral dinner because everyone there would love LE and give him Nazar. It makes me think she may not care about that side of the family much, if she thinks their compliments are the Nazar-bringing type. When BE insisted that LE would be going despite any nazar-related peril, she called several times to tell him to make sure LE had some sort of Nazar boncuk on him no matter what I said, and also that I shouldn't dress him in shorts because he falls down and skins his knees. In addition to being crazy, I am also sadistic and apparently enjoy dressing my son so that he skins his knees when he falls down, so it's a good thing she reminded me about that. Since it's gotten hot, she's also gotten nuts about LE wearing an undershirt, so she reminded us several times about that too. Sweat, you see, is as dangerous as Nazar, and most kinds of air, and post-laundering underwear djinn oops I mean germs. Only she knows what a good idea it is to layer up a child when it's 30C outside.
What she and BE don't know and will never know is that I've been letting LE go wading at the seaside in Yeşilköy. It's nice when the jellyfish aren't there. And a couple of those times LE got totally wet and it was windy. So there. It's our dirty little secret. I'm not saying anything and LE doesn't do sentences yet. If he shouted "Deniz!" to BE, BE would just think he was talking about the nasty little boy who lives next door to MIL. "Deniz" means "sea" but is also, conveniently, a name.
Less of a secret is that I think it's better to adore my kid unreservedly without worrying about the Evil Eye, especially when I'm still unclear on what it is, and to think you have to do otherwise is, in my opinion, a shame.