Monday, November 7, 2011

Kurban Bayram: A Bad Day For Some Animals

Look, I like animals. I like to anthropomorphize them and give them names and chat with them. For the most part, I try to be their friend.


 On the other hand, I eat meat, and lots of it. I like meat. I like red meat barely cooked and running with blood, slightly purple in the middle. I even like the grosser bits, like fat and gristle and the papery bits on the tops of ribs. I'm an inveterate bone-gnawer.

Yummy, neatly sliced and cooked.
Decidedly un-yummy.
I've sampled Turkish offal like brains and tripe soup and tongue. The brains and tongue were surprisingly delicious, though I was awfully drunk at the time. The soup, well, not my favorite. I was once in an işkembe restaurant and LE needed the toilet and as we were walking back there a toilet-y poo smell hit me and I was thinking, "Oh no, these bathrooms are going to be so gross," already imagining the annoying anxious Mom-gymnastics I was going to have to go through to keep LE or his clothes from touching anything wet or mysteriously colored. It was a fairly decent restaurant and I was wondering why they appeared to have open-pit non-flushing squat toilets. But when we got to the bathroom, they were sparkling clean and on the way down I realized the smell wasn't coming from the toilets. It was coming from the massive, steaming pot of tripe soup under the stairs.

But still. Most meat products I'm cool with, even the yucky ones. I don't even care what must be in hot dogs or sucuk. Whatever, as long as it's yummy. I feel like I'm a complete meat hypocrite because I've never watched the meat get killed, let alone killed some myself and I strongly feel I ought to do that someday, seriously.

Imagine this, but with animal parts and blood.
So last year, I mentioned how my neighbors sacrificed a cow in their garden. Fine. It seemed to make them all so very happy, and it's their business. I was even a little glad the city-wide ban on home animal sacrifices didn't seem to extend to out here. I mentioned it to my in-laws yesterday, and my father in-law started talking about what it used to be like. I suggested that there are far too many people in close quarters for them to all be killing their animals all over. According to him, that wasn't the problem. The problem was that a lot of those people didn't know fuck-all about killing an animal, and they were doing it all wrong, with dull knives or whatever, and there was a problem of sheep and cows with half-cut jugulars running amok spraying gore all over. Plus, you think it's bad how so many idiots leave their trash all over? Imagine those same people with all kinds of animal gore-waste they can't be bothered to dispose of properly. Apparently people used to just leave rivers of blood and piles of steaming guts lying around in the streets for someone else to clean up. When my father-in-law got to the flies in summer, he kind of trailed off and got lost in his memories.

Must witter on about germs!
While he was doing that, the MIL picked up her cue, which was to talk about dirt and germs and sickness. It's pretty much all she thinks about, it would seem. She mentioned the dirt and the sickness. Then she said something like, "Those piles of guts must have had germs or something like that on them because they smelled really bad." Which proves my theory she doesn't have a goddamned idea in the world what a germ is. In MIL's world, germs most certainly lurk in the following places:

1) Air
Fucking deadly in all its forms.

2) Coins and paper money
Filthy lucre! Wash your hands! She really makes LE do this!

3) Places where unpleasant commoners might congregate, like public transportation and public offices
People we don't know carry all manner of filth and illness.

4) Gypsy children
Cute? Hell no! Not even human! They'll kill you for sure!

5) Animals, especially ones in the house
Call me superstitious, but I'm getting a cat soon to keep witches away.

There could be germs here
But piles of offal steaming in the summer sun and crawling with flies? Maybe there might be some germs in that, or something akin to germs, those mystical jinn with no rhyme or reason who wait for us to let our guard down and leave something un-ironed or sweaty so they can kill us all with stuffy noses.

I live in your underpants. Iron me or I'll make your nose run.
Stupid fucking woman.

I just read over my last year's Kurban Bayram post. This year was nothing like it, especially the part where we had a nice, family holiday. This year I tried to have a nice family holiday but that stupid woman's endless under-the-breath carping at me, coupled with my son's endless, embarrassing tantrums he has in their presence, drove me off by 7pm and I came home. I decided I couldn't take it anymore when I was attempting to discipline the boy for not apologizing after accidentally hurting another kid, and stupid MIL just started talking over me in Turkish, telling him that tomorrow they would take him to Bakırköy and buy him toys and candy and I was just all, "Fuck this shit. Fuck you Let you deal with him because this sucks and you're a stupid cow."
Persecuted much?

Whatever goes through her head I wish I knew, because if I could see it I think I would want to shoot it dead and make it shut the fuck up so she would quit driving everyone crazy, especially me.

Here marks the end of a whole lot of charitableness I've been trying to have towards my husband's family.

Their primary goal in life seems to be making me crazy and turning my son into a spoiled idiot with no sense of consequences, honesty, responsibility, or personal accountability. You'd think they would see the error of their ways when they look at their own eldest son lying around on his jobless ass, getting drunk, playing video games and yelling at everyone all the time blaming them for his dumbass problems, but no such luck.
I've been doing this really a lot lately.

Easy, Stranger.

Whoa, there.

Anyway, as for last year's garden sacrifice, I remembered it as a sheep for some reason, but as it turns out, it was also a cow. Interesting how memory does that you.

Let this be a lesson in how completely unreliable my storytelling is. So starting on Saturday, I decided I needed to quit being a meat hypocrite and that I would watch the damn sacrifice this year. I was all geared up. I got up early and everything.

Only I remembered it was a sheep last year. A sheep I could have dealt with. Sheep are stupid and somewhat uninteresting. So I got myself all geared up for a sheep.

May you return to this place, cow.
But instead, when I looked over the balcony in the morning, there was a cow. A wee black and white yearling, shuffling around on a short rope and mooing sadly. He had a little blue halter and he kept licking the railing.

Nope. Couldn't watch. I stayed inside and had breakfast with LE while the neighbors were all shouting down there. Then I did go out for a peek, and saw a river of frothy blood that looked almost fake, and the little cow lying on the ground with his head a few feet away. I was going to take a picture for you but I didn't because I remember exactly what that little cow looked like.

Later, after he was skinned and the butchering had started, I felt a little better because it looked more like meat than a cow. And I have to say, I'm totally impressed my neighbors are able to cleanly slaughter, neatly skin, and butcher a cow with nothing more than the brawn of a few men and some sharp knives. Today, not a trace of it remains.

Still, I had steak for dinner, cooked bloody with lots of salt and fat, and I cleaned my plate.

And I have a whole year now to gear myself up for next year's cutting time. As long as the animal isn't cuter than a cow, like an elephant or a goat, I'll be fine.

If your urge to kill is also failing you this year, allow me to plug an alternative, Heifer Project International.
I went with the flock of geese.


Ayak said...

What is it with Turkish in-laws? I have similar problems with my FIL. After almost 14 years I am used to the fact that he hasn't accepted me, doesn't consider me "family" and criticises everything I do or say...always out of earshot of my husband of course.

I also love animals and love meat. But after a particularly traumatic experience one Kurban Byram when I had only been here a couple of years, which involved a cow dying a slow, painful death because the bastard slaughtering him hadn't a clue, I now shut myself in the house on slaughter day. I am reliably informed that the animals are killed quickly and properly in this village...but nevertheless I won't risk watching.

Stranger said...

It's that out-of-earshot thing that's really the rub, isn't it? My husband used to accuse me of being insane until he caught his mom at it a few times. All he gave her was a flaccid reprimand, but at least he didn't expect me to hang out with her alone as much.

My FIL kind of likes me, despite everything. Although he's fiercely traditional, he's also very curious about the world and has a kind of intellectualism that got stunted by life along the way. I suspect his affinity for me just makes the MIL that much crazier, though...

Anonymous said...

Ye sit is all give in and adapt;) Had a few good laughs and great reading about the food;)

Anonymous said...

My in-laws are wonderful. Inn the 25 years I have none them, neither has said a negative thing about me. In fact, I am treated like a princess and praised endlessly. My MIL weeps and calls me her real daughter (she is 85 now and her real daughter has skipped town).

The trick is to establish dominance from the start. I am a warm but stubborn person and take no crap from anyone. When she pushed food on me, I explained politely that in my culture it was customary to let the guest choose to take seconds or whatever and that by puhing food at me she was insulting me. She said okay. But if there are other people at the table she will announce that we have this deal, so no one thinks she is ignoring me.

When I had a baby and she came to visit. I had my stack of baby books waiting. I said "this is the latest data on child raising. All of my infomation comes from this. I will be raising our daughter according to the atest scientific theories." and she said, um, okay. She is a retired chemical engineer so she can't argue against science.

When my daughter was about three, we picked her up from their house and I made a "oh I'm sorry if she was any trouble." and my MIL burst into tears and said I was the perfect mother and my ways were right. Afterall my daughter could dress herself, tie her own shoes and said please and thank you. Itis the victory of all victories to receive such a statement from a Turkish MIL.

My FIL and I always sit next to each other at Sunday breakfasts. For 25 years. When I wrote my first novel, he read it and procliamed me a Real Author and it meant so much to me.

The other brides in the extended family get the usual treatment. The MILs will sit and drink tea and bitch about them, except for my MIL, who says nice things about me. I know beacuse my cleaning woman also works at the aunt's house and spies for me. In return, for my MIL, in my house I always say nice things about her and her son in front of the cleaning woman who then goes to the aunt (who is wealthy and superior)and tells her how wonderful we all are, and how much I love my in-şlaws. Which really burns the butt of the aunt beause that part of the family is a wealthy neurotic mess.

Anyway, you have to set your limits, draw your line and stick to it.Say tothem, "when you do x, I feel uncomfortable. I feel likek you don't respect me."

As my father thebehavioral psychologist said, you can teach a dog to not get up on the couch you can certainly teach humans to obey as well.

pisipati said...

Many women in this country hate their mother in laws.My mom hated hers too.My granny passed away in 1997 by the way.Kids feel everything.I loved my granny but I always felt like I betrayed my mom when I was a kid.Becasue my mom didn't love her,and tiny me thought there must be something wrong with me,why I love this person.I never liked that feeling stranger never.

Stranger said...

Pisipati, thanks for your comment, seriously. I like how you speak plainly and clearly.

I never want my son to feel that way so I'm going to work harder to keep my damn mouth shut. I do try to speak well of her to him, but at some point I suppose he'll become aware that any affection I might show is more like thinly veiled malice. Or maybe I'll just keep getting better at getting used to her, who knows?

I don't hate her. She drives me batshit, but I don't hate her. I'd just rather spend time with someone who's nicer to me, and who doesn't try so hard to make me look bad so she can look good-- to my son, my husband, and anyone else who's watching.

What I don't get (emotionally at least) is why mothers-in-law feel compelled to be shitty to their daughters-in-law. Their own MILs were probably shitty to them (I'm pretty sure my MIL's was), so why don't they remember how awful it was for everyone and try to be different? As long as LE's chosen woman isn't a complete mercenary twat, I can't imagine doing anything but trying to be kind to her and keep out of her way when I'm not wanted. And I may bitch a lot on my blog, but I'm fairly certain I'm not a complete twat in real life. Definitely not mercenary, in any case.

Intellectually, I can think of a lot of reasons the MILs are so shitty to the brides. I don't think it's about jealousy of their sons (as many people claim), since that must wear off sooner or later. I think it's more about the feminine backlash, and the underdogs being extra shitty to people they think are hierarchically under them. Or maybe it's something like, "They did it to me, and now it shall be done to you, as is the proper way." Then there's the love of drama. Women and underdogs do love their drama (see: soap opera fans), so I sometimes suppose she enjoys sowing discord on purpose, just to watch it unfold. As an underdog, it's one of her few sources of power. Am I thinking about this too much?

Also, I think that, as a foreigner, I'm not able to parse what is meanness and what is showing love in a weird fucking way. But I'm getting better at that.

And with my MIL, I suspect a total lack of imagination- that anyone who does things differently than her is "wrong" and must be nagged into rightness. I'm certainly not the only one she nags. Her youngest sister gets a lot of it, too. The older ones just tell her to shut up.

So, yeah. I definitely think about it too much. It's the only way I can find the warm place for her, instead of the cold, angry, hurt place. And I do feel some warmth her way-- it's just very fragile.

pisipati said...

I like observing people and I have some ideas about what makes this grumpy MILs grumpy.I think many of this old ladies don't have happy marriages.They need appreciation,approval and compliments from the men in their lifes.But they never get it the way they want it.So they divert their needs to their daughters(if they have any) and daughter in laws.Daughter in laws are the easiest target by the way.I feel like a little appreciation might work.

Stranger said...

I think you're probably right about a lot of that. I also think women like my MIL were never really given a chance to be fully human, and with a lot of them it seems like they never grew up-- just sort of got stopped around age 12 when everyone started treating them like a useless woman instead of a wonderful child. A lot of my MIL's emotional responses to things and behaviors are so middle school. So when she has some big feeling, she seems like she has no way of managing it.

She loves/hates compliments and appreciation. I started saying nice things to her to make her shut up, but I don't remember that strategy as much as I should. She's completely sacrificed her own self for her husband and family, to the point where her self seems non-existent at times, and, as you say, no one ever says thank you.