Wednesday, January 2, 2013


He's saying "Ottoman-ist," trust me.

 Several years back, BE instructed me on the semiotics of the Turkish mustache. One sort of mustache means this, another means this. It explained why there were so few mustaches about. Guy were just unwilling to say what mustaches say here.

There's nothing more I can say about Hitler that hasn't already been said.
And then the AKP/Fettulahçı/religious guy mustache started to abound. It wasn't just the ties or the shirts or the un-calloused hands that told you it was a religious guy place. It was the mustache.

Way back when, I had a job at an English course called Interlang. Over the course of a year, they were slowly going out of business, and more and more often they weren't paying us on time, or in full. After awhile, they weren't paying us at all. I went for 3 months not getting paid, knowing my chances of getting paid were slightly better than the teachers who left town with promises that they would get paid. Pretty soon, it came to be known Interlang was about to be taken over by English Time, the local McSchool of English. For the two weeks preceding the buyout or takeover or whatever, I was in the director's and accoutant's office trying to squeeze whatever few lira I could get out of them, just enough for food and rent or whatever.

The accountant was slightly more honest than the director (also the owner), and then he quit turning up altogether. The owner/director kept assuring us we would get our money after Interlang was sold. And then it was sold. Overnight, the interior underwent some renovations with a lot of frosted glass and shiny bits and the owner had run off to San Francisco.

In the office were a bunch of busy-looking guys in pressed white shirts with those ties and the wispy mustaches that sang "Fetullahçı!" They briskly assured us there was no chance of getting our money and then more or less shooed us out of there.

Moral of the story 1: I still believe I'll get my $2,000.

Moral of the story 2: I knew exactly what those mustaches meant. Also I knew there was fuck-all chance of getting my money unless I whored myself to English time. No thanks. There were plenty of other places to whore myself, and I did.

There's no arguing with the mustache.
The things BE told me about Turkish mustaches are confirmed by this cartoon.

Cartoon shamelessly stolen from She's brilliant. You should check her out.
Nonetheless, despite, or perhaps because of, the semiotics of the Turkish mustache, mustaches are suddenly all over the place, even on grown-up guys in jobs that are supposed to be "clean-shaven" by the old rules. By "old rules," I mean the rules from around a year a ago. Even some working class fellows are sporting "the Communist." Or maybe it's "the Nationalist."

I honestly don't care what your mustache is saying.
I admit there's quite a lot of blurring of the meaning of Istanbul mustaches. I also admit I go a bit weak at the knees and find myself unable to do much but dribble.

That's right. Turkish men are rocking the mustache. Or should I say "rawking?" These are guys who can grow a whole face of hair in 2 days, and change the style every 8 hours or so. When a Turkish man decides to grow a beard, it's done by then end of the week and he's already bored of trimming it. But the thing about the Turkish mustache is, when a Turkish fellow has a mustache, it still looks hot even after his 11am shadow has fully taken hold.

I've hated mustaches for a long time. To me, they represent the icky part of the 70s.
The cheesy.

 And the sleazy.

 Or they represent "hot, but hopelessly gay." By "hopeless," I mean, "hopeless for me."

Just fuck off already, please.
But I'm definitely coming around on the mustache thing. In spades.

I've noticed a resurgence of interesting facial hair or Portland hipsters the last few times I've been home. While I applaud the re-emergence of muttonchops in theory, in practice on a fair, ginger-gened, otherwise hairless fellow that needs 6 months to grow proper muttonchops... well, ew. Same goes for their patchy goatees and frail beards.

I wasn't the least bit impressed with any of the mustaches I saw on this last trip back to the States. Bringing back the mustache pleases me in theory, much like the attempts to bring back the hat and the pipe. But again, in practice, I'm kind of like, "You dick. Quit trying so hard."

I know. I'm a judgmental bastard.

Even this guy earns a few hawt points.
But the Turkish mustache. Damn. It's cool. And pretty bad-ass when done right.

Maybe I'm overly optimistic, but in addition to the hot-ness of the Turkish mustache, I'm also hoping those guys are quietly sporting a revolution of sorts. The semiotics haven't changed, after all.

Dear Turkish men,

Thanks for making my day a little brighter, every day.


Where do I sign up for your revolution? I wanna change the world.


Bill said...

I'm kind of thinking they're raki-ing the moustache.

Does that mean I should grow mine back?

Stranger said...

If you can rakı it, you should totally grow it back.

It suits you, even without the rakı.

Ian said...

Hi Stranger, I have a kind of non-mustache related inquiry I've been meaning to make. After hearing all of these horror stories from recent college graduates attempting to teach English around Turkey, I recently declared a minor in Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights, thinking that it might slightly help my chances of finding a job where I don't have to fear waking up in a bathtub full of ice as an occupational hazard.

Then I remembered the Turkish sensitivities regarding the word 'Genocide.' Do you think that having my minor on my resume could potentially look too politik and hurt my chances of finding some sort of decent employment? Would growing a Ibrahim Tatlises mustache help me look like a more since job seeker?


Stranger said...

I've woken up a lot of places, but never in a bathtub full of ice. Who are these people with such horror stories?

It's mostly genocide used next to the word "Armenian" that sets people off. I don't know if having such a minor on your resume would cause a problem. To be safe, I'd leave it off a resume. Not that you have to be secretive about it. But as a first impression, I guess you never know what people might think or do.

I don't think sporting an İbo would help you for jobs at all, unless maybe if you were looking in one of the demilitarized zones. Overall, clean-shaven is still the best way to go for job hunting...

Ayak said...

I hate beards and mustaches and I'm afraid I have to put up with my husband's facial hair every winter when he's not working because he's too lazy to shave. He looks like someone who should be sleeping on a park bench...actually I might just suggest this.

Ian said...

So the bathtub comment might have been slight hyperbole :) It came out of combing the internet for any and every experience of teaching in Turkey possible (really the best I can do here in the insular upper-stretches of New England). Of course, there's a lot of nonsense to sort out with such an approach, but there does seem to be a lot of legitimate concerns on the internet about those armed with nary an English BA and TEFL certification (such as myself by the end of the year) finding jobs that pay on time, will help with the important bureaucratic aspects of working in a foreign country, etc...

Stranger said...

The ice bathtub story sounds a bit too much like the movie version of Kurtlar Vadisi, which involved a convoluted plot of the PKK, the Israelis, the CIA, and an international organ thievery ring...

I wish I could recommend some good schools, but I'm totally out of the loop since I started working in university, which is the Ex Calibur of jobs in Turkey.

Your best bet is your own mindset-- choose a school that seems ok either by what you feel from talking to them, or by what you can glean online, go for it, expect nothing and hope for the best. If Turkey suits your temperament, you'll fall in love and do what you have to do to stay here. If it doesn't, it'll be the coolest learning experience and best bar story ever.

I know some people who have tried to leave Turkey but couldn't, and ended up coming back. I know some who left and wished they hadn't because it eats their soul somehow. And there are a lot, like me, who planned to leave someday but suddenly discovered they couldn't leave for whatever reason and were completely cool with that. And I know some people who suddenly realized they've been here 20 years and who don't regret those 20 years, but are surprised by how time passes.

You can't imagine what it is to be an expat till you go through it. You can't imagine what living in a country like this is like no matter how much you read. There's nothing to do but make the leap and hope it's either a spectacularly good or spectacularly bad decision. Turkey will never be a "meh" decision, no matter what.

If you wanted security and guarantees and predictability, you'd just stay home in New England with only the weather to surprise you. I suppose deep down you know what you want to do, so you might as well just do it :)

I'm hella old (you know how old I am because I just said 'hella') and I've been here for ages, so feel free to ignore all that curmudgeonly bullshit I just wrote.

zurako said...


I don't know how i get to your blog but i'm really enjoying, and this post, it's so hilarious that makes me laugh. I'm still laughing.

Keep it up!

Stranger said...


Welcome to the crazy.