Friday, August 30, 2013

First Love

LE's cousin C, the one who he's going to be circumcised with any day now, apparently has a girlfriend.

I'll just pretend that last sentence was perfectly normal because, um, it is. In my head, I'm just glad LE has a little circumcision buddy.

I don't know yet if I'm expected or even invited to attend the festivities following the Big Snip. I told BE if they didn't want to invite me, that's cool. I know this divorce is a huge embarrassment for certain parties (BE and MIL), to the extent that a lot of people in the families maybe haven't even Been Told. And to be honest, I'd really rather have nothing to do with any of this thing other than cuddles and hand-holding.

LE is growing like crazy and he's cappuccino brown from the sun and as wriggly as ever because that's what little boys are like. When he succumbs to holding my hand in the street, he has this incredible property of being six places at once yet somehow next to me the whole time.

I say "succumbs to holding my hand" because the boy has become this social animal all of a sudden. He's
terribly worried about what his friends will think of him in that supremely self-absorbed way only a child is capable of, like believing his friends care if he holds my hand, or thinking they'll find out about his elaborate bedtime business, with the kissing and cuddles and the "Good night, sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite, and have sweet dreams or no dreams and I love you very very very very very very very very much," while still not having the slightest embarrassment about wearing his Spiderman costume out to play football or explaining the nature of his poo in elaborate detail.

When I was 7 or 8, I watched this program about a Vegas hypnotist. After that, I became convinced that my life wasn't real because a guest-speaker hypnotist had hypnotized me in front of my second grade class and I
It was laden with double entendre.
was acting out my life in front of them while they laughed at me, like the people in the TV show. Every pee, every angst, every peek to make sure my boobs weren't getting too big was just a show to amuse my snarky classmates, and their teasing when I woke up would be relentless. Around 12 or so, I became certain some boys in my class had a camera trained on our bathroom window (which didn't have shades because it overlooked an empty field), and they were recording all my bathroom stuff, periods and all, to share with everyone and laugh about it. So I totally get that whole childhood self-absorption thing.

I'm still not 100% convinced I won't wake up one day in second grade, with everyone laughing just in time for recess. I wonder if I'll suddenly be a grown-up and totally able, psychologically and linguistically, to deal with their bullshit, or if my idea of being a grown-up is warped by having lived a fake life in my mind at age 7 or 8.

C is in love. He's 8. LE has developed certain behaviors lately, like a wide-eyed reverence when talking
about God and a shy smile when talking about boy-girl love. The God thing comes from a neighbor kid at MIL's who goes to Koran school, and the love thing is probably a combination of influences from cartoons and real life. The other night I told BE he'd better hurry up and explain their religion to LE, since right now all the information he's getting is coming from a Sunni and an atheist.

I'm sure it's very meaningful.
When LE was born, I refused to have him circumcised. I figured getting born was enough trouble for a baby for one day. When they wanted to do it at 3 months, I talked them out of it, pointing out that it was summer and a cut-up penis in a dirty diaper in summer maybe wasn't such a good idea. MIL was right on board with that one because mikrop! Which she simply adores talking about. Mostly I was hoping they'd forget the whole thing, but I told BE if they were going to insist on cutting the boy, they should at least wait till he was old enough to explain the significance of it to him, about religion and being a man and whatever else it's supposed to mean.

No one has explained it yet. All I can do is promise him that when they tell him they're going to cut off his penis and eat it with the pilav (a hilarious joke for Turkish people, don't tell Freud), they're not really
I'll turn up if these guys do.
going to do that. Once in the bath I even pulled his foreskin to show him just the little bit they're going to cut. I promised him it won't hurt when they're doing it (I didn't dwell too much on the needle they'll probably use for the local anesthetic), but it'll hurt after and people will give him candy and presents and gold. LE wants a sultan suit like the boys in the pictures at the photography shops. I hope I can at least hook up a scepter for him, since his family would never do the sultan suit thing.

"C has a girlfriend?" I asked. "What on earth do they do?" LE wasn't sure, or he was too shy to say. "Do they kiss? Do they hold hands? Do they text message? Does C even have a phone?" He does. He's pretty spoiled. I asked if C really has a girlfriend or if there was just a girl the grownups were teasing him about. LE didn't seem sure about that either.

I'm not sure what to do about social pressures on my kid. On one hand, I don't want him to be that kid who
sulks or cries when he doesn't get his way (which he totally does, and for which the kids on the street ignore him till he cuts it out, yay them, but I hear these things coming out of my mouth like "No one wants to be friends with a guy who makes a fuss for no reason,"), but also I don't want to tell him he has to do certain stuff to fit in. And given that, I know the kinds of advice parents give you ("Just be yourself!") doesn't really take till you're like 30 because being yourself and poking dead animals with sticks and playing with caterpillars or giggling about jokes you've always made and not wearing makeup absolutely does not win you the admiration of the Cool Kids. When your parents tell you the Cool Kids won't be cool at all at some fuzzy point in the future, you don't know they were right till you snoop the Cool Kids' Facebook pages and are all, "Holy shit, you dumbass, knocked up at 20 and neither you nor that hot guy you married right out of high school aged well at all, hee!"

So I found myself telling LE about my first love. 3rd grade. Scott Shepherd. He sat next to me in class. I don't quite know how it came about that we were in love, but one day at lunch everyone was pressuring Scott to ask me to go with him. And he did, mutteringly, and I accepted, and maybe we shook hands or something. After that we were going together, perhaps for a couple of weeks. We barely spoke the whole time, though there was probably at least one lunch-sharing event while everyone snickered around us and pressured us to kiss or something. There was copious mooning about the whole thing, on my part at least, because maybe I was showing a precocious talent for creating fabulous love affairs out of nothing. Then one day, right after lunch and just before the filmstrip, Scott held up a piece of paper that said, "Our love is over between you and me."

I was devastated. The thing about having an ability to create fabulous love affairs out of nothing is also the ability to be devastated when the love affair ends into nothing. I didn't even enjoy that afternoon's Brownies trip to Chuck-E-Cheese, and that was before I realized Chuck-E-Cheese sucks and their pizza sucks and those mechanical animals they don't even have anymore also suck.

I sung this song to myself a lot, because what is a devastated love without songs?

I often think it's a good thing they didn't have Marilyn Manson when I was a kid, because things like "I kill myself to make everybody pay" might have been taken altogether too literally. That thing I did when I was 12 with all the Tylenol doesn't count, but it could have with the right music. I didn't even know about Depeche Mode or Sisters of Mercy when I did that thing with all the Tylenol. When I puked the charcoal the emergency room doctors had given me all over the carpet next to the toilet, I was sure the boys from my class were filming it and laughing.

I didn't tell LE about that last part. But when I told him about my star-struck relationship with Scott Shepard, he seemed relieved that there was no kissing or holding hands.

I hope he understood the part where falling fabulously in love all the time is great, even when it sucks.

Right now he's asleep in this fort he's built in the living room. 

And I'm given to understand the Americans have decided bombing the shit out of Syria is a good idea. LE's armed to the teeth in his fort. He also laid in some plastic food supplies, and a blanket in case he gets cold.

I hope he falls fabulously in love, over and over, and gets sulky and devastated when it doesn't work out. I hope circumcision is the worst thing that ever happens to his body, ever. I hope he never outgrows the Spiderman costume, in whatever iteration. I hope he gets that tattoo of the flying CD he came up with today. I hope he can have an allowance.

I hope he has the luxury of being himself one day.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Cemetery

Gravestones in Eyüp, below Pierre Loti
Damn you, metrobus!
The other day I had to make the trip across town to fetch LE from the in-laws. I haven't had to do this in awhile, though I'm not sure why. Maybe BE just likes the drive because it's sure as hell not to do me a favor. It could be because LE *hates* the metrobus so much when he gets even a whiff of a hint he might have to ride on it, he flails himself into a full-tear explosion in about two seconds. I don't blame him. When the metrobus is crowded, his face is about the same level as most people's asses and when a sitting stranger offers to hold him, I'm all "Here you go," despite his objections because it gives me an LE-sized space of breathing room and also we can score the stranger's seat later on maybe, if the stranger gets off before us.

The metrobus kind of goes through the old part of town, where there are lots of cemeteries. I was standing in some prime metrobus real estate, my back to a bar and my head pressed to window idly remarking to myself about the coolnesses and annoyances passing by. A Byzantine wall (cool!). Another fucking crane building an ugly piece of shit building (annoying!). People picnicking on the medians (cool!). The whole Bayram's worth of trash littering the median (annoying!).

And it occurred to me that people picnic on the medians because there's fuck-all else to go, for poor people at least. A lot of places where they used to picnic, like the Yeşilköy seaside and various other parks, have banned picnicking accessories like grills and little gas stoves, while other parks, like the one in Bahçeşehir, invented a fake "show your ID that you live around here" system, wherein people like me aren't asked for ID while others can be blocked based on class assumptions. It's probably because the picnickers do have a tendency to leave their trash lying around. It doesn't justify the banning in my mind-- it just makes things shittier for poor people. Why not have a few guys wandering around politely reminding people to pick up before they leave?

Given recent events, I've gotten all sensitive to trees. Between Zincirlikuyu and the airport, the only places with trees are cemeteries. Probably most of the so-called green areas left in Istanbul are cemeteries. I'd like to think this means these places are forever protected, but the road running through the middle of the old cemetery in Sarıyer says differently. It's a useful little road, but still.

BE's parents still hadn't made their Bayram cemetery visit. So as soon as LE back-arch bawled about the metrobus, they offered to take us with them and drop us off closer to home. Both of us went "Yay!" because we love going to the cemetery.

I've written about this cemetery before, but it was a long time ago. It's the one where Menderes and Özal are buried, only now when anyone says Özal, they mutter "zehirlendi." On this trip, MIL was insisting LE had never been to the cemetery before and I was pretty sure he had, though he was pretty little. Ha! The Internet says I'm right. We balanced along the edges of the graves to where BE's grandparents are buried. MIL talked about how much more crowded the cemetery has gotten over the years, how there used to be paths to the grave they wanted. LE kept stopping me to read the inscriptions for him. He wondered where all the zombies were.

At the grave, FIL gave LE the half-full bottle of water he'd brought to pour into the little cups at the head end. "It's for the birds," he said. Then he and MIL had a short kerfuffle over whether or not the grave needed cleaning off. Then they said their prayer, hands close to the chest and open to the sky the way Muslims do, ending with a washing motion over their faces. I tried to keep LE quiet, something he's not wont to be. I showed him the grave BE had shown me the last time we were there, where the bones were coming up. Later on, LE said the bones were the only thing about the cemetery he'd found interesting.

On the way out, MIL showed me the three brothers' graves I wrote about in 2010, a few months before the divorce, where one gravestone describes a brother's military honors, another has the man's academic and professional honors, and the third says, "Best Husband and Father in the World." The third is MIL's favorite too. LE asked her what the others said and she carefully sounded her way through them because she doesn't read all that great. She's lucky enough that her father sent her to school through about 4th grade, in a time when no one even bothered to record the date and year of her birth.

My favorite way of flummoxing her these days is by doing and saying stuff to let her know I think she matters. It seems to be working out all right.

For the last few nights, the honking and guns going off on the main road says it's conscription time, when the guys go to be soldiers for awhile.

Given all that's going around here these days, I wonder if there is going to be enough room to bury all the dead?