Appalachian Ohio, Athens GA, Atlanta, Berkeley, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Columbia MO, Des Moines, Fredericksburgh VA, Jacksonville NC, Los Angeles, New York City, NYU, Philadelphia, Palo Alto, Portland ME, Richmond VA, Rutgers University, San Francisco
I left work early to pick up my laptop from the shop. Rather than take the metro I thought, ‘I should really walk more. Why don’t I take these opportunities to walk and see more of the city.’ Just ten minutes later I was angrily reminded why. Walking down the street, a truck for a local water company that delivers the water to homes passes by me and stops about 20 meters ahead at a stop. The guy in the passenger seat has turned around to face me, licking his lips and vulgarly gesturing that he wants to eat me out. It was disgusting, truly disgusting. They stalled just waiting for me to approach, but I stopped walking, waiting for them to leave. I was so upset and mortified, and I just kept thinking about how many women and children these guys were going to deliver water to at their homes. How many more women would they pass in the street and make feel disgusting and uncomfortable? I am just upset.
This happened about 9 years ago when I was at a hairdresser’s with my mum who was visiting me. We were the only customers that day, and my mum was having her hair done in the front room and I was having mine done in the back room because I also wanted my hair washed. The first sign that something wasn’t quite right was the extra time that he spent massaging my head while he washed my hair, but I didn’t think anything of it since that’s happened elsewhere with no other repercussions. That was followed up with complements about how I looked (I was dressed up to go out, so again, I thought he was just being polite) and later smalltalk. He asked me a number of personal questions such as about where I was from. By this time, I’m starting to feel uncomfortable but at the same time am continually second-guessing myself that I’m probably just over-reacting.
By chance, around this time, there was unfortunately a power outage! Whether or not I’d been over-reacting, I decided that I couldn’t continue to sit there (with wet hair) so I got up and went to the other room where my mum was. We chatted for a few minutes (I didn’t want her to see that I was feeling uncomfortable) and the power returned. The small talk continued on the hairdresser’s side, but by this time I was giving monosyllabic answers of yes or no. Finally, he asked me for my phone number and thinking I was being quite clever, I gave him my husband’s business card thinking that he’ll get the message. Guess not, because a few minutes later he asked me for a kiss! I couldn’t believe what he’d said, and wasn’t sure I’d understood correctly, so I asked him to repeat what he’d said. I answered with a stunned “NO!”, and he had the nerve to ask me why! In my poor Turkish, I told him “Because I’m married and I’m happy!”. Oddly, he didn’t seem to think anything of my answer and merrily went on his way to finish up my hair.
After the hairstyle was finished, I went to pay the woman in the other room and at the same time phoned my husband and told him what had happened (he’s Turkish). I wanted to pay her first because I didn’t want there to be any question of me making up the story to get out of paying for the hairstyle. I then passed the phone to the woman (she may have been the salon owner) and she just shook her head as he yelled at her. My husband asked me to stay there until he arrived, but I just couldn’t. I was so uncomfortable I just wanted to leave, so my mum and I left. My husband and I returned to the salon 5 or 10 minutes later, but of course the a**hole had already left. The worst part was that the woman owner didn’t believe me (or pretended not to believe me so as not to admit any guilt)! My husband yelled at her and the other hairdresser (who hadn’t done anything, but he was just there) in Turkish while I yelled in English. I was near tears and shaking with anger as we walked out of there. I felt so helpless and so angry and didn’t know what to do. Now, years later, I’ve pretty much gotten over it and have changed the way I behave here. In N. America, it’s common to have small talk with strangers, men or women. Here, it’s not. My husband said that a Turkish woman would have cut the small talk short with a comment like, “Shut up and do your job.” or “That’s none of your business.” Now, I’m very wary of small talk (even though I’d like to practice my Turkish) and much more cautious!
In old jeans, an over-sized sweatshirt, and not a hint of make up, I rode the DT-2 bus through Harbiye enroute to Cevahir Shopping center one Saturday night. I sat next to the window, just 2 rows behind the driver. The bus was almost empty, so I found it odd when a young man got on the bus and sat right next to me. Little by little his leg got closer and closer to mine, to the point where I was pushed against the window unable to move. The situation went from annoying to terrifying when his hand reached under me. It didn’t matter if I spoke English or Turkish, I was so scared that no words from either language could be formed. I was frozen. As more people entered from the next bus stop, he pulled away, so as to not be seen. I took this opportunity to jump out of my seat and ran to the back of the bus, next to the door. But he immediately followed to the seat in front of me, watching me closely. At the next stop, I waited until until the split second before the door closed and ran off, leaving the doors closing before he could follow. I ran into a store, completely stunned, shaking, terrified he would get off at the next stop and try to come after me. Either that one cheap thrill was enough or hiding in a clothing rack was quite effective, because he never came back. It’s been 2.5 years since that incident, but I still feel fear and panic riding buses.