29 September 2010

Cultural style memo

Last weekend I went to a wedding. Evening at poolside, giant sparklers shooting into the air while the happy couple walked the aisle. Husband in cotton jacket with red polo, me in fancied up jersey dress with pleats and sparkles and flats.

Every. Single. Woman. was wearing heels. And some version of black with sequins. I had skipped the coiffeur and wore a ponytail.

"It happened again," I moaned to my husband, who's closest friend at the wedding chided him for wearing beige. I had led him astray telling him he didn't need to wear a suit. "I wore the wrong thing at the wrong time. Was there some sort of memo I missed?"

Some sort of cultural memo, I wanted to add. The one that tells me what to wear and when in Turkey.

I've learned to kiss hands and cheeks, touch hands to foreheads, implement a no-shoes-in-the-house rule, offer something to drink the second a guest enters the house, and implore them to sit down and stay even after five hours of tea. I've learned to accept that plans change at the last second, that mostly everyone will be late. I've spent hours at the coiffeur, basking in the pleasantries of salonistas and manicurists. I've even learned how to make some tricky Turkish food that impressed my mother-in-law, but for some reason, I've blindly guessed about what to wear to Turkish events and been wrong.

Tights and heels to a dinner where everyone is wearing sleeveless shirts and open-toed shoes. Jersey when everyone is wearing silk. Jeans when everyone's in a dress.

When have you felt this way, and is there something to learn from being slightly out of sync with your surroundings?
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