I’ve often wondered what it would be like to be a Turkish teen girl.
That’s partly because of proximity. Droves of girls pass our house on the way to the high school a block away. They’re more styled than my friends and I were in high school (for one whole year I think I wore overalls every day), and their straightened hair and casual, yet carefully put together look is more hip than I ever felt.
While I know I loved to be with my friends, I did a lot of stuff on my own. I rarely see a girl on her own on the way to school unless she is racing down the block late to class. I drove my AMC Eagle that shook on the freeway (sorry, Dad, I know I wasn’t supposed to take it up to freeway speeds) to sit by myself and write in a journal in some of the crummiest coffee shops I could find in Milwaukee.
But pre-teen Laila who came with her Mom to my house one day to fill in for my miracle worker wouldn’t take home the scrap book pages she made sitting at my table next to me while I wrote. She said her mom would just throw them away. Before she left that day, I gave her a small lined journal – blank pages waiting for her to fill them up. I hope her mom won’t throw it away; I couldn’t live without my journals (still can’t), and I can’t imagine not having a space of my own to jot down ideas and thoughts.
The other Turkish teen girls that come into my life are students, or have been my students. At first shy and reserved, Zeynep came with her dad for a private lesson and didn’t speak up until I asked her what her favorite books were. Twilight, of course. And horror books.
I’m not writing my work-in-progress with the Turkish teen girl in mind because what will their parents think nags at me more than if I imagine a ready-to-fly, strike-out-on-her own kind of girl from no one specific place in the world. On the other hand, between seeing Turkish translations of The Hunger Games and passing along my copy of New Moon to a middle school girl at the school I taught at last year (I made sure she had permission – didn’t want to be the bad teacher!), maybe there’s something I’m missing as an adult (and foreigner, to boot). Something between the cool and reserved girl I see on the street and the need to consume art and books (in private – for their eyes only). I can respect that scrappiness, even if I don’t have an insider’s view.