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In days gone by, a typical girl’s night in the UK would be spent in the company of Mister P Grigio, Mr S Cabernet or Ms S Chardonnay, not forgetting Masters Ben & Jerry. The evening debates would cover important issues such as Max v Mac, Manalo v Choo and was it really a good idea to use Anusol around your eyes to shrink crow’s feet?  As the evening progressed and the bottled company was reduced, it was possible to find yourself in your undies and wrapped in clingfilm in an attempt to loose inches from your thighs or, a contestant in a game of ‘name that tune’ while gargling with vodka.

Toward the end of the evening, the compilation cd’s would be turned off much to the relief of the neighbors who had vowed to move after one more cats chorus of Celine, Barry, Whitney or horror of horrors ‘Roll out the Barrel’.  Time for the DVD’s and us gals would then be Sleepless in Seattle, on the Edge of Reason or drooling over Brad, Johnny or George with spoons at the ready to indulge in a little Chunky Monkey.

Finally the Taxi aka Husband or Boyfriend would arrive looking unimpressed at their significant other and would ask silly questions such as ‘where are your shoes’ or ‘why are you wearing that hat?’   They would then have the cheek to look uncomfortable as they were welcomed by their respective partners with terms of endearment…..I don’t know why as clearly, snuggle bear, hunky monkey and pinky mcwinky are well loved.

Moving on to the present day here in Turkey and there are of course ex-pat girlfriend that I can and do share an evening with, but, I also spend time with my village girls and a village girl’s night in could not be more different.

My first experience was one Saturday evening after dinner with the in laws. The men got up and left in a group to visit a cousin, clearly to talk about important matters such as politics or football.  My mother in law left to visit a neighbor and I stayed with the remainder of the girls. Present are my English self, Turkish Ayşe, girlfriend of cousin Celal and open (doesn’t wear a headscarf)  and three closed (headscarf wearing) village girls, Kurdish Ramser, my sister in law, Kurdish Ayfar, an aunt and Kurdish cousin ‘Hatice’.

Props for the evening are crochet hooks and reels of cotton in vibrant colors that were chosen to compliment the headscarves. I watch in fascination as thin lines of cotton are quickly transformed into intricate flowers to border the edge of their individual headscarves.  Ramser hands me the crochet hook but I politely refuse as I am not blessed with the skill of ‘crafting’ and I would undoubtedly make tangled weeds!   Hatice asks Ayşe for something, a word I don’t recognize but it all becomes clear when Ayşe delves into the depths of her handbag and removes a flat blue plastic square. It’s a sanitary towel.  I ask Hatice why she is not using tampons and she tells me that she doesn’t want to lose her virginity! The conversation takes a natural turn from there and we are now talking ‘contraception’.  Ayşe, being a modern Turkish girl from a big city, gets her regular Depo injection, but Ayfar relies on the ‘withdrawal’ method which explains why she has not had a period for 40 days!  At that time Ayfar had only baby Helin but was pregnant with little Murat.

Later in the evening, Ramser lays the sofra on the floor and brings out a large silver tray containing fruit and sunflower seeds. I am addicted to sunflower seeds or ‘cegirdek’ as they are called here and I am now well practiced in the rapid removal of the seed from the husk. I’m wearing combat trousers and while sitting cross legged at the tray, they have risen up my calves displaying shin stubble! Naturally the conversation turns to hair removal. I personally shave in the winter and get waxed in the summer and Ayşe does the same.

That no sooner said than three pairs of pop socks are down, skirts and leggings are up and village legs are on display, all of which are completely hairless. They do it themselves they say, spread the warm wax, smooth down a strip of cloth, which they have made out of old bed sheets and pull. It’s the same technique used in salons worldwide but of course, a lot cheaper and when they show me the wax they use I’m amazed. I have seen this little tub so many times while out shopping but assumed it was a type of Vaseline. The container is a small barrel, about three inches high, bronze in color with a surface similar to that of a hand grenade and the best part? It costs just 2 Turkish Lira!

Women in this world differ in many ways, from something as basic as looks to something as complicated as culture, with each of us just one country away from being the foreigner.  It does not matter which country we come from however, as women, there will always be something to unite us, be it sing-alongs or hairy legs there is always a reason to ‘Roll out the Barrel’.