Bodrum is a fashionable tourist city on the Turkish Aegean and a place we all go for the bigger, difficult to find things not available in our home towns or villages. I often buy Bavarian bread from a favourite bakery, which lies on the long market lane that leads onto bar street before passing Turkey’s biggest open air club Halikarnas, until it reaches the cruise terminal, where ships of every size and flag provide enough purchasing power to motivate the market and bar boys into learning phrases, in several different languages. Indeed, last week I watched one Lad using his linguistic prowess to chat-up and impress a young fat girl from Leeds. And whilst a group of older 40-50 something single women pretended to be impressed, they had already worked out that most of the German, French, Italian or Russian phrases, whispered seductively into their ears by the boys, all essentially meant something along the lines of: “where are you from”, “eat here” or “look in my shop-very cheap.”
However, these older woman, perhaps on a midlife-crisis mission to bag a Turkish boy to boost their ego, willingly play along as any doubt could shatter their own fragile illusion that the overt attention they receive, despite their heavily made-up faces, dyed-over greying hair and brassy mutton dressed as lamb clothes, was all about them and never about their money. Indeed, this denial will persist long after they become the provider of cigarettes, phone credit and other little gifts.
This behaviour has gone on in most southern European countries for decades, but only in Turkey, does it actually feel like a career choice made by many of those boys. Some come from the poorer neighbourhoods of the biggest cities, but most come from the far eastern areas, where employment and educational opportunities are sometimes poor and where speaking to an un-married woman, without permission could get you both killed. Places where impossible yarns brought back from the resorts, light up the dark winter months in the village tea houses and are readily consumed by younger brothers and cousins. These tall tales, tell of rich western women, the type they may have only seen in porn DVDs, who are not only willing to give you what you want but also pay you for the privilege, no matter how ugly you are, before setting you up in a business that will guarantee a life of pampered indolence.
These boys quickly learn the tricks that ensure the illusion continues beyond her holiday. So while he plies the following week’s girls, with that same cheeky Lothario charm she fell for, he wants her to put in extra hours at work so she can afford to fly back to him. Over the years countless, otherwise intelligent women, have succumbed to this guile and swallowed such schoolboy declarations that he’ll kill himself if she doesn’t return soon. If she can weather his comically over the top drama she may yet escape with her self-respect and bank balance still intact. However, far too many are ready to bask in the illusion and risk everything on a very different road, a road that’ll see them leave family, friends and often husbands behind and move to Turkey to be with the bar boy, hotel worker, married taxi driver, boat trip hand or whoever their infatuation is. It is at this point that they risk joining a legion of other women, who have moved out here only to become something of a cliché: a VOMIT – Victim of Men in Turkey.
Although I cannot attribute it’s coining to anyone directly, the writer Jack Scott, who spent a number of years here observing us all with a keen anthropological eye, gave perhaps the best description of a VOMIT in his blog and a companion Glossary, back in 2010:
“The mirror image of the predatory Turkish male is a sub-species of the emigrey called the VOMIT, or Victims of Men in Turkey: vintage desperate ex-housewives with a few lira to spare who shamelessly chase younger Turkish men. They jump ashore like eager Shirley Valentines straight into the arms of willing waiters who hang around the docks. Predictably, such relationships rarely last once the money runs out. Listen up ladies. Have a little fun and shag the boys by all means, but never fall in love. While he whispers sweet nothings in your ear, he’ll dip his fingers into your purse and when the takings are spent, he’ll be off like a rat up a drainpipe.
A sub-genus of the species is the MADs (my Ahmed’s different) for those delusional VOMITs who think that their Turkish man is somehow different from the rest because ‘he really loves me.’ Who are they trying to kid?” Jack Scott, 2010.
She’ll rent them an apartment and pick up the bills of course. But sooner than she expects, his long moody silences, which use to end with declarations of undying love, turn in a more subtle direction until his ubiquitous: “If we marry I can come and live with you,” evolves into “let’s buy a gift shop – a bar – a car together,” but in my name as you can’t work here; you’ll trust me if you really love me…” Until finally he gets out his violin, and with tears in his eyes says: “my mother or sister or grandfather or whoever, urgently needs $2000, $5000, $10,000 for a lifesaving operation.” Amazingly, many VOMIT’s pay-up, not because they believe his lies, but because they are clinging onto a western idea of what a true relationship is: love, adoration, obsession and everything else the boy can fake to keep her fantasy alive. But in Asian culture, family, money and position are almost always valued way ahead of any romantic love. Oh yes he may take you home to his village, where they’ll fuss over you, but only after you’ve put on a headscarf and made a quick trip to the Imam to get married, after he tells you “It’s not really legal but will keep my Grandmother happy”* while forgetting to reveal that his uncle Ahmed served a year in prison for killing a not really legal wife, who dared to ask him for a divorce.
After many years here I can count on the fingers of one hand the times I have seen any of these relationships last and blossom into anything near a true love match; yet I could tally up on all the fingers of entire football team, when it didn’t and still run out of fingers. So ladies, be warned – by all means have fun, but please – never allow yourself to become a VOMIT!
* Some women think nothing of doing this twice and I hear one lady even met the Imam 3 times before Husband No1 found out about the other 2 and demanded 10,000 lira to ‘release’ her or else he would kill her and her cats; she now lives in Scotland… alone.