“There are two types of girls,” Tamo had proclaimed one day, three years before I met Butrus, “those to have fun with and those to marry.” I was almost fifteen, and had begun to notice how men of various ages were looking at me with intent, even though my mother was with me wherever I went. She said nothing when Tamo’s brief but authoritative monolog took place. So, neither did I. Besides, my brother was my idol. I grew up to that age being told how he deserves my respect and obedience as the third eldest family member. In return, my parents always reminded him how he must take care of me as his little sister, look after me under any and all circumstances, no matter what age we would be in.
I looked up to my brother, with full submission, and that admiration didn’t have anything to do with my parents’ expectation or hope from me when my brother was concerned. It, therefore, was no big feat: of course, I was going to continue to make Tamo proud again. Proud of me. The way I made him proud whenever his male friends came over. He had many. And, they all got together in our home quite often. “Mom, we are ready for our goodies,” Tamo would call from his room in a routine he initiated for each of these visits. My mother would prepare snacks and drinks or elaborate meals, depending on the length of their stay. I would then carry them on a large tray to Tamo’s room where he would take them in through just a crack of the otherwise tightly closed door. I was as inaccessible to his friends as possible. All of them were high school juniors–like Tamo. I was yet to finish middle school.
“You can’t be serious!”
Having spoken both at once, my parents then looked at each other, surprise shining through their faces. Then, both frowned and just sat there. Tamo kept quiet.
“Are you sure you want to go to that school?” My father’s voice was faint but steady a short while later.
“Do you know what to expect there?” My mother’s, not at all; in fact, she sounded disappointed.
“I think Huban has the right idea,” uttered my brother in a loud enough voice, not easy to disregard, “what’s wrong with my school, the same establishment, only for boys? I think an all-girls’ high school will be just what best fits Huban.” Then, he gave me a quick smiling look. I read pride in his eyes and entire pose.
In a few months, I was going to begin high school, in other words, to enter–according to my young adult book choices, the most notorious world of young, head-strong men chasing after their co-eds only to have a certain way of fun. My parents and I had been discussing various possibilities for quite some time. Lately, though, I had been contemplating on Ankara Kız Lisesi, the only all-girl high school in our city. Tamo’s approval during our last brief family exchange signaled the confirmation of my school selection. My parents enrolled me in this educational institution–modeled after Catholic schools, minus the religious tradition, at least when formal classes were concerned. Proper conduct and a rigid dress code made up the core of instructional design.
The scholastic credibility and far-reaching influence of the school, one of the best in the country, were important aspects to me as an honors’ student during my prior schooling –five years of elementary and three years of middle school instruction. I intended to also achieve honors throughout my upcoming three years in high school. That I was to graduate in the right category of females, however, that is, as one trained in appropriate behavior with men, was an enormous force behind my decision. My school’s strict dress code didn’t bother me as it had most girls in my classes. Quite in the contrary. I wore the skirt of my uniform even several centimeters longer below the knee than was required. My thick, waist-long hair of a distinct blackish red shine was routinely in tight braids, either on each side of my face, or as one big braid but folded into another small one on my nape, in order not to attract any attention to lose locks. My teachers but my principal and vice principal, in particular, were all so very proud of my intact appearance on days of unannounced screenings, or at the end of a school day, on our way out of the school’s impressively ornate large iron gate. On weekends and holidays, though, I had to show off the glimmer all around my what my mother called exceptionally eye-catching eggplant maroon full head of hair. She insisted.
On each school day, though, and with diligence at that, I put the proper conduct I had been learning about into practice: on the students from Atatürk Erkek Lisesi, the only all boys’ high school of our city–Tamo’s territory, where he was a senior now. I would secretly bestow upon myself a symbolic medallion of honor each day on my way home. For succeeding in my attempts to escape the attention of those boys, who would rush after school to settle atop the short walls of my school’s extended garden to check out the girls. Suggestive words were made, though with some caution, from the side of the boys to most girls in sight, but not to me. It was as if I were invisible. This outcome alone was to me something to be extremely proud of. I was not going to be one of the girls with whom a boy could have fun. Oh no! No, indeed! I was to save myself for marriage to a man who would appreciate my purity, my untainted innocence. So, my routine appearance in public, especially when passing in front of those boys, included a notable big frown on my face, drooped down eyes, slouched body posture and rushed feet. The bushy eyebrows I flashed most certainly contributed to the uninviting physique I was aiming for. After all, I had to become, be, and remain a good girl.
(Once again, more parts to come.)