The rules of attraction differ
from region to region. Varying
methods of capture and subsequent
peculiar dating habits exist all
over the world. While I was
studying abroad in St. Petersburg,
Russia, for instance, I went on a
date with a young, attractive and
impressively wealthy real estate
agent. Conversation was a bit of
a challenge, as his English was
just a little less shoddy than my
I learned that Sasha’s big
passion was soccer. He would fl y
all over the country to watch the
games. Just the week prior to our
date, there had been a big match
between Russia and England.
After the game, riotous Russian
soccer fans killed 26 Brits.
At the restaurant where we
dined on our fi rst date, I asked
Sasha why there was so much
violence at soccer games. Why did
people feel inclined to fi ght when
they should be cheering?
“When a man feels passionate,
he hits,” Sasha explained very
“So hypothetically,” I said,
leaning over the table, using my
hands to emphasize my point.
“We’re going out – we’re in
a relationship, and we have a
passionate fi ght. Do you hit me?”
“Of course,” he said
nonchalantly. “But next day I
bring you fl owers. It is good.”
That ended my fi rst and only
date with Sasha.
I went to Istanbul, Turkey
over the past winter break and
found the matchmaking/dating
phenomenon to be different but no
less perplexing. One night, I went
out with my friends to a traditional
Turkish restaurant. There were
many plates of food and bottles of
alcohol consumed at our table. A
5-piece folk band was playing, and
people were singing and dancing.
At one point an older gentleman
with gray woven into his hair and
etched lines across his face asked
me to dance with him. So I danced.
His name was Tatsika. We danced
until we were exhausted, and
afterward he joined us at our table.
He spoke very little English.
“I love you,” he said to me
before any dialogue commenced.
“Ah,” I said. There wasn’t much
more I could say.
“I am poet,” he said proudly,
tapping his chest. Evidently, that is
a line that works for many Turkish
women. For some it means he is
romantic with words. To me it just
meant he was poor.
“I will marry you,” Tatsika
I told him I was leaving in just
a few days, hoping that would
“We will eat kabob and drink
rakuh every day until you leave,”
he said. “And then I will marry
you.” Kabob is a mystery-meat,
comprised of several different
types of animal. It is slow cooked
all day long on a spit until it is
either entirely consumed, or for
several days longer until it turns
green. Rakuh is an anise-based
liquor, which consuming too much
of will turn you green.
Tatsika saw that he wasn’t
making much progress with his
marriage proposal, so he handed
me his business card and on it I
found he was much more than
a poet. He was the producer of
the new Kurdish television news
station. It had been outlawed in
Turkey up until a few months
prior. In order to work there
though, every employee had to go
by a fake name. So Tatsika wasn’t
poor; he was just in danger of
A dead husband didn’t sound
much more appealing that a poet.
I thwarted several marriage
proposals during my vacation, but
the fi nal one was a doozy. On my
last night in Istanbul, just hours
before I hailed a cab to the airport,
I went out to hear the very popular
clarinetist Salim Sesler play with
The dark club was hopping
with young people on the prowl.
Bodies danced and grooved to the
Salim’s extraordinarily goodlooking
son, Bulent, accompanied
him. He played the kanun, a
stringed wooden box with a
piano-like sound. While I sat at
a table near the stage, I noticed
that the tall, dark and handsome
Bulent was making eyes at me.
I was not the only one to notice.
During the show, he had several
rounds of rakuh served to me, each
time accompanied by a chorus of
whistles and hoots from people in
After the show Bulent invited
Lars, one of my Turkish-speaking
friends, and me to join him and
one of his band members at his
“You are beautiful,” he said
through my translator. He put his
arm over my shoulder and nuzzled
my ear. I edged an inch away from
him and had Lars explain to him
that I was leaving for Alaska in
just a few short hours.
He said I should stay and marry
him.As Bulent and my translator
negotiated my dowry, Bulent’s
friend, who was sitting on the
other side of him, discreetly
reached over and stroked my back.
I looked over and gave him the
most disapproving look I could
My suitor excused himself for
a moment, and while he was gone
his friend leaned over and said, “I
make you good husband. You be
It is interesting the words
we choose to learn when we
dabble in another language. I
understand the words “marriage,”
“love” and “fl owers,” but in some
circumstances, the true meaning
seems lost in translation.
Bulent returned to the
table with a CD of his and he
scribbled his e-mail address on it.
“When you return to Alaska,
e-mail me. I come marry you.”
I have been back in Alaska for
a month, but have not yet e-mailed
Bulent. I probably never will. I
have, however, recently gone on
a date with William, an American
He speaks the same language as
I, which made our fi rst encounter
a tad less awkward.
On the night of our date, he
arrived at my home with a bag
full of note cards. I was instructed
to pick a few, and from there
our date would commence. So I
picked. The cards read: “Pirates,”
“Dessert First,” “Karaoke,” and
“First Kiss.” (The latter made me
So for our date, William and I
dressed up as pirates and we went
to three different restaurants. We
ate dessert fi rst, then appetizers,
and fi nally dinner – all at different
establishments. We “argh’ed” and
drank pirate libations everywhere
Afterward, William and I
went to a bar to sing karaoke. The
karaoke session had just fi nished
and the bar had cleared out, so I
sang “Summertime” to him and
him alone – a fi ne song for a
pirate stuck in a permanent state
of winter to sing. We then drank
cognac, the fi nest of pirate drinks
and ended the night with our fi rst
kiss – for which we fi nally took off
our pirate hats.
For some, such a date is foreign
and possibly uncomfortable, but
for me, it was blissful to spend an
evening with someone who spoke
the same peculiar language as I.