22nd September, 2013
I think some contextualization is in order.
Generally speaking, I’m asked the question “are you alone?” around 5 times per day (highest count 18). This is frequently followed by “aren’t you afraid?” to which I normally reply “of what?” – a response which garners knowing looks and raised eyebrows. In many countries I’ve visited the next thing is “but where is your husband?” It’s possible I’m reading too much into these enquiries, however it seems to me the logical conclusion is that I should be afraid because I lack the protection of a man, but that the potential danger is also man. You know what? This constant and universal line of questioning does drip-feed a certain amount of paranoia into one’s psyche and to a rebellious soul in turn aids the development of a palpable feistiness when potential cornerings arise.
I’m not a man-hater (some of my best friends are men). But when you have been stared at, groped, verbally abused for no good reason other than you have dared to get on a fast bike and drive 10,000 miles on your own I really don’t see any moral turpitude in the odd bending of the truth with a predatory male. Telling a policeman who is ogling your modestly covered breasts (and two breaths away from going a step further, although of course I can’t be sure) that you are in mourning is not so far away from explaining that you are intensely sad at the world in which he thinks his behaviour is acceptable.
Mom, am I a barbarian? is the title of this year’s biennale in Istanbul and look into it if you are interested. Simply put, it is highlighting that the usual “outsider” status of the barbarian is called into question when the “insider” system is corrupted and unreliable as a source of justice and leadership. After a couple of days spent perusing the show I felt the need to see Istanbul from the point of view of the, erm, layman. Unfortunately, as a woman on her own (an outsider of a kind) the sub-text of possible sexual encounter was difficult to avoid and I lied barefacedly and said I was gay in order that everyone could relax and talk “straight”. There was no discrimination involved, all parties enjoyed the evening and learnt from each other. I did later in the week confess to my untruth, which I believe has led to some personal reflection in my new friends.
I sincerely apologise to anyone who may be offended by my actions but I do not for one second regret them. Maybe it was my tone rather than the content that upset you? Or my face? Or just the way my enormous balls swing about?
Yours after much soul-seeking, Pompei,
P.S. Furthermore I thoroughly recommend travelling alone by fast bike.