Nazlan Ertan

Turn my wine into Ayran!

3 Temmuz 2009
A gorgeous woman and a man with gray in his temples clink glasses as the sun sets. She looks straight into his eyes and murmurs something soft, her eyes gleaming with unpronounced hints of promise. She looks across the Bosphorus, her suntanned shoulder gently touching that of the man. The man, a cross between a young Sean Connery and Bernard Pivot in his prime, turns to the audience: "That is what I call the ending of a perfect day," he says and the brand appears: "AYRAN, strong but gentle Turkish yoghurt drink!"

Or an alternative advertisement:

Two men, with tired faces and gray, crumpled suits are sitting on very uncomfortable bar stools and are served by a disapproving bartender.

"I know I should be going home, but what do I have?" asks one to the other. "A nagging wife, a job with no promise of promotion and not a soul who loves me."

"How will you vote for the next elections?" asks the other guy, as if trying to change the topic.

"Don’t know," says the other with slightly slurred speech. "I do not think much about politics. I may vote for the AKP or for the MHP."

They stumble to their feet as the screen darkens. The final glimpse is that of a grape Ğ there is no name pronounced Ğ just like the famous Silk Cut advertisement of the 1990s.


This, gentle reader, is what we may end up seeing after the new regulation on alcoholic beverages. Brilliant Turkish advertisers, if you think you would love to see an ad on TV using dancing women and lots of bubbles, forget champagne. Work for cola instead!

If you want to have daring men on horseback, relaxing after a day of heroism, this would be the publicity for ayran, not rakı.

The second advertisement of two tired men, dumb as it may be, has the advantage of bypassing all the limitations of a recent regulation. The regulation drafted by the state-run Tobacco and Alcohol Market Regulatory Agency, or TAPDK, takes effect as of July, with the declared aim of bringing Turkey one step closer to the "EU standard" in terms of protecting the consumer and young people.

Let us take a look on the rules:

Thanks to the new law, do not bother associating wine with cheese or rakı with mezes or beer with chips. Scenes of a rakı table overlooking the Bosphorus or couples in suave evening clothes clinking glasses at the Four Seasons on the Bosphorus are a definite no-no. This aims to create a realistic picture: real drunkards do not mix their alcohol with their food, nor do they care for the scenery. Thus, a dark restaurant and a bare table is more than adequate.

Stop misleading the public that you will have more body by drinking wine, more of a spark by drinking champagne and more courage by drinking rakı. A very dry Martini hardly makes you James Bond, whiskey would neither make you frisky nor Sean Connery. Men seldom make passes at girls who drain glasses. Drink tea, the ultimate aphrodisiac. In the second advertisement, we see that this principle is reflected; the alcohol drinkers are not in high status by home life, professional advancement or voting choice.

Who can drink a bottle of wine and perform well anyway Ğ particularly after a certain age? Rum does not rhyme with come. Protect the minors, as well as women, from being lured by false promises.

Alcohol advertisements will be confined solely to films that are suitable for people 18 and older. The images will only be shown at the end of the film screenings in the movie theaters. Those who are interested will stay.

Would it be impertinent to call AK Party "Alcohol Kiss-off Party" now?

Last thing to watch:

The alcohol advertisements will not include sexual and pornographic elements.

Alcohol should not be shown as a status signal.

No culinary or cultural references.
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Lady Justice

27 Haziran 2009
Dreams are strange things: I found myself, in full gear of Roman Goddess Justitia, with scales and all, posing for a painting before General-cum-painter Kenan Evren. I was not wearing a blindfold over my eyes, probably because some Freudian authority had decided that it was hard enough for Justitia in Turkey as it is, without adding a further handicap. As it happens between painters and models often, we got to talking Ğ the architect and the leader of the 1980 coup and I. The sun was shining over his garden in Marmaris and I was sipping lemoncello.

"No one will see me behind bars," he said. "These two rascals, Erdoğan and Baykal, would not be able to agree on anything even if their whole life depended on it."

"So you think that the present attempt to lift the Constitution’s temporary Article 15 would not be realized and the coup leaders would not have to face trial?" I asked.

"No," he replied. "Most of us are too old. Or already dead, which is the worse option. Besides, the lifting of Article 15 is not a vote getter, such as shouting at Peres or cancelling credit card debts. No one remembers the coup anyway, except a few intellectuals, directors and authors. Not that the AKP would ever swing their votes that way."

"Ertuğrul Günay said that it was shame that the new generations only know you as a painter," I said, refraining from saying "bad painter."

"Turkish people have short memories," said Evren. "They remember Ertuğrul Günay as a Justice and Development Party government’s culture minister, and not as a militant of Dev-Sol, the revolutionary left."

"Don’t you have regrets?" I asked him. "After all, by the 1980 coup, you have created a lost generation, not to mention a very bad Constitution."

"Quite a few regrets actually, though I don’t whine like a ninny," he said. "I always resented that people said I was keeping my eyebrows untrimmed so that I could resemble Atatürk. I also rather hated that book, called ’Netekim,’ which pictured me as an ignoramus."

"Well, the association came naturally after you were quoted as saying that you could draw as well as Picasso," I said.

"Was I wrong? Picasso would have painted you as a neurotic woman with a distorted profile, red fingernails and bitter tears. Just look at what I have done," he said as he turned his canvas around.

"I am blonde in that painting," I said. "Come to think of it, the picture does not look at me but like singer Emel Sayin."

"Well, I always had a soft spot for her," said the retired general, not that he uses that title anymore. "You know, Atatürk had Safiye Ayla and I had Emel Sayin. But I do regret those evil tongues who said that I had her escorted to the presidential house after midnight. Never would I dream of imposing such discomfort on my young officers."

"Any other regrets?" I asked.

"I rather resented the way that the chubby fellow, Özal, would do everything to get on my nerves and pretend that we were friends," Evren said. "I tried to discourage him from politics but he would not listen to me at all, becoming first prime minister, then president after me. He is the one who started the whole transformation Ğ from the good old days when the well-read and patriotic generals could give a piece of advice to politicians without being accused of violating democracy."

"Is the painting finished?" I asked. "I am beginning to get cramps holding that scale and the book."

"Oh, the book is the Constitution; just toss it aside," said the general. "I am finished now, so off you go. I have an appointment with Gen. Pinochet and Gen. Viola in half an hour to exchange some tips on É Justitia."
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Just not that into you...

20 Haziran 2009
Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, authors of the best-selling book "He's Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys" (surely you have watched the film, at least) have kindly agreed to take a look at women’s troubles that dominate the agenda in Turkey. ***

Dear Greg,

As Turkey’s self-styled style icon, I have been involved for years with an older and sophisticated man. Given our very visible lifestyle, we are under tremendous media pressure to get married, but he has not yet popped the question. Do you think it is our age difference that scares him? ĞEda T.

Dear Eda,

Worried about the age difference? I do not think so. Age differences are no concern for traditional Mediterranean men, as their wives get younger and younger with each marriage.

Liz and I hesitate to use our key phrase "he is just not that into you" for his not asking you to marry him, as we believe, from all the pictures we have seen in the Turkish media, he is very much into you. On the other hand, is it publicity that he really likes? Ask yourself this question before another icon appears on the scene.


Dear Greg,

My estranged husband, who happens to be one of the richest men in Turkey nowadays, is still part of my life. A typical Black Sea man, he is very busy with his construction empire and his seven vintage cars, not to mention his very active and much-flaunted love life.

In a recent interview, he said that he remained married as insurance against all the young women who want to entrap him. Do you think I should expect him to resume our married life after an intermission of eight years? ĞEx-A

Dear Ex-A,

He is just not that into you if he is seeing other women.

Your ex-husband is intoxicated by his newfound power and cannot keep his zipper, or his mouth shut. Liz and I watched him on a recent TV program and were simply amazed when he announced that he "likes riding anything pretty," "would make women fly, either with his private jet or without it" and "would never touch a woman more than 25 years of age."

We also noted his magazine interview, in which he quoted his (your) daughter as being disappointed because he was dating Miss Turkey’s fourth runner up, as she thought the fourth runner up could not possibly be pretty enough for her father.

Neither are we too enthusiastic about his remarks calling his marriage "insurance" and his insistence that he is, in fact, a single man. It is time for a wake-up call: Your husband is not coming back, unless it is in search of a nurse. Give the big-mouthed playboy the treatment he deserves... by crashing his Lamborghini into his yacht!


Dear Greg,

Although we have been divorced for years, my husband insists that I am still his wife and that he is responsible for my "honor." Somewhat violent in his behavior, he has stabbed me several times with a knife.

He was detained, but released with just a fine. He also killed my mother while she was trying to help me escape in a moving van to the safety of another city. There are still people around me who say that I should return to my ex-husband to save my life, as he would probably be more protective of me than the state. What is your advice? ĞDesperate

Dear Desperate,

Clearly "they" are not that into you. "They" refers to the state, the legal system and all those who should be applying the law. They should be defending your safety Ğ after all, that remains one of the responsibilities of the state.

A decision by the human-rights court may be grand, but it is still sad to see political officials criticizing the decision, saying that Turkey is doing a better job combating domestic violence and the mistreatment of women than most European Union states.

Greg was particularly touched by a recent Turkish politician’s quote that "women’s elegance and motherly wisdom must touch the EU process."

It would be great if this woman’s touch could be coupled with a good domestic policy toward women and a general vision of women as individuals, and not simply a part of a family.


Dear Greg,

How about a question from a man for once, huh? I have been courting this evasive beauty for decades and there she is, establishing house with so many others and not with me.

Only last year, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of our ties, and there she is, still reluctant to make a commitment, aside from some financial arrangements and calling me a "candidate." Do you think she is into me? ĞE.B.

Dear E.B.,

What do you think? And what have you done lately?
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Back to (mis)manners

13 Haziran 2009
Due to the mounting demand and repetitive requests, the Daily News has invited Ms. Manners (a more political and less politically correct version of Miss Manners) to offer guidance on issues that dominate the agenda. ***

Dear Ms. Manners, what is the firm but polite way to ask someone to resign?

Bülent A. and Şaban S.

Dear boys,

Ms. Manners is a firm believer in persuasion and discretion. Calling a colleague to resign through newspaper headlines may be perceived as a hostile attitude, not to mention as a sign of weakness. Try the gentle art of persuasion to get your colleague to step down and if it does not work, try to vote him out of office. If that also fails, instead of engaging in a public game of name-calling, practice discretion and discreetly post the documented evidence of your colleague’s corruption to your favorite editor in chief.


Dear Ms. Manners, I have invited a group of European diplomats for dinner. I am somewhat ambiguous about what wine to serve and other dos and don’ts. Could you give a few hints? Mine

Dear Mine, the basic rule is that white wine goes with white meat, such as chicken and fish; red goes with red meat and you can serve rosŽ as a pre-dinner aperitif. However, Ms. Manners strongly advises you to drop the last option, as the European Union has had some recent trouble on whether a rosŽ is a rosŽ by any other name. Do not think about serving that wine whose production methods brought the commission at odds with some of the member states.

It would be polite to watch some Euro-etiquette at the dinner table, such as serving "real" chocolate, rather than the milky, sweet version. Despite the growing tolerance toward the curvy cucumber, please try to get a straight variety. If you have any Scandinavians at the table, do not serve foie gras, even if there are French people present. Also, please employ the rules of gender equality and make sure that women are represented equally at your table.

Ms. Manners would like to point out that a responsible hostess assures that conversation flows easily and non-controversially. Do not mention the Lisbon Treaty to the Irish; do not refer to the great works of the Czech artist David Cerny to the Bulgarians; do not say "darling" to the British; do not mention inappropriate behavior toward minors to the Italians; and do not mention the European Parliament to anyone!


Dear Ms. Manners, my husband, a reasonable man, has started asking since last week whether he had been my first love, whether I love him very much and whether I would marry him if I had to do it again. I cannot understand his insistence. How can I assure him, without lying, as needless to say, he is NOT my first love? Distressed

Dear Distressed, Adil Gür, who has carried out and published a much-read survey on the love and marriage map of Turkey, has a lot to answer for! Spouses started asking each other the questions in the survey. Since Ms. Manners is concerned with manners, rather than morals, she refrains from a debate on whether perfect honesty is necessary between spouses. However, she very much doubts that when more than half of the interviewees were being perfectly truthful when they said that their spouse was their first love and that they would marry the same person if they had the opportunity. It may be simple, not to mention polite, to your spouse to say that you agree with the majority of the people interviewed. "Of course there is only you" with three dots hanging in the air, may also work.

If everything fails, try therapy. With the right therapist, you may be able to re-find happiness in the arms of your now-trusting husband Ğ or those of your therapist!


Dear Ms Manners, first of all, thank you for your last advice, which I tried very hard to live by. I believe that I have made considerable progress in controlling my temper and this is greatly appreciated by everyone around me. I would now like to ask your advice on how to deal with misnomers. For example, if your name is JR Ewing but people call you JRE, how can you tell those shameless so-and-so’s that you want to be called JR Ewing without being rude? Angry

Dear Angry, your example is not a misnomer but a hypocorism. Of course, you can gently, I repeat gently, let people know how you prefer to be called. I regret to tell you that most polite societies would not consider calling people shames boars or threatening to sue them would be considered gentle.

Hypocorisms work in many different ways and not always according to the will of the subject. For example, Barbara may prefer to be called Barbie, rather than Bobbie, which sounds like a puppy, but this will not happen unless she looks like a Barbie. Similarly people may be inclined to call AKP "AK Party" if the party and its staff appear to them as pure as driven snow.


On a more personal note, Ms Manners is getting very, very irritated with your colleagues who insist that we call you and your party in a certain way while they are very good at giving a variety of names to other parties!

Dear Ms Manners, as an English speaker, I am somewhat confused with the use of "sen" and "siz," which I am told corresponds to French "tu" and "vous." Is that correct? Are there any cultural particularities that I should know about? Jane B.

Dear Jane, under normal circumstances, you "siz"zle when you talk to your elders, the hierarchically superior, people you do not know and/or do not want to know. However, there are exceptions: In Anatolia, addressing someone as "sen" also marks a sign of respect, so when your janitor calls you "sen" it is not a sign of familiarity.

In the recent political debate, think of "siz" as "you" and "sen" as "yo!" as in "Yo cannot insult me by yo-ing me!"


Dear Ms. Manners, I have been graciously hosted at the prime ministerial palace by the wife of the prime minister, who offered me a lavish gift. I would like to reciprocate. What is the correct procedure? Naomi C.

Dear Naomi, evil tongues here would say that you have already paid your dues by getting her to the front page in every newspaper and that you would need to make up to the First Lady instead. However, Ms. Manners does not agree. It is always polite to send a "thank you" gift or a memoir that could be enjoyed by both Mr. and Mrs. Erdoğan. Needless to say, this does not mean one of your naked photos!
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Please match me a match!

6 Haziran 2009
Simple fact: If you have a nine to five job, you cannot watch daytime TV. That is a mixed blessing. On the plus side, you do not have to see "Big Brother," "Would You Be My Bride?" or its more deviant derivative, such as "Would You Be My Daughter-in-Law?" On the minus side, you are painfully devoid of the "real agenda" of the people and miss out on local celebrities. Through these programs, everybody seems to get their 15 minutes of fame, although not necessarily in the way they want it. Take the case of İhsan Alkan, who participated in one of the several marriage programs. The program was going just fine when Alkan’s daughter called and announced that his father was married. "My father has been married to my mother for 29 years," said the daughter. The presenter cut the program short, saying that married men were "disqualified."

Turns out that Mr. Alkan had actually volunteered to go on the program to make his estranged wife of 29 years jealous!

If television is too public, just try the Web. Turkey’s largest virtual dating service, Siberalem, is where tens of thousands of Turks enter every day to find friendship, short-term relationships or marriage.

Just tune in and select a sample: Let us call him "adamgibiadam" (directly translated, it means a true, or earnest, man) and check into his detailed profile: "Adamgibiadam" is looking for a "true" woman who would make him comfortably in his twilight years. He is 47, a high school graduate and gives his profession as "manager." He earns between 2,000 to 3,000 Turkish liras. É It is a constant wonder to your columnist how people adhere to managerial positions without a university degree, but who am I to disagree? Adamgibiadam has been married and divorced, has a child and enjoys traveling. He hardly travels outside because "everything worth seeing is in our beautiful country," and he reads autobiographies, but would never dream of reading "Pamuk and other traitors."

And that, gentle reader, is the sort of men you would find on the screen and in the virtual world.

But do not worry, the next section will show you how to make silk purses out of sow’s ears!

. . . and make him a catch!

Take note of a very necessary improvement program: the most recent addition to the high-rating, times-are-a-changing programs is one that many women would like to see, or even participate in: "Leave your husband in our hands."

Unlike what the name indicates, it is not an open call to adultery. Couples come to the program and, in line with the desires of the wives, husbands are "re-modeled" with dancing, etiquette and conversation courses, not totally unlike Moliere’s "Le Bourgeois gentilhomme."

The women who participate in the program bring along their husbands and give some clear instructions: "Get rid of the belly," "Learn to dress," "Stop making funny sounds as you eat" and "Just talk to me, babe!"

The last one is indeed the top request.

A case of reversed identities can be compared to the Turkish movies of the 1970s, when the female lead turns from an ugly, awkward duckling to the swan.

In my mind’s eye, I see a certain woman who gives an anonymous call to the program: "Yes, I would really like you to take over my husband. Make him get rid of the belly and the temper he has. Rid him of his obsessions with the color white, or AK, as we call it in Turkish. Get him to use a more positive vocabulary, twitch less around the face. No, I cannot give names as he is likely to sue, but please understand that it would be a great service to me and to the whole world."

Oh, yes!
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Man of Action

30 Mayıs 2009
Imagine Omer Sharif, John Wayne and Keanu "Matrix" Reeves rolled in one, with a touch of actor-director Clint Eastwood.Add the invincible fighting technique of Bruce Lee. Put a Turkish branding on it and you get Cüneyt Arkın. "I asked myself whether I should kill myself if I remained an invalid," he told the NTV channel after news that he would have to remain in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

The man of the action movies thought that the life of an invalid was simply not worth living. The 72-year-old actor became front page news when it was reported that he was paralyzed for life.

It turned out that he only had some problems in his hands and feet and is now fine. A large public rushed to the hospital, in a display of affection to The Man Who Saved the World.It would be no exaggeration that Turkish cinefiles over the age of 40 must have watched hundreds of films starring Cüneyt Arkın, or Mr. Fahrettin Cüreklibatur as his real name goes.Between the years of 1965 and 1990, Arkın made an average of 15 movies a year ranging from historical drama to futuristic "Star Wars."

Arkin’s most notable movies are historical dramas, taking place during the first centuries of the Ottoman Empire or slightly before the Ottoman Empire, during the age of the Anatolian Seljuks.

His best known part is "Malkaçoğlu" based on a cartoon hero that fights against the "Frenk" (Christians) during the Ottoman Era.

His line in Kara Murat, the fighter of Fatih (Mehmet the Conqueror) "Catch him, Wolf" has been the quintessential line in all fights.

The joke was that Cüneyt Arkın could never be beaten. He himself laughingly told the episode that in a fight between his two sons, the younger and weaker son chided the other: "Why should you be the one always beating me up? Do you think you are Cüneyt Arkın?"

Arkın had a go at political or "socially aware" movies in the late 1970s but the role of the "poor man with a great sense of justice" was met with limited success. His attempts to be a "romantic jeune premier" also fell short. The Turkish public liked him as John Wayne, not as Cary Grant. His sentimental roles, mostly overacted, led to romantic clichŽs, such as "Nazannn, nnnoo, I say, nnnooo... annnnd nnnow I am blinnnnd."

Ironically, his fame abroad (under the name Steve or George Arkın) came from one of his poorest-quality films: Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam (The Man Who Saves The World Ğ also known as Turkish Star Wars), an extremely low-budget science fiction tentatively famous for including bootlegged scenes from Star Wars.

"Now get the florescent bulb and save the world," we, as young fools, used to laugh, in a reference to Arkın’s saber in the low-budget movie: nothing more sophisticated than a long tube of florescent lights we used at home.But there was something amazingly touching in the way that Arkın related to the audience and his profession: "I have always tried to be respectful of my audience and adopt a lifestyle that they would approve of," he said. He led a very family-oriented life, even at the height of his success, with his wife and two sons.

When he appeared on the TV and told the touching story of his fears to remain an invalid, the anchorwoman said: "We would like to welcome you on this program after your treatment."

"Certainly," said the actor. "Should I come on horseback?"

A likely reply from The Man Who Saved the World.
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Cry(obank) baby!

23 Mayıs 2009
Despite getting its name from a mischievous toddler with a flesh and arrow and a misplaced sense of irony, Erospolis openly admits that it is no fan of children; by definition, it prefers hedonist pleasures, heavy controversy and other heavenly pursuits. Having said that, your cheeky columnist fails to understand why a child-friendly person of any sex, civil status or sexual preference cannot have a child either through adoption, surrogate mothers, sperm banks or any other ingenious methods offered by law and science Ğ provided that the parent(s) can emotionally and financially care for the offspring.

Take, for example, Güler Özkul, who decided that she would have a child through a sperm bank, or cryobank as it is called in more medical circles. Educated, intelligent and stable, she has decided, at 43, to go to a cryobank in the United States and have a child.

Even the careless readers of the magazines, not to mention the front pages, know now why she opted to do so: Her partner was not interested in fathering (still another) child, but the determined mother-to-be wanted one. So she is now pregnant, and besides the usual back pains and enlarged feet, she is also experiencing fame pains and an enlarged debate around her right to have a cryobank baby.

Güler Özkul, the daughter of a famous actor and an excellent actress in her own right, is far from being the only famous Turkish woman who decided that a bank was more reliable than a man...

A few years ago, a Turkish actress, Leyla Kömürcü, had decided to use the sperm of some nice guy that she did not know rather than some not-so-nice guy that she did. Ah, but the debate that ensued then and now dragged everyone in: the moralists, the liberals and, of course, the pious.

"The sperm bank debate divides up the theologians," said a Hürriyet headline, omitting that every single issue seems to be dividing the Turks nowadays. The General Directorate of Religious Affairs, whose snappy answers on its Web site’s question-and-answer section replies to everything from yoga to Saint Valentine’s Day, declared that a cry-o-bank baby was not approved by Islam.

"It resembles adultery," said its Fatwa line. (Your columnist is somewhat unclear about this phone line and wonders whether it is something like "dial F for a Fast Fatwa!")

The most unexpected support came from Professor Beyza Bilgin, a soft-spoken academic known as the first female "preacher" of Turkey. She objected to other colleagues who equated artificial insemination from a sperm bank with adultery.

"It is the will of God, who wants the human race to continue, that such a method is open to the people. We should naturally use this method with responsibility, but to me, it should be considered like a kidney implant rather than a case of adultery," she said.

Leyla Kömürcü, who passed a court decree on the protection of privacy of her child, said: "I think I am a lot more honest than women who simply go and steal a baby from a man through a one-night affair. Through the data in the cryobank in New York, I know that my son’s father is a 25-year-old scientist. I will give my child all those details. I think it is very straightforward."

One academic of theology said that it was not fair on the child: "When the child asks, would you simply show the building and tell the child came from a freezer there?" said one theologian.

Well, that certainly beats the lark and the cabbage story, or other forms of politically correct versions, such as "then daddy planted that little seed in mother’s belly."

One wonders whether a mother would have an easier time telling her child: "Your father is this mediatic playboy, who, while married to Turkey’s self-declared most beautiful woman, got me pregnant. During their very mediatic divorce, your daddy told all the press that he wanted me to have an abortion. Then, as soon as he learned that you were a boy, he changed his tune and now, we are married and that is that."

Let Feraye Tanyolaç-cum-Çilingiroğlu decide which is more straightforward after all.
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(First) ladies who lunch

9 Mayıs 2009
The large, rather rococo, table was decorated with the daintiest Brussels lace and the hand-woven Estonian napkins. After much debate, the Franco-German balance was reached on the understanding that the porcelain would be from Meisen and the silverware from Christofle. The crisp salad and the saffron pilav were served in two beautiful bowls of İznik Ceramics, a contribution that dated from the 1980s, when the table became a tradition.

The women around the table, some beautiful, some ugly, most middle-aged, but a few young ones, addressed each other by pet names. They exhumed power and self-assurance, the sort that comes from living in power circles for years.

But not all of them looked jubilant: "I cannot belieeeeve that the so-and-so now asks me to apologize for my remarks to the press about heem," said the sexy-looking woman with full lips. "Eet ees not me who ees frequenting minors. Birthday, my eye... When he has not even come to the birthday of our own daughter! " The woman next to her, known in the circles as EE, simply shrugged: "You never challenge your man in front of the media. My husband says your husband is a good man and an excellent world leader." She adjusted her hair-scarf. "I am not telling you to take it lightly, mind you. When my husband first came to power, he wanted to pose with some models in Davos. É That was, you see, before he was invited to all those conferences on the Middle East, so he had more time then. Anyway, I placed myself firmly on his right and managed to appear in all the pictures."

"Are there any models in his Cabinet?" asked the full-lips.

"No, of course not. The minister of education is good looking, but no, of course no models."

"I resent that models are seen as of easy virtue," cut in who was doubtless the most beautiful woman at the table. "A model can be anything: a song-writer, a minister or a first lady."

"Carlita mia, I did not intend to offend you," said full-lips. "God knows what you must have gone through."

"Oh, one can easily deal with ex-wives and ex-ministers," said the woman referred to as Carlita. "The trick is to let him know who is more media-savvyÉand of course, taller in stockinged feet."

At the other end of the table, they heard Michelle say peevishly: "It is just too awful, you cannot wear a sheath without being compared to JackieÉ" "The thing is," said Carlita, "you are always compared to Jackie as soon as you become a first lady. Even I was compared to Jackie by your Vanity Fair. Cover story. Twice. It must be worse for American first ladies."

"I was never compared to Jackie," said Hil. "Not even when Bill was involved in you know whatÉ"

"Well, the little sidekick was no Marilyn Monroe," said full-lips. "But you see, eet ees very hurtful when your husband, whom you trust and love, decides that a man is as young as the woman he ees feeling."

"The trick is to get them before they get too powerful," said the woman known as EE. "And then keep them out of the harm’s way. If he is religious and believes that adultery is a sin, it is easier."

"And it is easier if you are younger than him," said the other headscarved women at the table, known as Hera because her name was impossible to pronounce. EE gave her a bad look, but Hera, used to ducking such dark looks from her compatriot, simply looked away. Instead she turned to Raina: "Have you thought about covering up?"

Raina, who was saying to Michelle. "No, they never compare me to Jackie, always to Princess Soraya of Iran, the sad princessÉ" replied Hera: "No, not really. Have you thought about uncovering your hair?"

"Yes," said Hera. "But I would find it difficult, because of her," with a defiant list of the chin toward EE, her compatriot. At the other hand of the table, EE was whispering to full-lips: "You know, I rather fancy that a shade of auburn would make me look younger, but how can I, as long as Hera covers herself?"
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