My Turkish boyfriends.

I have been attracting a lot of male attention while I’ve been in Turkey. I’m not suddenly a goddess (lol), I’m just a tourist wandering around with a pocketful of lira. And that, in the Turkish tourism industry, is enough to get you a few marriage proposals, if not a free Fanta.

The two stand-out creepy encounters for me have been Mamut, the shoulder-gripping waiter, and Captain Tom, the moustached boat trip guide. In between the dozens of attempts of flirting that are supposed to coax me into buying a meal/pair of Roy Bans sunglasses/a yacht, these two men really take home the trophy for pushing “sexy sells” over the limit.

Mamut is the fella that made me the paper rose. Regina had taken me back to his restaurant for some chai, and she immediately rebuked him for his overly personal way of talking and touching me. Instead of backing off, like most normal humans would do when chastised by a mother figure, he stepped up his game. He didn’t want me to think he wasn’t being genuine. He wanted me to think he was sincerely in love with me.

Now. I’m no expert, but I’m going to say it takes more than a rose made out of a napkin and a wink as he passes me my drinks at a restaurant one time to fall in love with someone. This didn’t stop old Mamut though. He sat practically on my knee and stared into my eyes. “I want to know your soul” he said. “I want you to know mine”.

Not sure whether to laugh or cry, I tried to avoid eye contact. But, no. His face was so close to mine that there wasn’t much else to look at. There was a lot of face on face action going on. I was terrified he was going to kiss me, or worse, sneeze. “I have a boyfriend” I muttered, wrenching my hands free of his clutch. Without missing a beat; “Your boyfriend isn’t here” . True, I thought. He doesn’t exist, so he’s definitely not here.

Creepy, yes, but not even in the same league of our mate Captain Tom. That’s his name by the way. First name Captain, second name Tom. It’s a good job he has a boat really, otherwise he’d sound a bit bloody stupid.

Captain Tom did those boat excursion days out, and I’d been listening to his sales pitch one evening when considering booking a trip, when he took a turn from salesman to love interest in a movement so swift I’d barely noticed it happening. Politely declining his offer to take a private moonlit cruise, smoking shisha and touring the bays of Turkey, I almost tripped over myself trying to scuttle off. He told me the tour started at half eight tomorrow morning. He refused to let me pay for the ticket, but I insisted. You don’t want to owe anything to a man that’s just casually tried to sail off with you in plain sight of all passers by

The next morning, having been comforted and reassured by my friends and family, (“Have you seen Taken, Farrah? This is Taken.” ) I set off to do some minor espionage before my trip. I’d wait (behind a bush, presumably) to see if there were any other customers getting on the boat. If not, I’d scarper. 20 lira to not be kidnapped is a bargain, really. In any case, it didn’t work, because as I was trying to find a suitable place to stake out the boat, Captain Tom saw me and waved me over for some tea in a nearby cafe.

Whilst lecturing me on “living in the moment” and “don’t worry about boyfriends, you’re on holiday” and so on, I quietly sipped my chai and wondered what he’d do if I just got up and ran right now. Thankfully, doing a runner wasn’t necessary, as a family of six called and asked for directions to the boat.

The relief! A family! You can’t be kidnapped on a boat full of tourists from Somerset! Freedom! From that point I took a uninhibited attitude to Captain Tom. I don’t have to be extra nice to you in case you steal me now. Ha! I immediately took advantage of this by pretending I had a gay sibling when he was midway through a lengthy explanation of the “disgusting” gay couple he’d had on board once. I’ve been making up a boyfriend all week, a gay brother was no issue. Doing my bit for the LGBTQ community, really. You should have seen his face. Backtracking in your second language is much more awkward. That’ll teach him to be so openly homophobic.

Having taught Captain Tom a thing or two about berating people’s sexuality, I relaxed and enjoyed the rest of my day. The boat trip was lovely, by the way. Got on well with the Somerset family, and Captain Tom’s creep levels dwindled. Afterwards, on the way back to the hotel, I passed my favourite waiter Mamut. He wanted to know why I didn’t wait for him. Fuck this, I thought, I’ve nearly been kidnapped once today, I’m not having it again. Instead of politely coming up with an excuse and trying to shrug off his embrace, I writhed out of his grip and told him straight- “Because I didn’t want to”, I said, all but shouting, and stalked off.

Later, in a restaurant that evening, a waiter wrote his number on the back of my bill. If this trip has taught me anything, it’s that if I’m ever in need of a husband, Turkey wouldn’t be a bad place to start looking for one.

This is what not being kidnapped looks like- on board Captain Tom’s boat.

Farrah Kelly

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