Traveling through the most conservative part of Turkey, I got asked this question every time there was a chance for a Turkish man, woman or child to form conversation with me.
It was never a direct question of course. It came after a few investigatory ones.
"So, where is your husband?"
"I don't have a husband."
Like a script to be carefully followed, after a few seconds of introspective nodding and a rubbing of fingers or hands, came:
So interested were they in the answer that some would set aside heavy bags of groceries on sidewalks, pull out cell phones to cancel appointments or to let an expectant friend, family member or spouse know of their likely late arrival at home or wherever.
As a Western woman, their concern made me feel like there was something abnormal about my marital status.
In traditional Anatolia it was.
Most women by their early to mid 20s are married with their first child. For most, marriage is not an optional life choice. It is a certainty, especially if at some point there is a wish to have children.
In traditional Anatolia there are no bastards. Just beautiful representations of the traditional nuclear and often extended family too.
It is a serious pleasure for me to see many evenings after dinner mother, father children and grandmother or aunt taking a stroll through neighbourhoods.
I remember a time when Barbados was like that too. Not the traditional nuclear family template, but certainly the role of the grandmother in many children's lives as well as the evening walks after eating, particularly on the weekends.
Spending time around Turkish people, I learned that marriage is fundamental to everyday life.
As a result, any attempt on my part to convincingly answer this question is almost futile.
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