It was the summer of 1983 when I declared to my family that I would be marrying a Brit, and not just any old Brit, but Duran Duran bassist, John Taylor. I can still recall my five-year-old self sitting cross-legged in front of their Save a Prayer video, utterly captivated by this exotic creature with his wholly unfamiliar, yet wildly attractive lankiness and deathly white pallor, so different to the Turkish men I'd been exposed to in my short life. I didn't know at the time, but this MTV moment was to be pivotal in my life.
Inexplicably, a marriage to JT did not transpire, but while I patiently waited for him to finish up with his bevy of European supermodels so that he could finally swagger off into the sunset with his teen bride with the ill-advised perm, I began to do a little dating of my own and found...JT or not, I only liked lanky, whiter-than-white guys with English accents. A host of them followed and eventually I met Lee, an Essex boy who made me laugh so hard that being by his side for ten minutes felt like I'd done an hour of sit-ups. When he proposed a year later, my parents - who it must be said never cared who I married as long as 'he was a good person' were delighted! The larger community? Not so much.
I don't think it's any kind of secret that most migrants expect their children to marry someone of the same nationality. Spouting mantras about pure bloodlines and letting the motherland live on in your children, children of migrants are taught from an early age that there can be no other option. So when I announced my plans to marry someone so far removed from what they've ever known, people I hadn't heard from for years came crawling out of the woodwork with tales of horror and my role in the destruction of a fully functioning society. "But he'll never understand you or your family", "Why do you want to make your life so difficult?" and my personal favourite, "Why would you do this to your future children?" As I watched former classmates and cousins marry others they could have easily been related to themselves, each one shrugged, "Being with someone like us will make life easier in the long-run." For some perhaps, but certainly not all, I thundered.
'Being with someone like us will make life easier in the long-run.' For some perhaps, but certainly not all, I thundered.
The first - and last - Turk I hooked up with ended in disaster. Jealous of my male friends, irritated if I wore something that was too 'attention-seeking' (the man had a meltdown when I wore a hot pink cashmere sweater to a golf course), our relationship ended when he woke me up in the middle of the night to demand I fetch him a glass of water because it was my JOB as HIS WOMAN to do so. I realised at that point I was far too modern to be dealing with this kind of nonsense and went straight back to my Anglo boys and their laid-back ways. My parents were just as relieved as I was.
Lee and I have been married for ten years now and far from the stories of doom predicted within the community (both his and mine, it must be said), we've had an amazing ride. Once we got together, Lee studied Turkish for a number of years so that he's reasonably comfortable speaking to my family (and more importantly, understanding what my mother is saying when she tries to talk about him in front of him), and I studied Essex, and over the years, we've had laughs after laughs as our cultures have clashed in the most spectacular of ways (my cousin in Istanbul welcoming Lee into our family by 'showing' him his .38 calibre; Lee's friends in England pulling me aside in London one night after I used the word 'wog' too many times to demand whether I know what it means. HINT: something incredibly different- and wildly offensive compared to what it is in Australia), but everything is always a surprise and that's just the way we like it.
Sure, that doesn't mean we don't have challenges any other couple in our situation would face - for example, going to the beach together is a nightmare since Lee burns at the mere suggestion of sunlight and I enjoy full noon sun, and on a more serious note, the stress I feel about our girls not speaking Turkish, but we work on finding solutions together. They're just trivial things of course; it's when we look at our girls, a unique blend of Turkish and English with their olive skin and big blue eyes, so uniquely Australian in that they are so different that we realise the world would actually be a better place if more people married against 'their kind'.
And as for John Taylor, I finally got an opportunity to interview him when he last came to Australia, but Lee shut down what was to be my 'hall pass' immediately. "You're my wife, not his and I'm asking you not to do it." After 12 years of being with a Turk, perhaps some of it's started to rub off on him?
Marry Me, Marry My Family explores cross-cultural weddings in Australia. Watch or stream new episodes weekly Tuesdays 7, 14 and 21 January, 8:30pm on SBS and SBS On Demand.