I Met Dad!

March 25, 2013

ezra mannix and zeynep senturk

From now on I can steal these kisses anywhere! (Without the red wine in hand, perhaps.)

Once I had a girlfriend in the States whom I had met one October. The December of that same year, we went to her parent’s house out of town and met her parents and her little brother. That night I stayed in her room, in the same bed with her. We had no intention of marrying.

I repeat: I stayed in the same house…while her parents were down the hall!…., slept in the same bed and woke up the next morning with no bullet holes in me, no angry cousins waiting around the corner to beat me to a pulp – not a scratch on my carriage. In fact, her mother even made breakfast.

That seems unusual, almost unthinkable to me now – at my ripe 31 years of age no less.

I’ve lived in Turkey for a long time.

I share this tidbit because my beautiful girlfriend and I recently took a first formal step to marriage and had dinner, together with her family, in her family’s home on the Asian side of Istanbul. It was not only my first time meeting her father, it was the first time I had set foot inside the house where the love of my life has been living for a good chunk of her life.

Zeynep and I have been together for 14 months.

It was a relatively modern and low-key affair on that recent late winter evening at the Senturk residence. A delicious dinner of kereviz (celery with walnut and yogurt) salad and chicken with soft jasmine rice was served, a Turkish national soccer match was watched (Turkey beat the tiny principality of Andorra 2-0), delicious out of season fruit was consumed, cay was drunk.

Her father’s name is Ahmet, a name so mainstream its practically ironic (Americans have John and Mary, Turks have Ayse and Ahmet). A smallish man, but tough without an ounce of fat on his frame, Ahmet picks his words carefully. Like me, he is a bit tough to read. He is a warm Anatolian, but never too far from dumping a young man’s body in the Bosphorus if he lays a hand on one of his daughters.

However, the interrogation from father wasn’t as tense as I thought. Sure there were questions about my family, what my father does, where exactly I am from, what I do, where I do my banking, what I think was the real reason behind Sept. 11, etc. But the hardened dad actually cracked a couple smiles before the night was through. The evening ended amicably.

The proverbial application form is in and chances of being a member of the Senturk club were looking good as I headed for the door. I experienced for the 985th time the Turkish tradition of the whole family/friend group coming to the door to stand not three feet away while I put on my shoes, watching with love as if I were a Panda giving birth at the zoo. I had a couple of homemade gul boregi to take home with me for breakfast the next morning

I also carried with me a sense of accomplishment on the jerky minibus ride home that rainy night. A sense that you have to earn the trust of your woman not only as an individual, but also as a member of a family with all her sacred bonds that entails.

It’s a link to another time, but with a modern twist. In fact, the family is modern and secular by any Turkish yardstick, yet Turkish is Turkish, and being embraced by all family members is never something to take for granted.

By comparison, our family units are like loose affiliations,  chambers of commerce of individuals bounded by love, gloriously free to choose their own lives, but sometimes limited in terms of the support and the “reach out and touch someone” factor the members give and receive. I speak not of my own family, for I have been blessed, but I make a sweeping cultural generalization.

The day will come when I can get overnight privileges at their home. Until then the acceptance process has gotten started – and the fun is just getting started.

Gentlemen with a Turkish wife, feel free to add your stories.

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6 Responses to “I Met Dad!”

  1. Levent said

    So true in terms of Cultural stuff and well depicted the situation in a Turkish Setting. When it comes to real deal with family matters, it is never easy. Who knows maybe one day, we Turks also learn to accept our children’s decisions as individuals rather than creating this gloomy atmosphere for such relationships…

  2. Very interesting…. So, what DOES your Dad do for a living?
    –your Dad

  3. Sharon said

    “absurd,” eh? hmmm…

  4. What a beautiful piece. I often have trouble articulating how a lot of the cultural norms that westerners consider ‘backwards’ – like more traditional family values – have their own merits. I tried to explain this in my post ‘Working Women in Arabia’ http://www.gillian.im/2012/10/working-women-in-arabia.html but I think you do a much better job!

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