We had been driving for about an hour, and that’s when he finally asked me what he wanted to know.
“Cherry, I want to ask you question – private question. Is ok?”
I knew exactly where this private question was going; I would have bet what little I have on what was going to come out of his mouth next – and I would have won. I just wondered how long he had been sitting there wondering how he was going to ask me the private question.
“Ok” I said.
In my mind I weigh the pros and cons of telling the truth.
Pros: I’m proud of my decisions, independence, and my culture which accepts that women don’t need to be married. There’s a part of me that wants to educate other cultures to my own. I know they don’t have to accept it, but I think it’s important to understand different cultures have different thoughts around marriage.
Cons: Do I really want to get into this conversation yet again; trying to explain to someone who doesn’t have the best grasp on English (and consequently I can’t communicate very well with) why I am not married? Explain it to someone who has never been to America…let alone Europe. Will he then try to marry me off to one of his family members…yet again?
I answer, “No, I am not married.”
I know what is coming next .
“Sherry, you have children?”
I’ve already decided to go the truthful route, so I might as well keep trudging along this cultural crevasse.
“No, I do not have kids.” I answer.
The inevitable comes next, “Why not married?”
I sigh, and try to explain in 2nd grade English, how I haven’t met the right man yet and that he shouldn’t worry, I am happy with my life.
Then he surprises me with the next statement and goes off of the usual script.
“Oh…I am so sorry.” he says.
I don’t think I had ever had anyone express their sympathy regarding my single lifestyle before. That floored me. I of course quickly tried to explain that there was nothing to be sorry or sad about; I was indeed happy with my life and my freedom.
But I knew that I wasn’t going to get through to him.
He went on about how I needed to have children, they were the best thing in the world and I would be sorry if I didn’t have them. I don’t think he knew I was 40, nor did he have any idea that kids were the last thing I ever wanted.
I tried to explain that my brother and sister have children and I see them often; he didn’t listen and he kept on going on about how it would be too late and then I would be sorry. That’s when I gave up trying to explain my cultural oddities to him.
I knew we were at an impasse. An impasse that I’ve been at many times before.
Are you a solo female traveler (or male traveler!) who gets asked this question frequently? How do you deal with it?
Read my other musings on Travel vs. Motherhod