Dating. A word that is thrown around casually at home in America is a word that, if uttered in an Indian household, causes the television’s volume to be lowered, the newspaper to be slowly folded, and the hustle and bustle to come to a standstill.
In my household, dating is frowned upon to an unnatural extent. Since high school started, if a celebrity couple was brought up when we discussed pop culture, the only reaction would be my dad looking over his glasses, asking if I also was in a relationship. The answer always stayed at a constant “no” regardless of my true relationship status. Lying was never the intention, but it seemed easier to lie than to get engaged in an argument that would more often than not last longer than the relationship itself. As I got older, the lies got more and more elaborate. I had to mask not only crushes, but entire relationships from start to finish.
Growing up as a brown girl in suburbia, the amount of teenage heartbreak you have to face with no familial support is intense. You have to cry over boys silently in your room, and then when your mom calls you down for dinner, you wipe away your tears and face your family as if nothing happened. I understand the cultural differences between the time and place my parents were raised and the time and place I was, but these secrets damage you more than Indian parents know.
Even when I successfully pulled off a guise of happiness following a rough breakup or emotional moment, I tended to be more snappier around my parents and played the victim whenever they said anything. Moments like these turned into bigger fights and I, already overcome with my own emotions, tended to break down faster, which confused my parents and led to more reprimanding for being too emotional. As a result, I, and so many of my brown female friends, found ourselves becoming caught in a vicious cycle of a lack of familial trust.
We felt that our parents didn’t trust us, and we also couldn’t confide in them. We hid more secrets and our parents, as parents usually do, found out and trusted us even less. Every secret relationship we had led to more and more secrets being kept from our parents and the bar we set for ourselves in terms of honesty plummeted.
As I grew up and entered college, I fostered the connection and trust I had with my parents, but never to the extent it was before. My parents and so many other Indian parents believe that not allowing their kids to date will protect them from relationships and the negatives that come with them, but it never does. All it does is teach their kids to lie better and causes them to grow apart from their parents.
While I will always appreciate the effort my parents have put in to make me as happy as possible, I will also always regret that I’ve lied to them so many times. But at the same time, I never felt that I had a chance not to lie.