Do you ever feel like you’re in a constant battle between trying to please your parents and putting your needs first? Have you ever lied to your parents when going on dates, because it was a lot easier than actually telling them the truth? Well ladies, you’re not alone. The struggle is REAL when you’re a Tamil girl who still lives under your parents' roof. Here are some of my own experiences with this.
Note: This article is not intended to bash my parents in any way, but rather to express my internal conflicts surrounding dating and maintaining a “good daughter” image.
Growing up, I didn’t really know how to interact with boys. I never equipped myself with the social skills to make meaningful connections with the opposite sex. Our parents, who grew up back home, were accustomed to a world where public image was important. For my mom, hanging out with boys for fun was unheard of, and the idea of befriending people from other castes, supposedly inferior to your own, was looked down upon in Tamil society. While I can understand why most Tamil parents can be strict with their kids, as this type of mentality is ingrained in them from a young age, the reality is, this does not translate to the norms and culture of our new found communities.
Because my childhood mainly consisted of extra-curricular activities, my main focus was to do well in school, and uphold to the standard of being a “golden child” in my parents' eyes. Whether it was singing, swimming, speech competitions, enrichment programs, attending spiritual education classes… you name it, I did it, and I was well known for it within parts of the Tamil community. I was traditional in the sense that I wanted to be portrayed as a “good daughter,” which meant that I obeyed the rules at home, got good grades and attended religious gatherings every Sunday. To this day, my biggest fear is letting my parents down.
As I finally started to date, there were many internal struggles I dealt with. I resorted to meeting people online, not only because I was shy, but because it was my only avenue to get to know a boy without my parents finding out. The biggest dilemma that I had with meeting people online was actually finding an excuse to get out of the house to go on these dates. For me, lying doesn’t come easy. My facial expression would just give it away, not to mention the hassle of finding a wardrobe to wear that wouldn’t blow my cover. I had to make it seem believable that I was meeting with one of my girlfriends. In fact, I would try to plan my excuse to the finest details. Who I was going with, where I was meeting my “friend”, the storyline of the “movie” I watched, “studying at the library”…the list goes on. Not only was it difficult for me to come up with these lies, it was also hard for me to remain present in the relationship.
I would constantly check my phone, be paranoid of getting home on time, and worry about maintaining my image. This was also difficult for the person I was dating. Having to reschedule dates because of my situation or cutting the date short to prevent getting caught by my parents were just some of the many struggles I faced because of lying.
As I got older, completed my undergraduate degree and found a field-related job, I decided to start being more open about my love life with my parents…because at least at this point I had nothing to lose. To my surprise, it wasn’t so bad coming clean. I just had to tell my parents where I was going, what time I was coming home and to pick up their phone calls. Little did I know how annoying Mothers could be when they find out about the man in their daughter’s life! Once the truth came out, the questions came flooding about where my relationship was heading, whether he called, when I was going to see him next, what he does for living, etc. The pressure to have a label on our relationship and to decide where things were headed, especially so early on in the dating game would end up making me feel very anxious.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from my experiences, I can tell you that it is nearly IMPOSSIBLE to please your parents while satisfying your own needs simultaneously. Putting family first poses as an obstacle when it comes to dating, so you must be able to find common ground with your parents and the person you’re dating. However, if you would like to live the life you want guilt-free, you must learn to assert yourself with confidence of the decisions you make and accept the consequences that come with it. Perhaps moving out would be a solution, at least that way your parents won’t be all up in your business. I know it takes a lot of courage to do this, especially if you care a lot about getting your parent’s approval or if you’ve lived your whole life trying to please others.
My advice to those who are in relationships already and are afraid of coming clean, remember this; the most important thing to your parents is your happiness. I can’t say that all parents will eventually come around, but I can say that having a positive outlook can help you in many aspects of your life. So don’t lose faith, stay true to yourself and follow your heart.
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