When I was a freshman in high school, my dad, an immigrant from India and obvious expert on American boys, insisted that after 11pm, boys turned into werewolves. They didn’t mean to, but their hormones could get the better of them and physiologically all bets were off, so it was better to stay away from them after dark. My mom, also an Indian immigrant, advised me that being friends first is a great way to get to know boys and avoid the complications of dating. “Just take your time,” she would often say.
So with this mix of fact and fiction, curiosity and cluelessness, I spent many of my teenaged years stumbling around the dating world. I was always certain I had missed a class on dating, maybe after Chemistry and before Home Ec (yes, this was still offered by my All-American, Midwestern high school in the late 90s).
Clearly, my non-first generation friends had taken it, or at least read the Spark notes, because they were constantly going out and breaking up with guys. Their parents not only supported their dating, they drove them to dates! On the other hand, I was at a loss on the subject.
Whether in its Indian or American guise, though, dating continued to confound us all.
It wasn’t my parents’ fault. As Indian immigrants to the US in the 70s, each had participated in their own kind of dating, which consisted of being set up by their families for casual (or not so casual) meetings with potential spouses. Nobody called it dating, but that is exactly what it was – just in a different form. After having their own failed experiences with that system in India, they found each other and built a beautiful life together for my siblings and me in the US. Whether in its Indian or American guise, though, dating continued to confound us all.
I eventually figured it out on my own (more or less). I had a “boyfriend” at 17, and though it wasn’t a total disaster, it felt like light years away from my friends’ relationships. I had a “real” boyfriend in college, and then finally, in my twenties, I had my first really-real relationship, when I realized that there was actually no formula for doing it right.
I wish I could reassure my teenaged self that everything was cool — I didn’t miss the class, I wasn’t a weirdo, and everything would happen in good time. Being first-generation didn’t mean I would never have a normal love life. In fact, because I took my time, I often feel grateful for my parents’ advice. Jury is still out on the werewolf thing.For more sage relationship advice, we have a whole compilation of gems over here. What dating advice did YOU get from your immigrant parents?