The first thing my parents said when they found out about my boyfriend was, “why a Chinese?”
Tim* and I have been together for four years, of which three-and-a-half years were spent hiding our relationship from my parents. For that long and agonising three-and-a-half years, my parents had no clue that I was even dating. Or perhaps they had suspected and just didn’t want to acknowledge the fact that their Indian daughter was dating a Chinese boy.
Whenever my boyfriend and I hung out, we would avoid going to places where my parents could be at. I would lie to my mom almost everyday. She’d ask, “where are you going?” and I would say, “to meet a friend.” Lie. “Which friend? What’s their name?”. Another lie.
Not only was it exhausting to lie, I hated myself for doing so. I felt guilty for keeping such a big secret from the people I should be the closest to. Many times, I considered telling them the truth. My friends kept encouraging me to come clean with them too. It’s not like I didn’t have a choice that I had to resort to lying, but I was just too afraid.
My parents have never been super strict, but they are what you would call “typical Indian parents”, which if you’ve heard anything about, you would know they can be pretty scary when enforcing their beliefs.
So it was lies upon lies, upon lies. We were cautious, careful, as we should be as an under-the-radar couple. Until one day, Tim sent me home only for us to bump into my dad at the void deck.
My dad wasn’t supposed to come home at that time, but there he was, and he saw Tim. What followed was an awkward conversation in the lift with my dad.
“Who is that boy?”
“He’s just a friend.”
He obviously didn’t buy that. I mean, which guy friend would send a girl home without any particular reason right?
When we reached home, his exact words to my mom were, “you should ask your daughter to bring her boyfriend home next time.” I sighed as I shut myself in my room, ignoring whatever conversation my parents were going to have.
Well, shit. That was it. There was no point trying to hide it anymore. A million thoughts ran through my mind. On one hand, I was relieved, but there were so many worries that came after: Were my parents going to disown me? Were they going to tell every living relative about how I’ve brought shame to their family name? Were they going to force me to break up with Tim?
THE TRUTH IS OUT
No one spoke about the incident until the following night’s dinner, and it was a conversation I hoped never came. My parents asked about ‘the boy that dropped me home’. They wanted to know how old he was, what he does, what his parents do – the usual stuff.
But they also asked me the one dreaded question, “why a Chinese?” How was I supposed to answer that?
I didn’t look at his race when I fell in love, I fell in love with the person he is.
I tried to convince them that it didn’t matter that he was Chinese. But they were adamant on the same thing – “He’s not a Hindu”. They refused to see him for who he is as a person. They only saw him as not Hindu.
I was frustrated and hurt. They hadn’t even met him and they were already dismissing him and our relationship. They wouldn’t even give him a chance just because of his race.
It was illogical, but at the same time, expected. My family has always been conservative. My parents never outrightly forbade me from dating a Chinese but it was heavily implied that bringing home a boy of a different race was frowned upon.
On the other hand, Tim’s parents knew about our relationship and have accepted me as part of the family a long time ago. I had found a second family in them, joining them for significant family gatherings like Chinese New Year dinner and birthday parties.
I love my parents, but even I have to admit they can be pretty racist. Over the years, she would make comments on how Indians are better than other races, how we are more “elite”.
I’m not entirely sure where this racism stems from. Having known Hindus who converted out of their faith, she might have feared that her children will do that too. Perhaps that’s why she would always tell my brother and I, “no matter what, don’t tarnish my religion.”
Which is why when I tried to persuade them to meet him before blatantly disapproving our relationship, they gave me an ultimatum instead:
“I’m giving you two years to think about it. We’ll talk about this then.”
They wanted me to to think about a relationship that they didn’t see a future in. Me being me, I told her to think about it too.
It might have felt like a ‘power move’ when she dished that out but the two-year ultimatum seems like a joke now. To me, it felt like an excuse for my parents to not deal with it. Because I had thought about it, about everything that could possibly cause a conflict between us, and race and religion were the last things on that list.
Because of this ultimatum, my life and relationship with Tim have come to a standstill for the next two years. While my friends are applying for a BTO, getting engaged, or making wedding plans, all I’ll be able to do is look at my Facebook feed and sigh over the predicament my parents had put me in.
LOVE VS FAMILY
I’m afraid of where I will be in two years. I don’t want to be in a position where I’ll have to eventually choose between my boyfriend and my parents.
“How am I to choose between my partner and my parents?”
How is anyone to choose between the person you want to spend your future with and the people who brought you into this world and to the person you are today? I owe my parents everything and I can’t possibly build a future without them in it. Neither can I picture a future without my current partner.
I don’t mean to sound melodramatic but let’s face it, many of us do things just for our parents. It could be something like going to a school our parents preferred or having children because our parents want us to. We do these things out of filial piety, even though it may not be what we really want.
Sometimes I wonder, “why can’t my parents just be happy in the fact that I’m happy?”
In a world where it’s difficult to find someone you are committed to love and whom is committed to love you back, it’s a wonder I had found it at all.
It’s been 6 months since they gave me the ultimatum, which means I have another 1.5 years to hope for my parents to have a change of heart. For them to realise that when it comes down to it, race or religion does not and should not define us or our relationship. And I really pray that I will not have to choose between a 6 year relationship with a partner I see my future with and family.
*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the individuals.