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I’ve thought long and hard about how to start writing this post: correction – start off this post! First of all, the beautiful writing that I have seen by all of you wonderful AOW contributors and readers intimidated the hell out of me (even though I write for a living). Then I thought what if I sound soppy and lovesick, which is NOT how I want to come across on the scary global Internet!
Then most panicking, heart-stoppingly of all, I thought, how am I supposed to navigate this terrifyingly complicated, hard-to-understand-if-you’re-living in the 21st century story that has at the heart of it a deeply antiquated way of thinking?
Thankfully, I then came across this post by the beautiful Aisling and she hit the nail right on the head for me and readers, I started writing like a hurricane.
Because what Aisling talks about is prejudice. And though I don’t pretend to know or even be able to half-imagine what being vilified for your sexual orientation is like, I do know what it feels like to be hated by your parents – the people you have loved most in the world for your whole life – for who you love. Correction – for the colour of his skin.
You see – I am a girl of Sri Lankan Tamil descent. What that means in our family is that you obey your parents, you study a subject they approve of, you obey them. You go to University, you live at home till you’re married, you obey them. You must not talk to or be seen in public with a member of the opposite sex who could be your boyfriend, you obey your parents.
When you’re a bit older (past 18), if they’re liberal enough to let you have a boyfriend, you must introduce him to them from the word go (note I said boyfriend – you’re not allowed to have a partner of the same sex), you marry him, you obey him (and them!).
What you do not do is marry anyone whose parents are not from the same village that your parents grew up in, in Sri Lanka. This rule is beginning to be bent slightly to: You must not marry anyone who is not Sri Lankan Tamil. What you absolutely DO NOT DO is marry someone Indian, Muslim, Black or God Forbid, White.
Because obviously, all White men are after is meaningless sex. They will use you, get you pregnant, divorce you, then leave you “in the street” as my mum put it, with said child, or children.
Before I started dating B, I knew my parents wouldn’t be thrilled. But certain circumstances in my life beforehand had taught me that you need to grab life by the horns (is that even a saying?!) and take the opportunity of true love when you get it. So I did. But only when they discovered our relationship did I discover the full force of their prejudice. Leaving a lot of the detail out, in simple terms, they told me to drop him otherwise I would be seen as a Whore by the Community.
For first-generation Asians living in the UK, Asian community is everything. This means that it definitely is better to destroy your daughter and her boyfriend’s happiness and hopes for the future, in the hope that your reputation amongst the community will not be tarnished.
The past year has presented with me with the most difficult time in my 24 years on this earth. I have railed against myself, my background, questioned my family’s love, and lost friends along the way. Bitter tears were spent nightly for months on end. I do not know how I managed to wake up every morning and walk into a brand new job intact without collapsing into a gibbering mess at my desk!
But through it all, B is there, with neverending comfort and words of advice, and a heart that seems to be made purely of patience, love, and gold. All it does is reinforce why I love him so much and why I am putting myself through all this, for us.
It has definitely made us jump over a lot of hurdles prematurely. We had already talked about marriage and children just a few months into our relationship. But we know that if we’re doing this, we’re in it for the long run. We tell each other we love each other every day.
Despite making my parents so unhappy, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. Because of B, because of the amazing relationship I never thought I’d have. I’ve discovered that when you find the right person, you just fit. You discover the meaning of what a partnership is all about, you get it and it just works.
Recently my parents and I have spoken less heatedly about mine and B’s relationship and it seems to have provided a tiny bit of hope for the future. But I know that it could very easily come crashing down so easily around us again. I’m dreading that moment when B and I tell our parents we want to take the next step in our relationship.
I dread the violence, sleepless nights, whispered tearful conversations through the phone, coming home to a silent and hostile environment.
I dread breaking that mother-daughter bond that I’ve cherished my whole life, disappointing my father for what seems like the millionth time. And wondering why because they’re so important to me, do I not give B up?
I have to jump all of these hurdles whilst juggling a relationship, friendships, and career and somehow remain sane.
But thousands of people all over the world are fighting the same battle to be with the ones they love. At least our country allows B and I to legally get married and walk around holding hands in the street, even if we are making silly duck faces at each other.
There are more hurdles to jump – but now I’m confident that whatever life throws at us, we’ll be able to get through it. We’ve already got through so much and our love is so much stronger for it. I hope that with time, my family can learn to love Us too.