I face the pressures from my two cultures which contradict each other, what is expected from me from a religious standpoint, expectations of prospective partners and their cultures, my family, and most of all myself — my "self," which contains so many sub-identities and ways I am expected to be that I don't know how to act.
I am the Muslim child of Pakistani immigrants, and I was born and raised in America.
I've been trying to balance the many nuances of what this unique identity means for me when it comes to pursuing a romantic relationship. Dating has already become so complex, but being the person I am in this culture and society, it is trying to say the least. Everyone around me has so many different projections and what I want is not always congruent with what people want from me. Sometimes it's hard to even define what I want or to be worrying about facing pressure or guilt for not acting (or acting), a certain way.
On one hand, we have the worst of mainstream and modern hookup culture. Sex is meaningless and people date just for fun or experience. Then we have old fashioned Pakistani culture — cue my dad yelling at me if I ever associate with the opposite gender in any way shape or form. Arranged marriages were common and your parents chose your spouse which you met on your wedding day. Not so long ago, that is how my parents came to be.
Then we have the differing opinions of dating in Islam, the bar of what is appropriate being vastly different for everyone. Even if I were to approach another American Muslim they could have a completely different set of values than I do. Some of the more conservative ones will not hug a guy or even talk to them one-on-one without a chaperone. On the other hand, we have people who are totally OK with premarital sex and flirting around. Then we have the middle ground, which is me. I accept hugs sometimes and I'm playful, but I plan on saving myself for marriage. Some people would consider me old-fashioned and inexperienced, but some others would say I am way too loose and need to pull back.
I want to find love, yet I am hard-pressed to find someone who will commit to me without wanting to have sex before marriage. We are also living in the Golden Era of the "fuckboi." When it comes to modern relationships, I find that people would rather have a good time than a long time. My religion is integral to who I am and when I face pressures from prospective partners who just don't get it, I feel misunderstood and inauthentic. Then I also feel like I am doing them and myself a disservice.
With so many opinions and ways to talk about this issue of dating, I've come to the conclusion that it's important for me to satisfy my religious and cultural obligations but I also need to adjust somewhat to the society I was born in.
It's not like we are living as my parents did, with segregated schools and everyone understanding and sharing the same religion as me. Even the process of arranged marriage has changed as there's a talking aspect, and marrying someone without getting to know them is outdated. I also feel scared of crossing any lines because of the way both my Western and South-Asian culture loves to slut-shame women, just for associating with guys. I'm scared of compromising my values or disappointing my family as well. I also hate the feeling of missing out on the dating experiences most of my peers get to have freely. I wouldn't dream of having a boy over in my room for a one night stand or posting a couple's photo on Instagram. I would completely destroy my reputation in my community and family.
I will never be accepted to date anyone until my family agrees that I am of age to be married, and I don't want temporary romances that I would be forced to hide anyway. I am so tired of being disappointed again and again by men who say they want to marry me but are too immature to make that commitment. I would date them if I didn't feel so guilty about contradicting my family and religion or bringing shame to my household.
If I do things the way my family wants me to, guys would get impatient over the restricted dating that is closer to a friendship anyway — due to my values. When boys bring up marriage to be accepted as my partner, it's scary because I know I couldn't deal with the pressure of marriage. I have barely discovered myself. I'm also sick of being afraid of being judged and slut-shamed if anyone ever saw me with a boy or on a dating app. After years of contemplation and trial and error, I have found that the only possible solution to me is to give up for the time being. I think I'm just going to call it a day and revisit this when I am 24.
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