I Don’t Know How to Date
By: Reenita V
This month can be filled with hearts, balloons, romantic gestures, and other things that make your heart pitter patter or gag. Nonetheless , a new year and month of Hallmark romance upon us, it seems almost a guarantee that at some point you may reflect on your romantic life, even if you have one or not. In the past few months I have flirted with the idea of dating and actually have gone on a date here or there. While nothing has blossomed from these dating adventures, I have learned more about myself in the process. While trying to understand why dating is so complicated for many, I’ve tried to really focus on what makes it so complicated for me. I’ve come to the conclusion that I simply have no clue what I am doing when it comes to dating and largely in part to my upbringing in an Indo-Fijian family.
Firstly, many of the influential people in my life were adults whom were married. Marriage came to be through family match makers. Family members would actively keep their eyes open for eligible mates and should one lucky person be found, families would agree to meet to see if the single people were interested in being together. If the single people were interested, they would ‘date’ and eventually marry if that is what they chose. I literally grew up learning that at some point someone would bring me a suitable partner(s) so all I had to do was focus on my education. The idea of having someone show up with an eligible partner, who is looking for more than a one night stand seems really convenient, right? The commitment to really wanting to get to know a person, and the desire to find a person whom you want for a long term partner has already been established and acknowledged before the person walks through the door. The more you think about it, it sounds as if all those awkward ‘where is this going and what do we each want’ conversations don’t actually need to happen, because someone else had them for you.
Secondly, dating was pretty much taboo. Before the age of 16, I wasn’t allowed to date so I didn’t and the fear was instilled in me so I didn’t date much after that either. When I did finally start dating, I started dating someone who was also south Asian with strict parents so while we said we were dating, we never actually went out. Instead we spent time together during and after class. We held hands in the hallway, kissed for the first time on the third floor. Our romantic moments were captured in the walls of our school. Seems as though my first experience with dating wasn’t traditional dating but hanging out whenever we could at school. This kind of dating seemed to be the trend moving forward which is when hook up and hangout culture seemed to be developing but that is a whole different issue in itself. So fast forward a few years, I’m on my own learning about paying bills, balancing budgets, how to make food and going on the occasional date here and there. Here is where my growth and development as an indo-Fijian person start intertwining with western ideas and it becomes a whole tangled mess.
So with not having dated much while younger, I was and still am quite inexperienced. I never practiced how to conquer my fears of approaching a person I fancy. Last summer it took a whole 7 months before I could muster up the courage to ask my crush out. 7 months!! Sadly, that situation fizzled quickly. When the rare dates do occur I also find that not only am I asking questions that would help me figure out if they might be an ideal partner, but I also asking questions that will help me determine if you will fit in with my family. Family is an important part of south Asian culture so it only makes sense that dating me means dating my entire family. I literally imagine a scenario involving you and a grandparent at Christmas dinner and if I see it turning into a disaster in my head it’s over. As well, with the idea that dating was taboo the stigma sticks which makes taking about dating situations impossible. Either someone won’t share their dating past because they don’t want you to know about it, or perhaps they didn’t date or they just don’t want to hear about your dating situation until you was wearing a wedding dress. With my person experience of navigating the complexity of dating in the south Asian community, I find other friends experiencing the difficulty of culture, family and dating and these situations are not always isolated to the south Asian community but it’s there. Needless to say, dating is a whole complicated situation that takes more than a lifetime to figure out. So, if you know the tricks of the trade please let us know!