- 4 years ago
- Wedding: November 2014
I’m going to try to not make this extremely long, but I will attempt to show the cultural differences.
I come from a prominent Pakistani family. My parents moved here to the USA a year before my twin brother and I were born, and we’ve been born and raised here along with our two younger sisters ever since. We have loads of family here and back in Pakistan.
The Pakistani-American community here, over the past three decades, has managed to remain pretty inclusive. Marriages have been arranged between young adults here or with partners back home, always with the consent of both parties involved, and almost every marriage has been a major success – most couples are in love and living happily. The furthest one in my family has “strayed” is to marry someone that was not Pakistani, but raised Muslim (Paki cousin, Afghan wife).
Under the pretense of education, I was able to defer arranged marriage (even though I am the oldest female not married in my family – and I’m only 27!). My parents had arranged my marriage since I was little, but at 19, I flatly said no, which caused a LOT of drama, but we all got over it after a few years. After graduating from undergrad, I enrolled at Harvard University for graduate study, and all the prestige of Ivy League was able to push away the pressure of marriage for the time being. I was also the first unmarried female to move away from my parent’s house so I could pursue my education (my family is predominantly in a metro area approx. 500 miles away).
In that time, my best friend of two plus years and I fell in love. My white, Baptist best friend, that is. Our relationship has been kept under wraps from my parents, as it is not culturally acceptable (nor religiously, as Muslim women are not allowed to marry non-Muslim men). My mom had a sneaking suspicion that we were together even when we were just friends, but since we started dating, we’ve kept things under wraps. When I’m on breaks and staying at my parents’ house, she sometimes accuses me of dating him, but I’ve always denied it.
He is the most wonderful, amazing man I have ever been with. I knew I was going to marry him before I even fell in love with him. I just knew the day I met him that he was the one, but denied it for so long. We truly are two of a kind and work so wonderfully together. We actually have never argued. Everything has felt so natural since day one.
Fast forward to this past November, he proposed. Since it was right before finals and I was already under a lot of stress with PhD applications and final exams/papers, I didn’t want to take any more stress on, because I knew I would break. Harvard finals are no joke!
I came home last Monday. I’ve decided that this Wednesday, on New Year’s Day, I will break the news to them.
I am so, absolutely terrified. I adore my parents, and in our community, I know that this will cause a lot of people to talk shiz about my family and I and cause a tremendous amount of pain to my parents. My closest friend (who I call my cousin because we grew up together) became pregnant and had a shotgun wedding with her white boyfriend was excommunicated from her family. My actual cousin, who was married to a Pakistani man through arranged marriage, filed for divorce after two years and has been dating a white man, was just recently cut off during Thanksgiving. I am so terrified that this will also be my fate.
And that’s the thing, I know why they would be extremely angry. The possibility of losing my religion and Pakistani culture is very real, so I know why they are very afraid and not accepting. He’s an outsider. He doesn’t know the languages we know. He doesn’t understand our culture. My FI has agreed to convert and we have mutually agreed to raise our children with both cultures as I was raised in and as Muslims. Yet I know that they will just consider his conversion a farce and my marriage as Islamically illegal. I get it. I really do.
My mom was even talking to my cousin’s mother (the first one mentioned above) a few days ago, and said that she’s waiting for me to tell her about my FI, because let’s be real – she’s not stupid and knows what’s up. But she also told her that if I were to get married to him, she would marry us (as it is the bride’s parents’ duty to throw the wedding), but after that, would never talk to us again and refuse to let me come to the house and meet the rest of my family ever again (aside from my father and siblings).
I know it’s so easy to say that it’s backwards or stupid for one’s family to act this way, but please try to see it from their perspective as I do (and don’t look down upon them). It’s so easy to say love conquers all and that I should do what makes me happy, but having a wedding without my parents’ support is not what would make me happy. I come from a culture where marriage means the marriage of two families – not two people.
I am so torn up and anxious. I’ve been crying on and off all day, because I am so scared. Wednesday is only a few days away, and I can’t imagine going back to Cambridge for my last semester without my parents’ loving support. They’ve been incredible in their encouragement and help to me throughout my Harvard journey – and I’ve gotten so close to them because of this (after such a turbulent past). I just don’t know what I’ll do if they cut me off.
I’m actually tearing up writing this. I just don’t even know anything anymore.