Teens, Youth Dating: Still Taboo?


By Arathi Devandran @miffalicious & online at: www.miffalicious.com

Youth Talk Columnist

Youth Talk Columnist

I restarted this article about four times before I figured out what I could possibly say. Which goes to show how awkward I feel being so ‘open’ and ‘public’ about dating, a topic that is considered to be highly taboo in the South Asian community.

Truth be told, this is probably going to be quite a cringe worthy account because I’m severely lacking in that department (and no, this is not a self-deprecating, please-pity-me spiel). However, as a (proud) member of the Gen Y, and as a young adult whose many friends have gone through similar experiences, there are some thoughts that I have about the concept of dating (or should I be more proper, and say courtship, instead) and some common issues that I’ve noticed.

I feel that one of the biggest reasons why the topic of dating is considered so taboo, is probably because for a long time, and in certain parts of the world, the South Asian society does not look too favorably at non-platonic relations between boys and girls. Personally, I believe that this has something to do with the constant gender separation that seems so prevalent in the South Asian culture, especially about ten to fifteen years ago, during our parents’ time.  bigstock-Couple-In-Love-60100


Girls and boys were constantly placed on different pedestals (and no, this is not an argument about which pedestal is higher) and their interactions were only deemed appropriate when chaperoned.  Then of course, let’s not disregard the constant “what would other people say?” line that we’ve all heard of at some point or another in our lives.

“No, you’re not allowed to go out with boys. What would the neighbours think?”

“Don’t ever let me catch you with a boy, beti. I don’t want people to think I haven’t taught my daughter good manners.” Blah blah blah.

So perhaps, one way of getting over all this dating fuss is to remind our parents, or as young parents, to remind yourselves that the world will talk no matter what happens. And that values and morals that are instilled within humans since a young age do not dissipate just because boys and girls come together to get to know one another.

Which brings in the issue of trust and communication.  I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, though I’m in no way an authority of parenting, or of matters of the heart. If parents and their children (in this case, young-adult-children) have established a clear channel of communication since the latter’s early years, trust would well and truly cement their relationship. Trust allows for the impossible. In this case, in a conservative South Asian society, it allows for parents to tell their young-adult-children that they trust them enough to “do the right thing”.

Photo: courtesy Arathi Devandran

Photo: courtesy Arathi Devandran

At the same time, it goes without saying that said children also should be honest and upfront (no matter how difficult this can possibly be) about their interactions and plans.  That being said, it all sounds well and easy on paper but… it’s always a little daunting to address this issue with the parentals, isn’t it? At the end of the day, no matter how much of your friends your parents are, they still retain their primary roles as Mum and Dad. There are just some things that are always going to be issues you’d never want to discuss with them (think birds and bees, double cringe).

So how do you go about it doing it?

Do you write it on a note and slip it under your parents’ bedroom door so that you have to avoid the awkward conversation (read: confrontation)?

Do you sit them down and invite the potential significant other home for dinner so that there can be an official introduction?

Or do you quickly slip it into conversation when you’re casually talking to them about the weather?

Honestly, I couldn’t tell you what’s the best bet. You probably won’t know what it is until you’re faced with the situation as well. But when there is a good level of communication and a solid foundation of trust, it would make the whole ordeal a lot less difficult. At the end of the day, parents only want the best for their children. They don’t want their babies (because no matter what, that’s how they see us) to get hurt or find ourselves in situations where we’ve been handed the shorter hand of the stick. Keeping that in mind, it would do good to be rational, calm and as composed as possible when communicating with them to show them that yes, Mum and Dad, we know what we’re doing, and this is a matured well thought decision.  Eventually, though there will be much ado about nothing, they will come around. And until they do, keep trying, keep talking and keep loving (safely, of course!).

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  1. Roshni

    I just think that it’s about time people recognize that the term ‘young adult’ has ‘adult’ in it and that parents should stop enforcing their own so-called morals on their children. The world is different from what it was during our ancestors’ time, and that is how it should be!

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