What Is Love? Baby, Don’t Hurt Me, No More.

What do you think marriage should look like?

I’m going to try my best to explain what I think it should look like. I believe that it should be a best friendship where there is love, respect, and trust with a lot of attraction mixed in. There should be understanding on an emotional level. There should be laughter and fun. There should be a belief that no matter what, you both are a team together.

So then why are there so many people out there making fun of their significant others? Why is joking about our marriage something that serves as way to bond with other people? Why is your spouse not held in the highest regard?

I understand that marriage isn’t always heaven. We show our worst to that person. Everything bad that happens in our lives will fall on the other person. They are our rock and our punching bag.

But isn’t degrading them in front of others disrespectful? Or is that just another way that people show their love towards their significant other? Maybe that is the bond between a couple, the ability to tease and make fun without resenting them. Maybe there are stronger people than I who can deal with this type of relationship.

For me, though, I can’t do it. I know that my husband and I will have to fight about things. I know that when the kids are exhausting, it takes a toll on us as a couple. As long as we can create some space to enjoy each other and continue to respect each other, I think we will be fine. But I don’t think I could survive being with someone who thinks putting me down is an acceptable form of affection. I might be too sensitive or I might just need something different.

I know we have all seen it throughout the generations and throughout different cultures. We have “husband” jokes and “wife” jokes. We hear this in wedding speeches all the time. There are stereotypes like the uptight wife or the messy husband that get reinforced over and over again. Can this change if we don’t agree with it? Why must this be the way to connect with others? Why can’t we use something positive instead?

I’d like to know what your thoughts are. I know that all marriages are different and have different bonds. I’d like to hear about what keeps your marriage strong. I’d like to also hear about what things you’ve heard between a couple that really irks you.

Couples and Communication

So I’m going to tell you the truth about my new year’s eve. My husband and I had a fight. It sucked. We were both tired and we had been dealing with illnesses traveling around our family for a few weeks. There came a point where stuff we had been thinking about and not saying just all came out. It wasn’t the greatest way to start off a new year but we figured it out.

We try to both be understanding of each other but sometimes, that leads to resentment. Holding stuff in doesn’t really help resolve anything and then, one of us ends up really angry at the other.

The problem with this situation is that constructive communication is something we both had to learn. Putting our ego aside for the benefit of our relationship is something we both had to learn. Talking to each other with the common end goal of moving forward is something we had to learn.

Unfortunately, these aren’t lessons that are readily available in the Indian culture. We don’t know that we need to continuously evolve in ourselves and in our relationships. The end goal is usually to get married. No one explains that you have to keep working on your relationship after the wedding. It’s just assumed that you will stay together regardless of anything else. We are taught that we just need do what we need to do and that’s it.

But that isn’t it. Awareness and improvement are a relatively new concept in the Indian community. Happiness and emotional needs are also new concepts as well. So we have to realize ourselves that we need to be able to look at our lives and analyze it so we can make it better. As a couple, we need to be able to talk to each other and figure out a way to move forward that is beneficial to both people.

Marriage is something that should be fun. Sometimes, there are occasions where it isn’t so much. But as long as we talk and try to understand each other, it should be a short-lived situation. Then, we go back to having fun.

My husband and I sure did.

Assumptions, Assumptions….

Another thing I encountered when I was in India was the idea that various people hold there about those who are living or raised in America aren’t as good as those in India. Before I go more into this, I just want to reiterate that these aren’t the thoughts of every single person. It is just a thought of several people I came across on this particular trip. I am fully aware that not everyone thinks like this.

My family visited this couple while we were there. In this visit, the husband proceeded to mention how things in America aren’t as good and this was better in India and that was better in India. The wife went ahead and mentioned that we were all forced to work in America and no one could just work because they enjoyed their job. Now while their statements may have some truth to them (but certainly not entirely true), I wondered why the comparisons had to even come up.

We compare things when we need to feel like we’re doing the better thing. It’s to assure us that we aren’t missing out on anything or the worse of the two things we are comparing.

It really felt like this couple was making comparisons about their lives in India with ours in America because there was some envy about the fact that we did come from America. The only way to feel better about the fact that they weren’t in America was to put it down. Nothing was as good for us as it was for them. It made me also wonder what they thought of me. Here they were making these comparisons while I, a product of America, was sitting right there. And as I had mentioned in a previous post, just because I don’t speak Hindi or Punjabi fluently doesn’t mean I don’t understand about 80% or more of what’s being said. And I really wasn’t thrilled hearing a few people who decided to put my hometown down because they either didn’t want to or couldn’t live there.

I am aware that things are different between living in America and living in India. I was born and raised here so to live in India just doesn’t seem like something I personally could ever do. But I have met people who have been able to move there and really love it as well as those having been born there and never wanting to move away. India is also still growing as an independent nation (with only 60 years or so of being an independent country under its belt) so comparing everything to America (with over 200 years of independence) is also not the wisest thing to do. It’ll take time for both countries to be comparable. I am hoping that, one day, they will be.

I believe I had mentioned before the Bollywood movie Pardes. They keep mentioning in it how all of the bad habits the bad guy in the movie had picked up was because he was living in America. It generalized and stereotyped those of us who were raised here and really showed us in an inaccurate and horrible light. Pardes is 17 years old. So you can imagine my surprise that there are still people who share the same ideas now.

I’m hoping there will be a time where we are not judged by where we were raised. I’m hoping we can get to a point where we try to understand that a person’s background is just a part of them but we don’t define them by that background only. I’m hoping that eventually people will stop judging me based on the fact that my parents left India for better opportunities for themselves and their children.

Yes, I am American. Stop forgetting that I am also Indian. I will never stop being Indian. Understand that.

Where Do I Belong?

My family and I just got back from a 2 week trip to India. As you can imagine, I noticed so many things that I do want to talk about. Let’s start with this.

I was born and raised in America. My parents moved here before I was born but have done a great job teaching my about my heritage. I have a strong sense of cultural identity and am trying my best to make sure my kid learns as much as she can about her heritage as well.

On my trip, I did notice something interesting. Interesting might be the wrong word but it’s what I will use at the moment. I noticed that I’m not Indian in India. I’m American. The Indian people in India don’t consider me as one of them. (This is clearly a generalization. I’m sure there are people that consider me Indian.)

I can’t tell you how many times I heard people telling someone else that I am from America and I don’t understand or speak anything but English. The funny part was that I perfectly understood what that person was saying in whichever Indian language (Gujarati, Punjabi, Hindi) was being used. Yes, my spoken Indian language might not be perfect but I can understand most everything being said in whichever language you choose.

Why is that assumption being made? I feel as though some of the people who made these assumptions know that I can understand most of these languages so why do they need to feel like they have to mention that I’m from America? Is it an insecurity issue? Am I a worse person because my first language is English?

I met up with a friend who moved from California to Delhi. She was telling me that when she has something to say, no one really listens because she’s the American girl. How does where we are from even relate to the knowledge we have?

It’s also funny because growing up here as a first generation South Asian Indian American meant I stood out. I was Indian, not American. I didn’t assimilate into the typical American ideal at all. Luckily, I grew up in Southern California which meant I wasn’t alone and there were ways for me to fit in with others who were in the same boat I was.

So now, if I’m Indian in America and American in India, I’m not quite sure where that leaves me. The only place I really fit into is this westernized Indian culture that has been created here in America. I get to be as Indian as I want to be without having to be any less American than anyone else.

I hope one day that the people in India who think I’m too American realize that I can understand every word they are saying about me.

That Auntie!

I go to a dance class every Saturday. It is run by an Indian woman that’s probably around my mom’s age. Almost all of her students are about the same age. I actually have a great time in this class because anytime I’m around dance, I’m at ease.

A new lady showed up at the last class I went to. Our teacher told her I was Gujarati because apparently, that lady (who was South Indian, Tamil to be more specific) knew how to speak Gujarati. Then, my teacher asked if I understood Gujarati. Before I could even answer, the other lady said “No. Most of that generation can’t.” I immediately jumped on that because, in reality, most of the people I know can speak their parents’ native language. At the very least, they understand it.

I think what bothered me was that the lady assumed I didn’t know anything. She started testing me. Now Gujarati is my second language. If you start putting me under pressure to speak, of course, I’m not going to be as good as I would be in English. She asked me a second question later and I was able to recover and prove that I knew my own language.

Seriously though? Why was I being challenged like it was wrong if I didn’t know Gujarati? I really wonder if her children understood her native language. Why would she assume that I didn’t? She had met me for the first time. For all she knew, I had just came to America recently with English as my second language.

I don’t get it. Being judged just based on my appearance or whatever she was judging me on was not appreciated.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Just because I’m American doesn’t mean I’m not Indian. I wish Indian people would stop treating me that way.

Those People Who Know Everything

Do you know this person? This is the person that no matter what you’re talking about, they know everything about it. They know the best way to do something and they know what everyone likes all of the time. They know everything about everyone and they know what everyone feels as well and why they feel it. And if you ever correct them, they will find a way to argue their point or let you know exactly why you’re wrong.

I used to be one of them (and maybe I still am). When I was growing up, I had strong opinions. Well, maybe I still do, but I’ve learned over the years that not everyone shares them and that it’s my opinion and not fact. I used to argue about everything: why certain actors were the best, why the Lakers were better than any other NBA team, why what I liked made more sense than anything else. While I still maintain that I know which actors are the best and that the Lakers are the best NBA team, I also will admit that these are my views. I can also understand that other people have other opinions.

Everything is a point of view. And when we can’t understand someone else’s point of view, it makes us seem like we are know-it-alls. Just because you think you know something doesn’t make my point of view invalid. It just makes it different. And maybe we have different reasons on why we think the way we do. You aren’t doing yourself any favors if you are unwillingly to look at any other points of view. I remember when one of my friends told me while I was growing up that I was too argumentative. While I still believe in my opinions, I should have been more open to hearing other people out.

Opening up your mind to what other people think is a way to learn about things we don’t necessarily know about. It gives us the opportunity to see things in a whole new way. The next time you think you know something and someone disagrees or shares another point of view with you, try listening to their reasons why. It’s not going to hurt you to listen. In fact, you might just learn something new.

How Do We Accept Ourselves As We Are?

I have this idealized image in my head about what a perfect person is like. And I have strived for so long to be that person in every aspect. Guess what happens? I fail. Not only once, but over and over again. And I take it hard and then criticize myself and really beat myself up for feeling like a failure. 

Is this realistic? Logically, I know it’s not. How do I accept myself as I am though? How do I make myself realize that I am a human being and bound to imperfection?

Where this idealistic image that we measure ourselves up to come from? Why do we feel this need to be perfect all the time? Why are we not allowed to feel and not allowed to break down? Why do we beat ourselves up for being disappointed that we couldn’t be perfect?

I’ve been working on this for a long time. I still don’t know why I have a hard time accepting myself. Most of us do our best to be good people. Most of us really try to enjoy our lives and be happy. So why do we have such a hard time understanding that being 120% all of the time is not humanly possible?

Maybe if we try to be perfect (and we succeed), no one has the opportunity to dislike us. No one can complain about us or find a reason to not be nice to us. Maybe, on the other side, being less than perfect provides people with a valid reason (at least according to our emotionally confused vision) for walking away from us. We can blame ourselves if a relationship doesn’t work out or if we have fights with our friends. 

I’m not sure how to battle this feeling of being less than perfect and becoming okay with it. I want to accept myself for who I am. And, to those who don’t like who I am, I want to tell them to get lost. How do we find that within ourselves? How do we find the strength to really show people who we actually are with no masks attached?