Capulets and Montagues

Megaphone

Meg Elison

Dear Megaphone,

I’m an international student, and my parents had a short, weird talk with me before I left my country for school. They’re good people, but they told me very specifically about what race I could date. Specifically, they want me to date only someone from our own ethnic group, and they gave me a list of the kinds of people I can NEVER date. I guess they’re racists, but it’s really common to feel this way where I’m from. It’s hard to explain.

So of course now I’m talking to this guy who was A-1 on the DO NOT DATE list. My parents have said his people are lazy, stupid, and dishonest. I know that it’s not true and that their view is very prejudiced and unfair. I’m going to see them soon (come on, winter break!), and I have to decide what I’m going to tell them. So far I’ve kept it off Facebook, and I’ve kept pictures to myself, but they’re eventually going to find out.

Should I just tell them or let it happen by accident? I don’t want to hurt them, but I can’t decide what will shock them less.

Advise me please,

Sort of a Capulet

Hey SOAC, this is an awesome problem to have. You found somebody you like who likes you, and there’s tension on whether you two can be together. It’s the most romantic setup in history, and you’re about to learn something about yourself. Ready?

You don’t have to tell your parents about this. Dating isn’t marrying, and there are easy ways to make sure they never find out. They’re far, far away, and this part of your life is pretty separate from them. They pay your tuition and see your grades, but they don’t have to know whom you spend time with. Maybe you feel bad lying to them, maybe you have a really close relationship, but you’ve already done the work. You kept Facebook out of it, and you’re aware of the picture problem.

You know you can hide it from them, and you’ve taken the steps, but you’re still convinced this discussion will take place. The only thing I can conclude from that is that you want them to know.

Maybe you chose this guy (consciously or subconsciously) as a way to rebel against your parents and their narrow, outdated views. Maybe you just want them to know that you don’t think like them, that you’ve become someone they don’t fully know yet. Maybe this happened by a true accident, but you’re still excited about the prospect of them having to deal with it.

I hear you saying that you don’t want to hurt them, SOAC, but I don’t hear you saying you don’t want them to know. You’ve already crossed the line, so now you have to figure out what that means.

Here’s my advice: Don’t tell them. Don’t make a big announcement when you go home. Don’t make a scene about how closed-minded they are and how in love you are. You probably aren’t going to change their minds. Keep exploring whom you are and whom you want to be with, exercise caution and practice discretion. You want them to know this and accept it, but that might not be the reaction you get. Consider the vulnerability of your position, and think very carefully about this.

Maybe you’ll keep seeing this guy, maybe you won’t. Maybe it will become serious, maybe it won’t. Maybe the conversation will have to be had with your folks about this person or another, and they will not approve because of where your partner came from or whom your partner is. Prepare for that day, but be very careful with this first one and while you’re still in school.

Wait, SOAC. This conversation will eventually be about culture and race and ignorance and history and grandchildren and ancestors and the future. Something tells me you’ll have it eventually, but don’t force it to be now. Keep your secrets. Enjoy the tension. There’s just too much at stake.

 The course of true love never did run smooth,

Megaphone

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