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Ask For Your Own Damn Flowers: Thoughts On Loving Outside The Box

Promise to love you ...
Photo Credit: Parvin via Compfight

Today I’m happy to share the wisdom of a substitute teacher with you. My rant on Indian weddings didn’t cause me to end up with a wife, but it did connect me with a new friend who had experienced a different side of the same coin… and now Amber…

It would have been so easy to make this into a race thing.

So easy to write about our many differences; super easy to reframe our fights and make our ethnicities the central focus; and very easy to say that our external makeup is what inevitably caused our breakup.

That would have been the easy story to write. And maybe if Srini’s rant about Indian weddings, and our subsequent conversation about the difficulties of being an African American woman dating an Indian man would have come earlier, this post would have been different.

But after months of studying Indian culture, and trying to understand the pressure my ex faces by having to live his life in the shadow of thousands of years of tradition, I finally discovered that his culture isn’t the only thing to blame for our demise.

As much as we like to trumpet our Western ideals, when it comes to love and relationships, most of our ideas seem to come straight from the middle ages and 1950s black and white movies; or worse, a scary mixture of both.

How many American women do you know who will say to a guy, “Hey, I like roses..pink ones. Those would be nice to have some time. You should get them for me.” None? Yeah, me either.

Despite all of my bravado about defining happiness and success on your own terms, when it comes relationships, I now realize that my thinking is still so incredibly conventional. I have grown up with specific expectations for what a man should do. Rules that have been enforced by my girlfriends and Disney movies.

Mostly, I want to be chased and wooed because that’s what I’ve been taught should happen.

As a traditional Indian man, I dare say my ex didn’t get a single lesson on how to woo a woman. And in a land full of arranged marriages, what man needs to know how to chase or woo?  Let’s be real: a wife is going to just fall into his lap without him putting forth much effort.

But I ignored all of this. I couldn’t get over the “rules” and my ego enough to communicate with him honestly about what I want and need. I felt as if my ex should have known intrinsically that “as a man” he should do x, y, and z for me.  Every time I wondered if maybe he just didn’t know what the hell he was doing, I chased away the thought. I felt as if I was making excuses. “He should be able to figure it out,” I’d tell myself.

By the time I realized that his cultural expectations aren’t the only ones that had the potential to be stifling, it was too late. The damage had been done.  I’m not totally letting him off the hook (there were many things that he could have done differently), but I can’t help but wonder if we might have had a different ending if we had been willing to put our cultural scripts aside in favor of open, honest communication that was free from our limiting expectations.

I write all the time about how the first step in building a life that looks like your dreams, is getting through the fear of doing something different that’s not easily explainable.  I know this. I’ve been applying that way of thinking to my career for years.

Now, if only I can do the same for my love life.

Amber J. is the co-founder of Love, Gen Y, a collection of anonymous stories written by Gen Y for the world; and the voice behind The Fab Life Project, a blog dedicated to encouraging you to define success and happiness on your own terms. When she’s not writing, or biking around Manhattan, Amber can be found flirting with cute men who have foreign accents.  

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