If I had a nickel for every time I was asked “are you going to get an arranged marriage?” or “do you have to marry an Indian man?” I could pay off my student loans. Seriously. No, seriously.
Recently I have gotten a job as a part-time writer, which I’m really excited about. There is a girl in the office—the only girl. It’s nice to have someone to tell me that my haircut is cute or chitchat about whatever girls talk about (makeup and boobs). The conversations I have with her are usually pleasant until they go to Indianville and stereotypes are said based on my ethnicity. You know, it’s the usual—assuming that I’m going to have an arranged marriage or suggesting that I run across the street to the vegetarian restaurant to look for a single Indian guy. That sort of thing. That second one is a double stereotype FYI . One: assuming that just because I’m Indian, I’m looking for an Indian guy. And two: assuming that just because I’m single that I’m looking for a guy, period. Why can’t single women just be happy being single? Why is it that they need to belong to someone? Why is there a notion that the world will end if you don’t have a date or if you’re unattached or unmarried? Why is it that single women get the “aww-you-poor-pathetic-thing” look? Or the “hurry-and-snag-an-Indian-guy-from-the restaurant-across-the-street-before-they’re-all-gone” look. Um, yeah, that last one may just apply to me.
People, have we not learned anything from “Sex and The City?”
Believe it or not, people say stereotypical things to me all the time. Oh yeah, I’m the face of the cliché Indian billboard. Check out my AD in your local town paper under mail order bride.
People see a brown face, brown eyes, and dark hair and immediately assume things about me. Stereotypes that people have been fed by television shows and history and the media are applied to me. Of course not ALL people think this way and talk to me like I just stepped out of a 1920s black and white film. I’m very grateful to have people in my life who understand that sometimes ( most of the time) I’m un-Indian, which means that I’m untraditional and not religious, and would rather be at home listening to Mariah Carey than participating in a puja. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have respect for my heritage. In no way am I ashamed of my background. I just kind of, sort of have this habit where I like to think for myself and make my own decisions.
However, sometimes I don’t think people understand that I’m an adult—I use the word ‘adult’ very lightly. I still have a lot of growing up to do, and some days I am as mature as a three-year-old. And I really should get this impulsive shopping/ buying-crap-that-I-really-don’t need-or will-probably-never-use under control. Oh and um, what’s a 401k? Ok—legally I am an adult. I can vote. I can drink. Because you know, that’s what being an adult is all about, right? I can make my own decisions. I can date or not date whomever I want regardless of their race or ethnicity, and still have cookies for dinner. Duh!
Let me break it down for you:
I don’t wear saris. I don’t know what to order at an Indian restaurant. I can’t give you suggestions or recommendations for your upcoming trip to India. I don’t speak ‘Indian’ (Indian is not a language FYI, I am, however, fluent in the language ‘Gujarati’ Thank you very much). No, I did not go to medical school. No, I did not study engineering. No, no, once again no, I am NOT going to have an arranged marriage. No, I have not watched Slumdog Millionaire ( though I’m certain there are so many better Bollywood movies out there). No, I am not Hindu. No, I don’t speak Hindi. Yes, yes I am considered to be Asian.
I don’t want to follow a plan that has been laid out for me. I find that idea to even do so very dreary and settling. I want to do the unexpected. Instead of getting married I will probably most likely jump out of a plane.
I want to travel the world. I want to meet strangers. I want to write. I want to get pink streaks in my hair and put up a Christmas tree in July. I want to go to as many Mariah Carey shows as possible in my lifetime. I want the option of having a lazy weekend. I want the option of not having a lazy weekend. I want to once and for all learn how to ice skate without holding on to railings! I want to do so many things in life that I will surprise myself. And I WANT to SURPRISE myself more than anything.
Stereotypes are everywhere. I can’t speak for all American Indian women but I can speak for myself. And I choose how I want to live my life despite the stereotypes out there.