The Age of Obedience & Autopilot Desis
By Tina Chaudhary
“All desi girls go downhill after age 25.”
South Asian sistas, you’ve heard this line before.
The remark was most likely uttered by a scrawny desi guy, about 5’6″ with a laugh bigger than his biceps, and a sense of style older than your crimper from junior high stuffed away in the bathroom drawer. He has probably never experienced being uphill at any point in his life, aesthetically speaking. Yet his remark was made with such surety and passion that you really believed him.
Why did you believe him? You were probably 24 going on 25 at the time, single with no marriage prospects in sight and a mother who asked “Is there any guy?” whenever you called to say hello. Even though you were 5’9″ inches and gorgeous, the pile of newly purchased eye creams and moisturizers on your nightstand reminded you, every evening, of the fact that you were not getting any younger. So you heard Scrawny Guy’s opinion and made it your current greatest fear.
Again, why did you believe him? He told you about his friend Jabeen, a Pakistani girl who was a size 2 until she got married at age 25. Two years later, she was a size 12 and packing on the pounds faster than Kirstie Alley after her Jenny Craig days. You knew Jabeen too, but didn’t tell him this. Of course, he failed to mention Jabeen’s one-year-old twins. Instead, he told you desi women don’t work out enough compared to the men. The men play a lot of basketball, he said. You wanted to say that brown men can’t jump, just to tick him off, but you had better manners than him so you kept quiet.
But you’re not like Jabeen because she has a husband and you don’t have one marital prospect. Jabeen can afford to go downhill but you can’t because no man has snatched you up yet. Your thoughts race and already, you’re agreeing with Scrawny Guy’s terminology about your fellow desi sisters. Don’t do it, don’t fall for it.
Face the reality. Scrawny guy is not only scrawny but he is stupid. Don’t listen to his theories.
Sure, he has a law degree from Harvard and works for one of the biggest firms in Washington D.C., but that doesn’t prove a thing. Growing up, he was the only son in a house full of daughters. You have to understand, “only son” translates to “King” in a desi home. This should explain his cockiness and inflated self-importance. He was allowed to do all the things his sisters weren’t. It’s as if his parents wrote one list, made an exact copy of it, and added different headings on each one. His list was titled “Do” and his sisters’ was titled “Don’t.”
Raised with a false sense of responsibility for the women of his household, he was confident enough to find marked success in his career path. He became a very common Autopilot Desi, steering through college and professional school without the assistance of a human being, including himself. As an Autopilot Desi, he found professional success but not personal, which is why he’s never been in a relationship. Now this is why he makes comments like “All desi girls go downhill after age 25.” It’s what all the other guys are saying.
Face more of the reality. It’s possible he wants you. This is not true in all situations, but in many. He knows for a fact you’ve already written him off as a potential husband. You’ve been friends for years and haven’t shown interest in him yet. He’s well aware of your height requirement in men. You think nothing below 6′ is an acceptable height. For years you’ve been hearing about social events for the South Asian networking group NETSAP (Network of South Asian Professionals) and joking about renaming the group to NETSIG (Network of Short Indian Guys).
Sometimes you wonder if you are too picky. God knows your mother thinks so, but she has no idea how slim the pickin’ is for desi men these days. You’re just looking for a guy who 1) isn’t shorter than you 2) speaks English well 3) doesn’t seriously say things like “For shizzle my nizzle” or “Where’s the party, yaar?”
And when you finally find a smart guy who isn’t socially inept, he ends up having some idealistic view of what his potential wife should do for him. Even if he spent several years dating white girls, he expects you to listen to Bollywood songs and cook beef curry just like his mother, while confiding in him your squeaky clean past, complete with a total of zero ex-boyfriends.
Notice there is no mention of looks here. This is because desi women are not as obsessed with appearance as our male counterparts and we do not demand fair-skinned men with bodies of Greek gods. We’re more focused on qualitative things, like finding someone with a sense of humor who is independent.
Independent. There it is, the dreaded I-word. It’s a bad word in many desi families, and mainly uttered during arguments with parents. For example, a father may say to his son, “Just because you are so Independent and living away from home, does not mean you should not call us to ask permission to take a vacation.” Or a mother may say to her daughter, “You and your Independent friends cannot avoid marriage forever.” In most cases the bad I-word is used between a Mama’s Boy and his mother, when she accuses him of being Independent.
Why does Independent have such a bad connotation? Since when did independence become an accusation? Well, since desi mothers decided their sons were better husbands than their own husbands. Their sons offered more emotional support, so the mothers’ dependence on their sons increased, hence the creation of desi Mama’s Boys. There is nothing wrong with loving and respecting our mothers, it’s a beautiful thing. But does it seem desi men are conditioned (by their mothers, who else?) to play a larger than life role in the family, a role that is more demanding than the son’s own marriage? If so, this concept is responsible for the strict dichotomy between the mentalities of young desi men and women in the United States. It is the catalyst which compels young desi women to say things such as “I don’t consider desi men for marriage, they’re all married to their moms.”
Desi women seem a lot more headstrong than the aforementioned Mama’s Boys. Have you noticed they have more open lines of communication with their parents? Desi women are not afraid of telling their parents when they disagree with them, or the truth even if it hurts. Are desi men the same? Or do they appear to be afraid of their own parents?
And why does it seem desi men are only interested in superficial things? They are. Not always, but a lot of them are still searching for the trophy wife; a pretty girl (who isn’t “old” yet) with a good degree, job, and a respectable family. They do “reputation checks” to make sure the girl doesn’t have any skeletons in her closet. Many men search for fair-skinned women, even when the men themselves are dark-skinned. Does the phrase “double standard” not even register in their heads?
Desi women are not as likely to focus on the tint of a person’s complexion. They’re also not as likely to turn down a guy based on only seeing his picture during a matchmaking situation. They make comments like “Why don’t I meet him and see if we have chemistry in person?” However, we’ve heard plenty of stories about guys refusing to even meet a woman after only seeing her picture.
What gives desi men this sense of entitlement? Is it their mothers?
Are there any worthy desi men out there? To all of you dynamic desi women, is 25 the age of obedience? Do you believe it is the time to get serious about marriage, settle down, and find a husband? Or are you more concerned with buying your own place, getting a promotion, finding yourself, or finishing the Masters/PhD degree? Is it possible to have it all – a satisfying marriage with a desi man, paramount self-awareness, and a successful career?