Thinky Post: the Story of the White Woman Who Dates the Desi Guy

I just saw The Big Sick, which was great, but made me think about how there is something that I think of as common sense but which I have never fully said out loud and we have never talked about.

In English/Vinglish, Sridevi is a married woman. She dresses like a married woman, she wears a mangalsutra, she wears Sindoor, everything about her screams “married” so far as Indian culture is concerned. But her classmate, Hot French Dude, doesn’t know that, can’t read those signs. So he comes on to her, gently indicates his interest. And she is devastated, feels terrible, blames herself for not being clear and somehow leading him on.

Bollywood's "phoren" heroines. Where are the "phoren" heroes? 10
She isn’t saying “I’m married”, but you can see her mangalsutra around her neck, and she is wearing a sari and tied back hair the way older married women usually do. To her, it is obvious. To him, it is invisible.

Now lets look at the gender reverse. A young desi guy who knows perfect well he will be marrying a proper desi bride some day. He starts a relationship in college that has to be secret and kept from his family, and which probably has no future, because of course he will be marrying a proper desi bride. But, just like Hot French Dude in English/Vinglish, the woman he is with for that relationship may not be able to read those signs. And unlike Sridevi in English/Vinglish, the dude isn’t necessarily going to feel guilty about it or even see it as a problem that she has no idea how differently they are seeing this relationship.

This is a very VERY common story. When I bring up Indian movies at parties, often this is the story I get in response, from the dumped girlfriend. “I saw some of those movies when I was dating this guy, it was horrible, he just stopped calling me and disappeared.” Or even, “his mother told me to leave him alone”. Sometimes it is, “my college boyfriend showed me these movies, we lived together for a few years, but then it just ended and he is married now”. Alternatively, I’ve been in desi events where it’s been straight up joked about, the white girl who thinks she has a relationship but she really doesn’t. I should say, joked about in a way that makes fun of and blames the desi guy, I’m not friends with horrible people. But yeah, there’s an assumption that if a desi guy is dating a white girl, she had best be careful.

I should say that I also know loads and loads of desi guy-non desi girl relationships that worked out GREAT. But it’s pretty easy to tell the difference. The ones that work out great, the girl met his parents within the first month or so. She went to family weddings, she went to family holiday celebrations, there was no hidden part of his life. The ones that don’t work out, she met all his friends, she knows everything about his life, they are living together, and yet somehow she never really met his parents, or any relatives from the older generation.

The Shashi Kapoor-Jennifer Kendal love story: Affair in Calcutta to cancer  and death - Movies News
Gold standard!!!!

There’s some logic behind this idea of the white girl being a disposable oat sowing place. For one thing, yeah, better her than a desi girl. Speaking in broad generalities, a desi girl is more likely to come from a kind of background where having a pre-marital relationship would severely damage her life. And for another, white woman just have it easier. They don’t get traffic tickets, they don’t get stopped at airport security lines, they can almost always find jobs and taxi cabs, it’s great. So if you are a desi boy, it can feel like the white girl is so powerful and in charge and safe, that you can’t REALLY hurt her. So if you want to have a dating relationship like other people do, pick a white girl, it’s a victimless crime.

And of course there is the appeal of the exotic. White skin is still the biggest defining quality of beauty for desi culture. Plus years and years of the white woman being fetishized, being turned into a status symbol, something you can “win” from the white man, all of this comes together when a desi boy is on an American college campus and suddenly realizes he can flirt with the white girl sitting next to him in class.

This whole situation is sad for both sides of course. The Big Sick does a brilliant job of focusing on why it is sad for the desi boy. You get used to dating white girls, you don’t really think about it that much, and then you end up falling in love which wasn’t supposed to happen. Now you have to choose between living a “normal” life and being with the woman you love as all of society around you says is okay, or sticking with your family who raised you. Often the answer is to break up with the white woman who understood you and liked you and made you happy, and instead settle for marrying a desi woman who never quite gets you the same way. Which brings in another person to this tragedy, your new wife, who has no idea that you were in love before and are comparing her to an impossible ideal.

The desi side of this triangle is shown over and over again in Indian films. The guy who had love affairs, casual or serious, before marriage. The innocent bride trying to understand his past. But the white girl side is strangely absent. Look at Pardes, for instance. Our innocent Indian heroine comes to America and learns that her fiance had a serious white girlfriend and still spends time with her. This is sad for the heroine, and wrong in the fiance, the film shows her sadness and his moral wrongness for trying to have both women. But it never shows what it means for this white girlfriend who is dumped and learns her boyfriend is marrying someone else, and now is left in this odd shadow world.

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Her fiance is lying to her about his past, but not just that, his new friends she is meeting, and even his family, are all lying to her too. It’s a mass betrayal and it’s horrible.

Western pop culture doesn’t really show this story either. They would be the ones to take the side of the white/western girlfriend, but it’s just not a story they seem to be aware of or care about. Even The Big Sick which, again, was brilliant and perfect and no shade there or anything, chose to focus more on the desi side of things.

So, let’s take a moment here and talk about the white girl. Yes, she won’t be arrested or thrown out of her family or anything super super obviously bad like that happen to her just because she had a relationship that ended without marriage. But there is still a world of hurt in this situation for her.

The women I have met who survived this kind of relationship really struggle with it. Because you go into it thinking you know how the world works, thinking you know what is happening. This is a dating relationship, everyone is on the same page, these are the rules. And then out of nowhere, you learn that your whole world view wasn’t quite right. What you thought of as a serious relationship that was going somewhere was actually just sowing wild oats, was a lie. Your heart is broken, sure, but more than that your faith in yourself is broken. It’s one thing to have a break up because he just isn’t into you any more, it’s something else entirely to have a break up because you learn the whole unspoken premise of the relationship was not the same between you two. And just to add to that, you also realize that everyone you met in his desi world (his desi friends, his siblings, his cousins) knew this big secret thing and you didn’t. The whole world was conspiring against you.

Even worse, because you are a woman, you will blame yourself. You will think “I was a fool, I should have understood his culture, I should have seen the signs, I should have protected myself better, this is all my fault”. You may even think, “I will change myself, I will become Worthy of being his love”.

There’s only one Indian movie I can think of that showed this kind of aftermath, Salaam-E-Ishq. I’m kind of stunned every time I remember it, because who would have thought this big Masala dumb movie would have such a hidden gem? One of the heroines is a white woman whose desi boyfriend dumped her and came to India to have an arranged marriage. She has convinced herself that she has to follow him and confess her love in Hindi and be the proper Indian woman, and then he and his family will accept her. And then once she finally meets him, she understands that it will never happen, he never really cared for her, and she is broken. Before finding her strength again and telling him off. This is the woman I meet at parties. The one who was big eyed and fully in love, and can’t quite understand what happened, how it all went away.

Salaam-E-Ishq Movie Stills - Bollywood Hungama
She thinks she can learn a little Hindi and wear a Salwar Kameez and his family will love her, and he will love her again, and that is all it will take because they were really really in love, he said so! And in contrast, there is Govinda, the noble taxi-driver, who truly respects and appreciates her, who introduces her to his family and friends, who is for real in love with her, not just lying oat sowing in love.

But the thing is, it ISN’T your fault! Any more than it is the fault of the woman who is cheated on, or the woman who marries a man that is secretly homosexual. He knows something you do not know, he is making choices with full understanding you lack, it is HIS fault. He set out to have a relationship with a white woman, he planned all along to enjoy this and know it wouldn’t lead to marriage, and he knew perfectly well that he was lying through deed if not word. Sure, in India a college romance is understood to be temporary unless parental approval comes through. But if you are in the West, you are expected to follow the western rules. Dating, living together, all of that means you are GOING somewhere. It’s not up to her to learn about your culture and intuit that this relationship is meaningless, it is up to you to tell her that this relationship is meaningless. Or, alternatively, to not start the relationship at all since you know it has a false premise.

I am talking in broad generalities here, “desi guy” and “white woman”, but BOY do those generalities seem to play out a lot in real life! Something else I consistently hear at parties and stuff when I bring up Indian films, white girls saying “oh yeah, so many Indian dudes reach out to me on social media/dating sites/etc.” And they come on STRONG. Like, writing poetry on the second date kind of strong. It doesn’t feel like “I like you individually as a person”, it feels like “I am playing out a playbook in my head and you just slot in to the role of ‘white woman'”.

Complaining about how white women are portrayed in Indian media, or even complaining about Indian men dating white women, feels a bit racist, a bit unfair. Again this is what The Big Sick did so well. He is dealing with thousands of years of expectation and pressure, with the real possibility that his family will cut him off if he dates a white woman. She is dealing with being unhappy because a relationship doesn’t work out. Saying “oh the poor white woman” feels wrong, feels like it isn’t acknowledging the power imbalance.

But a relationship between two people shouldn’t be about a power imbalance! It’s okay to say “what my ex-boyfriend did to me is really REALLY sucky, and watching movies and pop culture reinforce it makes it even more sucky, and feeling like I can’t complain about it because that is culturally insensitive makes it SUPER sucky”.

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This movie handled it well. He used the white girl as his casual rebound fling, but she called him on it, said “you owe me honesty and this isn’t cool” and he apologized and was honest. She had actual feelings in response to his actions, there were consequences, she wasn’t just “white woman-disposable”.

For some of you, hopefully this post is a moment of “I feel SEEN”. For others of you, hopefully this post is a moment of “okay, I get now why folks have a hard time with the white woman trope in films”. And for a lot of you it is probably a big “yeah, I know, so what”. But I realized it is one of those underlying premises that I have been operating on the assumption everyone here knows, and that may not be the case, so I should talk about it.

38 thoughts on “Thinky Post: the Story of the White Woman Who Dates the Desi Guy

  1. As I read your text, I identified some echoes of what happens in the country where I live, but with black women (I am one of them). So, here a black girl can date a black or white guy, but that guy may never publicly take on his black girlfriend. I mean, introduce her to his family or a group of friends. At some point, she will be replaced by a white woman. He will walk hand in hand with her, he will introduce her to his parents. He will married the white one. Have children with lighter skin than his (in the black man case). Here in this country, for a black man, getting married or dating a white woman is a sign of status, it shows that he has overcome poverty. Black women, who raised them or were their first relationships, stayed behind. And alone. Almost all black and wealthy soccer players have white girlfriends or wives, for example. There is even a term for it: “black woman loneliness”. These are memories of slavery, when black women were only used for hard work or sex. I am not saying that the case of white girls (privileged anywhere in the world) who are abandoned by desi boyfriends is in the same situation as the rejected black girls in my country, but only that I remembered that. If you are curious, read this text: https://blackbraziltoday.com/loneliness-and-the-breakdown-of-the-black-woman/

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    • This is fascinating! I was thinking the opposite, that a Black man might date a white woman but would not marry her. I had no idea that the reverse was true in some societies. Of course, a white man dating a Black woman but not marrying her I am sadly familiar with, since that happens everywhere.

      And yes, I am sure it is similar. That sensation of betrayal and self-doubt as you realize a relationship you thought was “real” was never real in his mind, was always a placeholder. Of course white woman still have more power outside of the relationship, in general society. But the betrayal is the same.

      On Tue, Jan 5, 2021 at 12:14 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Racism is present in all countries that have enslaved black people, but there are some peculiarities in each society. In mine, it makes black people not recognize themselves as black (although they are victims of racism) and even despise themselves. It’s really sad.

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  2. It’s not just white women. It’s north-eastern women from Nagaland, Manipur etc. who are sometimes seen as easy. Of late, I have seen this with Chinese, Korean women as well. It sucks and makes me so embarassed about Indian men and the way they view women.

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    • Yep, one woman I met at a party who had this story was I think Japanese heritage. Living in the US, dating a guy in the US, and then his mother comes for a visit, she isn’t allowed to see him for a week, and suddenly he breaks up with her. She saw Chak De India and the storyline in that actually was what made her go “OOOOO! That’s how he saw me!”

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  3. My husband was West Indian, I’m half Italian (father), half North African (mom). I have black hair (until it turned gray) and olive skin, but I look white. Our families had no objection to the marriage (a little reticence on my dad’s side until the kids came along) but boy, did we take s _ _ t from strangers. For 50+ years, we suffered indignities from nasty looks to a delegation of “concerned citizens” asking us to move when we bought our first house in the Bronx. Our love created problems for Jamaicans, Moroccans, and Italians from one end of the boot to the other. And sad to say, despite social advances, the ugliness has never really gone away. My older son married a blackwoman, my younger, a white woman. My five grandsons all look black. Needless to say,I worry.

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    • What I find interesting with the desi guy-white woman relationship is that it is one which you can’t be sure if it is a problem or not. For some desi guys and desi families, a love relationship outside of your culture is normal, fine, respected. For other desi guys and families, it is completely forbidden and has to be hidden. The default assumption from a lot of white society seems to be “obviously there won’t be a problem here” and then there is a horrible shock when you learn what a problem it is. While with other cross-racial relationships, the forbiddenness is so accepted and established that at least both people are going into it with open eyes, KNOWING there will be a problem down the line.

      On Tue, Jan 5, 2021 at 1:21 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. As I started reading this I thought of a couple I knew for whom the first paragraph didn’t apply at all – but as you later said, it was a girl who was almost scared away by the fact that her Desi boyfriend wanted to get married after two weeks, so yeah it worked for them. And a friend in town, whose parent’s are Desi (when does someone become so Americanized that they are no longer Desi?), her white husband still resents her father for not wanting his daughter to marry him.

    I recognize that my question of when is a person no longer Desi and just American is controversial. American is a culture that comes in all shades, where as Desi is a culture as well as a shade. So friends and aquantances, often have family origins from other countries, but unless they wear it as part of their identity, I just think of them as American. And even then, some friends are so interesting and vibrant with so many interests I don’t even think to catagorize them as anything.Yes my one friend used to live in Hong Kong and has all the best Asian dipping sauces, and she is Asian, but I don’t THINK of her as ASIAN. That doesn’t mean she isn’t. Ethnicity and identity are some complicated beasts.

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    • Such an interesting thought you bring up, and I think it brings me to exactly the point of this post.

      I think no one ever fully lets go of their ethnic heritage, it is part of them, I know there are so many ways in which my family would still identify as German (Christmas traditions being a big one, for instance). But it’s more a matter of how much of your life-space it takes up. You can have someone where their “desi” identity is isolated to annual family get togethers, and the rest of the time they just think of themselves as “American”. Super close friends, co-workers, business partners, all of these people would never touch their tiny little “desi” section of life, and on the other hand their tiny little isolated “desi” life people have no idea of huge sections of their identity. But ONLY in a romantic relationship do you need to open up every single section of life. If your very very best friend never introduces you or talks about you to their parents that they see once a year, who cares? But if your serious boyfriend of 6 months says “I can’t introduce you or talk about you to my parents who I only see for 3 days a year”, that is a VERY big deal. Even if it is just 3 days, even if it has nothing to do with your daily life, in a romantic partnership those 3 days matter.

      the “Desi” identity is this tiny tiny thing, you can leap into a relationship thinking it doesn’t matter, and sometimes it really doesn’t, and sometimes you find out 6 months in that there is this small part of life you will simply never be invited to share.

      Looking at that description, it’s kind of similar to same sex relationships, isn’t it? I think you’ve talked before about the couple you knew where one partner died and the pain of the remaining partner not having their relationship acknowledged. If you are in a same sex relationship and learn months in that your partner is not “out” to their family and you will never have an acknowledge place in that part of their life, it’s a break up level issue. Even if your partner barely talks to their family, even if they almost never see them, even if you live super far away, it is still an issue. It’s one thing to be in a relationship where your partner’s family doesn’t like you, but it is something else entirely to be in a relationship where they don’t even know you exist AND your partner is never planning to tell them AND your partner is keeping secret from you that he is never planning to tell them.

      On Tue, Jan 5, 2021 at 2:02 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I love this comment so much, Margaret. Also, especially given this comment, when you feel like it, can you please please watch Happiest Season and then we can discuss this again!!! Or you can repost this blog post and this comment again. It is SO poignant.

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        • But I’m gonna get mad at the heroine! I just know it!!!!

          And for an alternative movie option, have you seen The Birdcage? In that case, it is the son who is embarrassed by his gay parents. But it’s the same thing. If it’s your teacher or your boss or even your friend, fine, lie to them, hide us. But if you are in love with someone, if this is a relationship you want to last your whole life, then keeping even this one small thing private is hurtful.

          On Tue, Jan 5, 2021 at 3:02 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Have I seen the Birdcage?!!! Birdcage is one of my favorite movies!!! 🙂

            And yes, this going to the other comment I just left about how by keeping this this private, you are not only hurting the other person, you are taking away their choice.

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          • Yes!!!! Their son decided for them that they were not going to be his “parents”, that only one of them would be his “father” and their relationship was not a true relationship. The movie righted that at the end when he introduced them as who they really were, let them be themselves instead of what he wanted them to be.

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    • I don’t know if anything I say will make sense but I am going to try.

      Some background on me for context. I was born and raised for a while in India but when I came to America, I was raised in a predominantly white rural small town where my family was the only Indian family in town. So I didn’t grow up with Indian people around me. Also, my sister and I quickly lost our accent and worked hard at assimilating with Americans. At home, we still spoke Indian languages, were taught Hinduism, ate mostly home cooked Indian food etc. However, my parents happen to be awesome! I have been told by relatives that in India they were considered the couple that held the most traditionally “conservative” values but something about coming to America and having given birth to two daughters that would challenge their beliefs and make them give us logical reasons for why we should follow certain norms from a young age, made them somehow decide a long time ago that they would explain why they felt a certain way and if they were wrong, be open to change. Let me also acknowledge my own privilege that while I have tan skin, I also happen to be “fair” for Indian standards.

      All this is to say, Americans think of me as American with some form of desi heritage (most probably even forgetting that I was even born and raised in India). And even Indians consider me “non-desi” or not desi enough until I “prove” myself by speaking an Indian language fluently. Yet, in my heart I am equally Indian and American.

      But, equally, I know plenty of desi people who were born here, who are raised by their parents on some antiquated, “nostalgic” desi norms that 1) aren’t even the current the norms in country; 2) are definitely not the norms that they (the children) grew up with in America. I think most of these kids consider themselves American (or the nationality of whichever country they are living in).

      So, I think the answer to your question, in my opinion, is that it is all a matter of what the individual associates with and considers themselves to be. Unfortunately, too many parents (or even society at times) would like to imprint their opinions and preferences on the individual.

      Again, sorry if this makes no sense and is a bit of stream of consciousness.

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      • I find what you talk about with the immigrant experience fascinating. I also know people who reacted to migrating by becoming way more liberal, and others who reacted by becoming less so. It’s kind of a trial by fire, it seems, you really don’t know how you personally will respond until you live it.

        Here’s my test: tipping. I had one friend in college who never tipped, and then I explained to her about the lower wages for service providers and so on and how our whole society is built for tipping, and she went “oh, okay, I didn’t know, that makes sense” and from then on tipped even more than I did. And I had another friend who I explained this whole thing to, and her response was “no, India does it better, no tips” and she never tipped.

        And then there’s the second level of the kids being raised in America and entering general society alone as young people. Based on what I saw at college, some kids really loved it and just went wild, dated secretly and all kinds of things. Some were uncomfortable with new stuff that wasn’t what they grew up with and retreated. And others were like you, it wasn’t something to get excited about, they had had a normal “American” childhood and college wasn’t this crazy new experience.

        On Tue, Jan 5, 2021 at 2:58 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • Really good analogy about tipping. It is not a practice in a lot of countries, so I understand one’s initial confusion, but once you explained it to her, it is now up to her whether she wants to keep vehemently sticking to her old beliefs or research and learn why tipping is a custom in America.

          Interesting that you mention college. When I first came to college, maybe because I was so disconnected from Indian people outside of my family, I tried to reach out the Indian society on campus and got into a very serious relationship (I thought) with an Indian Catholic guy. And funnily, it is the only time I felt like the white girl you wrote about (i.e, the dirty little secret). I was welcomed by his friends, met his siblings but never his parents. Eventually when I met them (very briefly) I found out that it was a VERY HUGE problem that I was not Catholic and not even Christian. Oh and everyone always knew about it. Oh despite getting into a relationship with me, he agreed with it on some level!! Apparently, according to his family he was “taking from the devil’s plate” by being in a relationship with me. I was shocked!!! I was also young and impressionable and also really wanted to understand why this was an issue. So I even took a Catholism class as one of my religion electives (I went to a Christian school) and spoke to a wonderful priest and came to realize, he and his parents were just crappy human being. Needless to say, while that wasn’t the best chapter of my life, I learned the most out of that relationship.

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          • Yes, exactly. With tipping, I don’t feel like there is a right or wrong or better or worse way to do it necessarily, but it does have a strong social norm element, so it’s good to know what people do where you are and follow it, instead of just doing what you like to do.

            Ugh, your college experience sounds horrible! And yes, exactly like what I am describing here. And in the same way you found a nice priest who told you they are just garbage people, I eventually found plenty of really nice desi folks to make it clear that desi men who date white ladies like this are also just garbage people. It’s not “cultural” to start a relationship under false pretenses. It’s just wrong.

            On Tue, Jan 5, 2021 at 7:15 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  5. Interesting. I actually haven’t come across this situation before, probably because there aren’t really that many Desis in Germany, so it’s not a party topic. But even I have encountered waiters at Indian restaurants pretty eager to „get to know me“ once they discovered my interest in the culture. Oh well, if I’d found a Desi girl willing to date me, I somehow don’t think it would have played out the same way. 😉

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    • Or would have played out in a far more depressing way, what with the desi girl planning to keep you double-secret and have a double-unhappy family approve marriage with a desi man later.

      I am sure you are right in not having run across it only because of the population numbers. Guaranteed there are German women being shocked to discover their desi boyfriends have been lying about everything all the time. Just so much fewer of them that most people won’t hear their stories.

      On Tue, Jan 5, 2021 at 2:56 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • Oh good point! Thank you, I was blanking. Our lovely nice guy wants to get married and meet her family and make her feel welcome in his Indian community. Jerky SRK just sees white Klara as disposable.

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      • I guess JHMS could have been „Only Desi Girls Make You Want to Marry – The Movie” if it weren’t for nice guy and his wife.

        And I guess with a same-sex relationship, you always still expect trouble, mostly regardless of the desi angle. You’d ask about each other’s coming-out process while getting to know each other, so you’d know whether she’s going to keep you a secret or not. Unless she lies, of course, but that would just be douchey.

        And if she did get married to a guy, you’d at least be reasonably sure that it wasn’t because she didn’t really love you. Unless …

        Guys, I may be about to be horribly insensitive. But in lesbian circles you sometimes come across those jaded bi-phobics who dated a girl once but then once that ended she hooked up with a guy. The horror! How dare she! That’s what I used to think, that it’s silly and doesn’t matter. But now I wonder whether there’s an element of the same white girl – Desi boy dynamic here. You know, that it may feel like the bisexual woman was only playing at being in a relationship with the lesbian. That she’s much quicker at introducing the guy to her family, for instance.

        And that may not even be anyone’s fault. She may truly have been in love with her girlfriend and truly meant for that to work out, but it was just sort of awkward around her family. And then it ended for unrelated reasons, her next partner happens to be a guy and that’s just so much easier on the home front.

        I’m thinking there may just be the occasional Desi guy where it works out somewhere along those lines. Means no harm, would like to make things work out, but the just bows to pressure. (Just like a hypothetical Desi bisexual I had been dating would. Yeah, that’s a messed up situation.)

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        • No, this totally makes sense. First, the “with a same-sex relationship, you know there might be trouble” part. Again, that’s what I find slightly unique about the desi boy-white girl relationship. Because you don’t know there might be trouble, both because it’s not as obvious and well-known an issue in Western culture and because for a lot of desi boys it truly ISN’T a problem. I wouldn’t think a woman has to tell another woman “by the way, this relationship won’t necessarily get full approval from my family” because it goes without saying. But a desi boy, at a certain point, kind of does have to say that.

          For your bi-phobic, I have to say that I know two people (one a friend of my mothers, one my closest friend) who dated a garbage person guy, and then an awesome woman, and their families were thrilled. But that kind of proves your point, this is only a funny story because it goes against expectations, the parents who went “yaaaaaaaaaaaay! A woman!!! Who doesn’t constantly interrupt me and insult you and just generally be a terrible person! Do not care she is a woman, just so happy she isn’t —–“. And actually, I think I have heard of that same story in this situation, a desi man or woman who was with the “right” person, and that person turned out to be so terrible that it shocked their family into accepting whatever alternative was brought home, even if they weren’t the “right” person.

          For the idea of someone who maybe was equally in love, but it’s just easier to be with someone your family approves of, I can absolutely see that. But I think where it crosses the line is, again, what information does the other partner have? If it is a same-sex relationship, the information is there and known. If it is a desi boy who is making his white girlfriend think everything is fine and keeping private all the family struggles he is dealing with that are driving them apart, then it’s a problem. Totally different situation if it is a desi boy who jokes on the first date “my Mom would have a heart attack if she knew I was here” and kind of makes it a visible issue all along. But the one who goes “oh yeah, sure, my parents would love you” while knowing it is a lie? that’s wrong.

          On Wed, Jan 6, 2021 at 1:33 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  6. My husband and I just had a discussion on a similar topic after watching a bunch of movies together during the holidays. I think in any relationship, my point of contention/when someone becomes unforgivable is when he/she takes the choice away from their partner by purposely keeping the partner in the dark. It is very different to me, if the partner knows the family’s feelings about their relationship and then goes into it knowingly. While, that can also be tragic, it is not deceitful. To me, it becomes unforgivable when the person and his/her friends know that the relationship is going to be a problem for the family just keeps it away from the other partner and lets the other person continue to dream and hope and wholeheartedly invest in the relationship. To me, that is just cruel. No one should have their choice taken away from them like that.

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    • Yes! That is it exactly!!!! And this particular dynamic is so ripe for that to happen. A White woman dating a Black man, or someone entering a same sex relationship, you can safely assume that both partners know this will be an issue. But the White Woman who dates the Desi guy often (based on the stories I have heard) truly has no idea that there might be problems. And then you add on the fact that all the nice people she is meeting who are part of his desi community (friends, siblings) also know there is a problem here and are also not telling her, and that just becomes clearly Wrong, and the sort of experience that could scar someone for life.

      One thing I very much appreciated and noticed in The Big Sick (to use that relationship as an example) is that his friend group was as unaware of his family situation as his girlfriend. It wasn’t that there was a conspiracy to hide it from her, his friends had no idea, no one in his life had any idea it was an issue, it was just him lying to her. Still a terrible thing to do, but to have surrounded him with desi friends who were warm and welcoming to his white girlfriend while knowing it would never lead anywhere would have been evne worse.

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  7. I know a girl who emigrated to USA and found a Desi boyfriend there. Her instagram was full of their photos together: from parties, from walks, from Disneyland, and even from bed. He was everywhere. But there wasn’t even the smallest mention about her on his account. I don’t know how were the things between them, what he was thinking about it, and it’s not my business but it felt so wrong!

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    • Yes! And really, any version isn’t great. Best case is that she knows that he is keeping their relationship quiet from his family and friends and off of social media because they would object. But if she is so proud of their relationship that she likes showing it, it must hurt her to know he is keeping it secret. Worst case is that she thinks it is a real full happy perfect relationship, and he is lying to her and keeping her out of big parts of his life.

      On Tue, Jan 5, 2021 at 3:44 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  8. Sorry in advance for bringing silly things in a thinky topic 😉

    I was thinking about Ninnu Kori and Ustad Hotel while reading this post. Do you remember the white gil in Ninnu Kori. It was so ridiculous.

    I was also thinking about one of the couples in 90 Days Fiance: 60 years old Jenny form Palm Springs and 30 years old Sumit from New Delhi. Their story is like a movie I always wanted but will never have. She is not only white, but 30 years older then him (she is also older then his mother). They know each since 2012 . In 2019 she visited him in India hoping they will marry, but it turned out he his already married, because his parents forced him to have an arranged marriage. In 2020 she returned to India because he promised he will divorce his wife (btw seems that wife doesn’t want him either). She is so gullible and silly sometimes, he is rarely honest with her, but I love them and cheer for them like I never cheered for any of the couples in this show. I will be heartbroken if they split.

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    • I was also thinking of Ninnu Kori and Ustad Hotel!!!! They I think show the slightly less common version of the White Girl, so disturbed and just wrong that you are better off without her. More common would be simply shallow so it doesn’t matter what you do to her.

      Now you’ve got me all interested in your 90 Day fiance couple! Did they get married at the end?

      On Tue, Jan 5, 2021 at 5:08 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Jenny and Sumit still aren’t married because there are some problems with his divorce (I think his parents and in-laws plot something). But they live together in a rented house far from his family and are happy I guess.

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  9. This made me think about all the ways we can know and not know one another in a relationship. There’s the individual part, where you reveal certain pieces of yourself but not others – this is a choice and the part each person has the most control over. Then if you go beyond your immediate circles, there is culture – the individuals can try to explain and learn about the other but they will always carry inside a different perspective, upbringing, set of experiences. And language – in some couples one person doesn’t speak the other’s home language, or neither does and they communicate in a common foreign language, or they do speak each other’s languages but imperfectly. With different languages there will be gaps and disconnects in understanding, even for fluent speakers.

    I guess what I’m saying is you go into a relationship with an ideal that if it works out you will know each other deeply and become like one person, but that’s never quite true. There are always distances we have to cross. If the distances involve language and culture, you’re likely to encounter more unknowns and surprises, which can be exciting and can also be demoralizing. In the US, we maybe have a tendency to want to glaze over the differences or assume you can dance past them all. Not trying to excuse people who deliberately mislead their partner, but one thing I liked about The Big Sick was it showed a case that wasn’t so clear cut, that held space for the ambiguities of falling in love and making a commitment. There’s a point where a fling turns real, even without anyone consciously making that choice, and maybe not at the same time for both people. What’s the thing that makes you go confront all your family messiness and expectations in order to stay with this person? Maybe for some dudes the answer is nothing and they shouldn’t get into relationships, but for others it might be a moving target that shifts with experience.

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    • The Big Sick did a really good job showing how there was a long time when he didn’t have to tell her what was up with his family, they were just getting to know each other, it was no big thing. But it also did a really good job of showing the build to the point where he really really needed to tell her. Once she told him she was divorced, and was “overwhelmed” by him, that was the moment he should have started planning how to tell her about his family, not tell her then, but plan out how she would come over the next night and he would say “so, there’s something I should tell you” and so on. And when her parents came to town and she casually suggested meeting them, even asked if his family knew about her, that was the moment it crossed the line. Like, he was straight up lying to her about things in that conversation, plus for her to have reached the point of parent-meeting and for him STILL not to have said “by the way, everyone in my family has an arranged marriage and this is kind of a big deal”, that was wrong.

      I think they also hit on where it crosses a line to something you have to share with the other person. In their final fight, she says that her divorce was her secret, and it didn’t affect “their” future, but his family stuff did. There’s the stuff that is yours, and there’s the stuff that is “ours”. If it’s a big thing that you know about and the other person doesn’t and it affects the thing you are building together, then it is wrong. I can think of other similar things, like someone who is either infertile or never wants to have children. Don’t bring it up on the first date, that’s crazy, but by the time you are 5 months in, you have to find a way to say it. Or someone who is never planning to be married, or someone who is up for an overseas job, any of that stuff. Does that make sense? It’s being blindsided with data that changes your whole view of how things in your life and relationship are long past the point when you should have been told.

      What makes it a little worse for me in this particular situation, is that everyone around them knows. Like, I see these couples out and about and I think to myself “Huh. I wonder if he has told his parents he is dating a white girl yet”. How horrible is that if you don’t know about it! To be the white girl, and to have hundreds of strangers looking at you together thinking “he’s not bringing her home to his parents” and you don’t even know it’s an issue!

      On Wed, Jan 6, 2021 at 12:08 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • “”Or someone who is never planning to be married,””

        Oh, oh it’s the plot of Padi Padi Leche Manasu (spoilers)

        The guy fell in love , stalked a girl for I don’t know how long, then she fell in love too, they were super happy and in love, but when she mentioned the marriage he was like: I won’t never marry and if you don’t like it you can leave. She was shocked because he never said he won’t marry and is informing her now when she can’t live without him.

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        • Yes!!!! That’s where it is wrong! It’s totally fine to say “I never want to be married”, but, like, say it SOONER. I suppose you say it as soon as you start to feel guilty for not saying it. That seems like a safe rule.

          On Wed, Jan 6, 2021 at 8:57 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Yeah, and the girl was from a good , middle class family, and it was obvious she won’t live with him without marriage.

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  10. First of all, I LOVED that Govinda subplot for exactly that reason.

    There’s a really interesting treatment of this in a little Scottish movie called Ae Fond Kiss. Have you seen it? It’s the same Desi man/white woman story, except the film makes clear the absolutely catastrophic social consequences of their romance. It’s pretty depressing, but I liked that it didn’t do the whole “it all works out because we love each other” thing.

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    • There’s also a movie I saw kind of randomly with Om Puri and Rachel Griffiths. But in that one he is married and she is a prostitute I think? Anyway, it’s not really the same, but it kind of gets at the sweet tragedy of the impossibility of the situation.

      On Wed, Jan 6, 2021 at 3:06 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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