Relationships and dating among British Asians has always been a tricky subject. Ask any Asian and they will have a definite opinion. Whether open or reserved, traditional or modern. But is dating no longer an issue for the majority of British Asians? Are we finally embracing our Western selves and becoming more open about sex and relationships before marriage? Or are we no different than our elders?
"[My Parents] would never understand and completely disown me."
Sneaking in amongst Britain’s favourite dish is a hot and spicy chicken tikka. Tender to the bone, it complements the well-marinated saucy behaviours running wild in the veins of British Asians today.
Walk down any street. Smouldering red lipstick transfers with passionate kisses between couples. This is not hidden but adorned, shimmering like a peacocks’ feather display. Even grey, concrete streets appear to be beautiful romantic palatial gardens.
A detailed tantric tapestry is on show for admiring eyes only. Couples are melting into each other’s embrace like chocolate and caramel. Wayward hands glide downwards after tangling once tidy tresses of hair. All of this takes place publicly throughout the seasons. From sun-kissed heated behaviours of springtime, to the warm embraces amidst the frosty airs of winter.
Once upon a time, such behaviour would have been immediately challenged. Picture an elderly Aunty jee running towards the couple ready to drag them apart by their earlobes. It most certainly would not have passed unremarked. But today, dating is widely seen and accepted amongst new generations of British Asians.
What’s more, sex is also seen by many as vital as the sugary rose water syrup in sweet gulab jamuns. Men are not the only ‘players’ in this field who desire a variety of morsels. Increasingly, women too are open about wanting sexual gratification without marital commitment.
With increasing independence, women are taking their choice of rides from the Ferris wheel of flavoursome men. Both men and women in these funfair’s gloriously parade around their arm candy, enjoying life.
But it is not all simple fun and games. Many British Asians today will no doubt have heard the common phrase: “She/He is a lovely girl/boy, but you know you can’t get married.”
Sometimes you might be lucky enough to be from a more accepting family or parent. Then freedom of choice is fenced in tidily by numerous lists of certain criteria they must fulfil first.
But maybe this is no longer an issue. As couples are delaying marriage to their late 20s or 30s, many parents regularly mention their concerns of seeing their children settled and having grandchildren. So much so, they overlook other suitability elements. “We are so happy they are getting married at last!” they cry.
In stark contrast, one couple madly in love remark: “We have travelled over two hours to be here so that none of our families catch us.”
Secrecy v openness, pride v shame, tradition v modernity. All simultaneously exist within the modern British Asian couple.
Even as behaviours seem to be changing, attitudes remain varied. Gender plays a huge part. Men can get away with open relationships, and even choosing their own marriage partner. For women, the punishment can be insufferably inhumane.
One 21 year-old Asian male remarked proudly: “I’ve been with my girl four years now and everyone has met her, even my parents. They still want me to get hitched to some relative, but that isn’t happening!”
But when asked how his parents would respond if his sister brought home a boyfriend, he laughed out loud: “We’d all lock ‘em up in the house and sort her out!” Throwing his fist into the palm of his other hand, he smiled. His nodding head almost boasted physical abuse.
It is strange that these views are not too far off from some remote village in South Asia. This is Britain, after all. Unfortunately, they are not just limited to verbal threats and gestures.
Honour killing remains an atrocious consequence of living in modern day Britain.
It is no wonder then that the story of secrecy does not end there. Unravelling the hand-woven carpet of consequence reveals an ever increasing mix of bamboo lies.
Women now use a variety of available methods to uphold their traditionalist ideals. Increasing numbers opt for plastic surgery to reform their hymens after sexual activity. Even more have secret abortions.
One female civil litigation lawyer, aged 31, said: “Even though I have an independent, professional working life, and active sexual life, I would be more comfortable with having a termination than telling my parents that I am pregnant out of wedlock. They would never understand and completely disown me.”
So while the actions of British Asian women are changing, their shame is not.
Changing trends are developing right across the ages. From sandy shores of adolescence to the pebbled coastline of middle age, none escape the thrashing seas of traditional expectations. Parents, family, intended partners and even local communities form the merging rivers that become a ravaging sea.
Homosexual relations are another matter altogether. This is as magnificently constructed as filling in the holes of an intricate cross-stitched portrait. So neat and tidy on the surface, yet all the split threads are concealed underneath by the individuals, their partners and their families.
Sham marriages pave the way for a whole string of neglect, abuse and trauma. They fall off, one after another, as pearls shatter to the floor as the necklace is forcefully ripped away. Neither men or women can escape the cruel clawing hand of family and society.
If any person admits to homosexuality, it is automatically deigned a phase or sickness. Temporary but curable, with a trip abroad to speedy the remedy. This is only avoidable by staying underground in complete denial.
A multitude of changes have sprung through the last few years with the ever increasing intensity of a desert sun. Have relationships become more open or have they just evolved from what went on before?
Undoubtedly the journey remains a long and difficult one. Is the desperate attempt and thirst to fit into society today and achieve complete openness within relationships making British Asians create mirages of their own?
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