Learning to Date All Over Again
This is a part of a series called, “New American Stories” produced by Erika Lorentzsen. Generations and cultures experience dating in new ways from arranged marriage to living with more choice, especially here in America. Muslims, Hindus and Latinos, enjoy some things about dating in America, but not everything.
I’m Hirshita Gaba, and I’m now 16. Although I was born in India, I’ve grown up here. Like my childhood was here. I’m definitely pro American way of going about relationships. And arranged marriage is not something I see in my future I guess. I definitely respect what they did. Like I think it’s crazy that the first person you date is the person you marry. And it works out. Like that’s crazy. Here you see more possible people even from middle school. It’s so normal here. It’s ingrained in our culture almost to go on dates. In India, it’s a much more formal thing because it might be a possible spouse. In America you’re not automatically thinking this is the person I’m going to marry, or may marry. But in India, I feel like it’s more like that.
Both Hirshita Gaba and Shamsi Sheikhuna from Somalia come from more traditional cultures--one Muslim and one Hindu. While Hirshita likes having more choice in who to date, Shamsi says dating is more complicated in America.
It’s like just tell your friends you put them in a category, so you can say to your friends and family. This person you say you’re just friends.
But it might be a total lie.
It might be a total lie. You can’t fool your own self. There’s way more than a friendship there. You don’t spend every weekend with your friend.
Shamsi says being separated before divorce is strange and lacks clarity. She’s also confused by open relationships. She says things are much simpler in Somalia.
In America relationships have a lot of different category. There is just for example facebook you can say it’s complicated, it’s…. Like I have a person that I work with who says he’s in an open relationship. Well, what does that mean? Are you single? Married? Basically, I have a girlfriend she can do whatever she wants talk with whomever she wants. End of the day me and her are a couple, talk to other girls, dance with other girls. So that’s an open relationship. I’m like what kind of relationship is that? But there’s just way too much different category of relationships.
Edwin Aybar says in Puerto Rico a girl you’re casually seeing is called a jeva (heowa). A guy can have more than one jeva. But girls do not enjoy the same freedom.
There is no out right dating quote unquote as such. When you go up to a stranger, or someone you barely know and ask them out, that really doesn’t exist that much. You’re expected to be friends or at least acquaintances for awhile first. And then people just kind of pair off. When your circle of friends does see you paired off with someone and you’re in that in between stage where nothing has been officially declared, everyone starts to call to say you have a jeva. It’s usually socially acceptable for a guy to have two or three, jevas. Oh just girls that everyone knows oh he’s seeing. The girls might know and they might not. But it’s absolutely unacceptable for a girl to have more than one jeva. When you do fall into that category there’s usually social pressure, alright is he going to settle it with you, are you going to be official here? If not stop talking to him. So that is kind of double standard in a lot of Latin American societies.
Dating and sexual relationships are complicated even for native born Americans. The challenge for a new American is whether to embrace those differences, remain true to their culture, or, if possible, accept both. This is Erika Lorentzsen for Prairie Public.
Next in the series, “New American Stories” we’ll hear about divorce and individualism verses the collective. This series was made possible by the support of the Humanities Council and FM Area Foundation.