Our question this week comes from a 26-year-old Indian female who has been born and raised in America. She has been dating her White fiancee for three years and is meant to get married in December.
The problem began with the wedding planning when her fiancee asked if they were going to have an American or Indian wedding (or both). When she said American, dude went: “Well I mean, you’re Indian. I just thought we were going to also celebrate accordingly.” Well, that turned into an argument.
The fiancee says she is not American. She is even rethinking their wedding.
My White fiancee says I am not American, despite being born and raised here. Been together for 3 years- supposed to be getting married in December.
To start off, my family is from India. My parents were born and raised in India. Me, my brother, and my sister were all born here in the US and raised here. I have only visited India once when I was about 10 to meet my extended family and grandparents, and I haven’t been back since. I can’t even speak a word of Punjabi. I was very grateful that my parents were more integrating than other Indian families I knew growing up. My mother would make traditional Indian food, but she would also mix it up a lot and make mac and cheese or burgers (chicken or imitation beef, though she didn’t mind if we bought McDonald outside of the house). My parents encouraged us to join sports and do other extracurricular that would let us bond with the kids who went to our school, rather than just hang out with the Indian kids from other Indian families just because they were Indian. My dad always said that he saw so many people get stuck in their ways because they never ventured out of what was familiar to them.
So fast forward to 3 years ago, I met my fiancée Alan. What I liked about him was that he didn’t make it a point that we were this exotic interracial couple. He didn’t treat me differently than anyone else. We, of course, talked about my family and he knew that my parents were from India but that me and my siblings had grown up here. He never said anything that came off ignorant, which was very refreshing considering how every guy I had dated before that had had some weird Indian chick fetish that gradually came out during the relationship.
He proposed 6 months ago.
Until about a month ago, things were going well and we were planning our wedding that we decided to have in December. He asked me if we were going to have an American or Indian wedding (or both) and I replied we were just going to have an American wedding because I really didn’t know anything about an Indian one and my family really isn’t traditional like that so they weren’t fussed. Alan seemed surprised and when I asked why he said “Well I mean, you’re Indian. I just thought we were going to also celebrate accordingly.”
I asked him jokingly if we were going to have beer steins and if he was going to wear lederhosen at our wedding. He gave me a completely baffled look and said no, and I said “Well it’s the same sentiment really. You and I were both raised here, we’re both American.” to which he said “Yea, but, well, not really. You’re Indian-American.”
It turned into an argument where I challenged him and asked him why he’s not calling himself German-American or Irish-American since that’s where his grandparents hail from. He never gave me a solid answer. Everything was vague and a lot of blubbering began to happen the more I asked him why he could be just American but I needed to clarification of a hyphen in there.
We never resolved the issue. We just ended sweeping it under the rug and didn’t talk about it again, until this week. At dinner with his parents, the issue of an Indian wedding came up again. I politely told them no, that we wouldn’t be doing that as my parents aren’t traditional and that’s the only reason I’d be having an Indian wedding. Alan pipes up and says its a shame because “you Indians do weddings way better than us Americans”, nodding towards his mom and dad. I asked him right there what he meant because I was also American. He said, “Well, you know what I mean. Like, you’re Indian, and we’re white.”
It left a really sour taste in my mouth. And then I got to thinking about what happens after we get married and decide to have kids. Kids born here, in America. Are they going to have to deal with their dad continually reminding them that because they’re a bit browner that they’re “not really” American? I know people will say some ignorant things because woohoo for racism, but I don’t want the first instance of prejudice to come from their own father. I don’t want my kids to feel the way I do when someone insists on slapping the Indian-American label on me because I look one way and talk/act another.
This is honestly making me rethink the wedding, but I don’t know if I’m overreacting here or if my feelings are valid. I don’t even really know how to approach my fiancee about this whole issue without coming off bitter or angry. I’m not saying that I don’t know what my heritage is, but the fact is, I was raised here. My ties to India are pure because my parents happened to be born there. I don’t want to have to straddle two worlds because I’m not even really part of one, and I don’t want my kids to feel that way either.
Summary: Fiancee has some skewed view about who can be just American. It’s making me rethink the wedding unless I can find a way to discuss this with him, but just the fact he can think this way in 2015 is upsetting to me.”