Anyone who grew up in the United States with immigrant parents will tell you the same thing — growing up with two cultures is damn hard. The formation of my Pakistani-American identity wasn't an easy one, because it meant I had to adopt two different cultural and belief systems at the same time, even if they directly contradicted one another. Sometimes, I could hang out with boys and sometimes even acknowledging their existence was off-limits. Sometimes I had to unconditionally obey my elders, and other times I was allowed to level with them and speak to them as if they were my peers. Sometimes I had to make myself believe drinking alcohol was a sin, other times I felt like it was just something young people were supposed to do.
Because I grew up at home with a lot of viewpoints that conflicted with the values and cultural nuances I was learning at school, I sometimes resented my mother for shoving Pakistani-ness down my throat when I just wanted to be like everyone else in this country. But as I got older, I started seeing the ways in which this dual-cultural upbringing had benefited me. I could speak two languages, I could dress so many different ways, I had access to Hollywood and Bollywood, and I gained first-hand access to two ENTIRELY different perspectives on how the world ought to work.
Eventually I saw the bright side of things, but that didn't mean that some of my mom's super-Pakistani behaviors and ideals didn't confuse or irritate me. If you grew up in a Pakistani household with Pakistani parents, here are some truths you will definitely recognize.
1. Your parents are always yelling into the phone when they make international calls.
Mom, just because your cousin lives thousands of miles away in Pakistan doesn't mean she's going to hear you any better if you yell into the phone. You clearly have a fundamental misunderstanding of how phones work.
2. When your parents say "We support you no matter what," they mean "We will only support you if you marry a Pakistani doctor with a degree from Harvard and have two beautiful Pakistani babies with him."
Alternate husband options include: Pakistani engineer with a degree from Stanford, Pakistani lawyer who practices a respectable kind of law with a degree from Yale, or Prince William.
3. When your parents say "It's up to you" they really mean "Don't you dare."
So just don't do it. Whatever it is. It won't be worth the weeks and weeks of passive aggressiveness that will follow.
4. When your mom's friend comments "You're looking healthy!" She means "You look really fat."
And if you look a little under the weather, she'll accuse you of having an eating disorder and ask your mother whether or not she ever feeds you.
5. No matter how polite and hospitable you are towards guests when they come over for chai, you're going to get yelled at for doing something wrong.
"YOU DIDN'T BRING OUT EXTRA SUGAR CUBES WITH THE TEA LIKE I TOLD YOU TO LAST TIME."
6. You will always be compared to someone else's kid.
"You know, Samira aunty's daughter can recite her grandmother's favorite 13-page poem from memory and does it at every party. While you're scarfing down every samosa."
7. Nose piercings are fine, but if you so much as think about another piercing or, God forbid, a tattoo, you're as good as dead
My mom's favorite thing to say to me is "I will disown you if you do heroin or get your cartilage pierced."
8. When you're watching a movie with your parents, they always fast-forward through anything that seems like it might even approach a make-out scene.
And they always cause a big commotion about how graphic western movies are becoming and how they're ruining the minds and souls of little children.
9. If you're speaking in English they tell you to speak in Urdu, but when you speak Urdu they make fun of your accent
It's not my fault I can't practice with anyone but you, mom.
10. Your parents criticize new Pakistani people they meet for either being too religious or not religious enough.
Further confusing you about how you're supposed to approach religion.
11. Literally everything is a conspiracy.
Obamacare, MSNBC, slumber parties, compliments from strangers, compliments from fellow Pakistani friends...the list goes on.
12. One day your parents will tell you they trust you and the next day you'll have already lost all that trust...
"WHAT WERE YOU DOING WITH THAT BOY?"
13. Your mother actually gets angry with you when you come home slightly darker than when you left.
"Here, take some Fair & Lovely, rub it all over your face until you're white, and don't come back until you're done"
14. Despite it all, you know your parents have a lot of love for you in their hearts and no matter how irritating they might sometimes be, they're just trying to look out for you.
So you can be married off to a wealthy man. Just kidding.
Images: Mehak Anwar, Giphy (13)