Young Couple in Conflict over Differences in Age

Dear Diana, My boyfriend’s parents were Indian and he moved to the U.S. when he was 10. His mom was really into driving trains when he was small and he was the one who got to drive most days — to and from school, for school plays, as we went to museums and walked the Atlanta River. We’ve spent the past eight years together. He left for college with his mom and we have always been closest. He was very supportive of me dating other people during my gap year.

She’s not as into technology as he is and he worries she may think he’s lazy. She’s white but one day in the hot Georgia sun, she looked at the humid air and said, “What am I looking at?” He explained the problem, but then she said she knew what it was: “I have such a sun fever.” He knows that comments she makes like that will always cause friction between us and he’s just too embarrassed to bring it up again. She complains about my lack of professionalism and I tell her she should take lessons from her son. She has banned her husband from going to the movies with me because he was wearing jeans and a tank top, but he refuses to wear a suit to work. She thinks he’s gone soft on his boss. It sounds just like me when I say I want to split up, but I’m worried she’ll kill us.

— Jealous Girlfriend

Dear Jealous Girlfriend,

I can understand her discomfort, but also why you’re nervous to tell your boyfriend’s mom what she’s doing. Since she’s from South India and him from Florida, he’s Indian-American. If he had Indian parents, he might not feel the need to be such a slave to her. Maybe he would. You and he know the difference between dealing with obstacles as a team or holding them down. You say you’re close and you’ve watched your boyfriend get into trouble a few times for not having been more aware of the cultural nuances. It would be a lot easier for you if you could drop this nagging concern and simply get on with your life. There’s no point bringing up anything that has to do with race in case they rush in and end up getting furious with you. There’s a mutual love, so keep your reservations to yourself. It’s not as if you are the only Indian person who is raised in America. Your boyfriend’s parents will respect you more if you stay out of it and concentrate on enjoying your new life together.

Dear Diana,

My brother passed away last year. We have been engaged since last year, but my parents aren’t helping in arranging the wedding. My parents live way out of town and have asked me to come back home for the ceremony and start planning the event. They say they want me to manage the entire wedding — everything from the invitations to the cake. At this point of time, I’m in graduate school. I’ve been to the wedding in the past, but as they are flying out of town for the holidays, I do not want to be separated from my family for so long. The main thing is they have taken my brother’s (now in heaven) last wish that he must marry his sister. What should I do? I don’t want to miss my brother’s wedding, but my parents are acting like they own my fiancé’s life.

— Missed

Dear Missed,

They had the meeting and they didn’t like it when you were the only ones at the meeting. If they say that their poor English makes it difficult to understand what’s being said, you can take them to court. They should really learn to listen and learn a little about how to get along in a different culture. You must also try to get some understanding from them, if possible.

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