If you are a Sri Lankan, you are a recipient of a wealth of relationship advice, mostly unsolicited. Sometimes ‘relationships' and ‘boys' are taboo words in your household, setting the tone loud and clear. It's strange how Sri Lankans are beckoned to enter marriage at an age as young as eighteen and ‘do' what married people do, but entering into a relationship at the age of seventeen is something that would tarnish your ancestor's name, make your parents conduct a Thovil to cleanse your spirit, and even move houses.
Having finally steered Mr. Right my way at the age of 30, I realised that I have been exposed to a lot of advice dispensed by Sri Lankan parents, mine and others who assume I am in need of it, and most of it has done *nothing*.
Here are some of the top five pieces I have received thus far.
1. It’s never the “Right” Age:
I recall having a moving target as to when I could have an official ‘Boyfriend'. First, it was 16, then 18, and much later, 21.Somehow parents are smart enough to base this target with corresponding examinations as incentives. You are already ravaged with hormonal changes, pimpled, growing two mounds of flesh on your chest, not understanding how you can harvest a mini rain forest on your legs, and yet they seem to know how to hit a nerve.
1. You Shouldn't Be Friends with Boys
What they actually mean is, “We’ve passed your age and know full well that two sexes cannot limit themselves to platonic love.” However, if we are to fare well with our catch, girls should ideally associate male contemporaries to understand how the male psyche works, but, alas, no – we’re told that being friends with boys is equal to having herpes at 12. If that advice is taken lightly, we are reminded of what the bottom of a Bata slipper looks like at close ranges.
2. You Don’t Need to Know about it
At the age of eleven, I used to read ‘Top of the Pops' magazines with the same vigour the Pope would read the Catholic bible. I stumbled across the word ‘virginity' – it was excerpts of an interview with the boy-band ‘Boyzone'. I asked my parents what it meant, thinking it was similar to receiving the first communion in a church; never had I seen the blood drain out of a human face until then. After then, my subscription to any pop magazine was revoked. Six months later, I was ‘educated' by a friend who confided that it involved the ‘S’ word. At that age, I remember rationalising that I was far safer asking my 11-year-old peers of sex, romance, and the works than getting answers from my parents who had their first Rapture experience in 1997. It could have saved me a lot of questions, had my parents been willing to talk about relationships and the romance it entails, rather than conducting ‘practicals’ a few years later.
3. Seeds of Wisdom
Marriage was something that was arranged. There was no questioning it. At sixteen I wondered how people ‘just’ knew. Surely it was more complex than choosing between white and milk chocolate? Since the Parents had a closed door concept on matters pertaining to marriage, I really had no idea of one until about a decade later. Had parents chosen to talk about these things openly and deposit little seeds like ‘when you are older, find a man who will do ‘X' act for you too', my quest to find my Soulmate would have been a shorter journey.
4. Get ‘Thin’ or you get Nothing
I'm not even going to make excuses for being overweight; when I was entering my teens, there was a lot of ‘body-shaming' with a twist. Instead of motivating me by saying that it was best for my health and overall well-being as it should be said, I was told a different tune. ‘Boys don't like fat girls', ‘You might crush a boy if you try to kiss them', or ‘At your size, no one will like you', were constantly hailed at me; sometimes in banter or very serious advice. Did I care? Not a single f*ck was given as I continued to defiantly complete a six-pack of Toblerones a week. I feel that parents or adults say things like this to ‘motivate' children to shed the puppy fat, but for me, I just amassed the weight of several prize-winning Pitbulls, as a giant F*ck Off.
Maybe Sri Lankan parents are the worst at giving relationship advice – but there's hope. My friends, who are now parents to 5 or 6 year-olds are instilling a lot of values and being open to questions about the opposite sex and their functions. Thankfully, a lot of mess ups can be prevented because there's an atmosphere to question parents and not rely on what your peer's renditions of love and lust are.
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