south asian marriage: the infamous bio data

south asian marriage: the infamous bio data

Okay, so I have a daughter and it got me thinking about south asian marriage: and the infamous bio data.

And while she’s only three, there are incidents that I go through as a woman and think, I hope she does not ever have to feel that way. It’s probably what my mother thought being one of the only female graduates of her dental school at the time in India. And why she chose to raise her kids abroad in America.

Recently, there was talk about my sister’s bio data. And I felt it again. If my daughter decides to spend years investing in her education and career before searching for a soul mate like my sister did, will she too feel the immense pressure many South Asian women feel?

I asked a few Indian guys in their 30’s and they said while their parents would tell them to settle down, it was never the same intense pressure their female friends faced. It was non-chalant, like do as you please. One guy even told me his mom said, “Okay it’s fine, you can always marry a younger girl when you are ready.”

If you are South Asian, you have definitely heard the term bio data.

If you are a South Asian woman who chose to date seriously/marry after the age of 28, you especially know what I mean.

For those of you who don’t know, a bio data is basically a marriage CV that South Asian families send to one another to find the perfect husband or wife…many times done by the parents for their kids instead of the kids themselves.

So my sister, who will be 30 this year, was told by my more-progressive-than-most-indian-ladies mom that she needed to find a husband before it got too late.

And the kicker? She said, “It might be helpful to write up a bio data.”

The thing is, my sister really does want to find her soul mate contrary to what her career-centered, post graduation life looks like.

And the whole bio data thing is confusing…

When my sister asked, “Sis…so, what do I write?”

So I wondered.

Can you really get it all down in a profile card of your height, weight, education and personal interests that your parents email around to other parents of South Asian, unmarried doctors around the country?

Somewhere between the lines of hair and eye color, (by the way, my sister eye color is how my daughter got her’s-light brown that darkens with her black sweaters and lightens with green shirts…now how do you write that color down?), will there be room for the stuff that an Indian auntie or uncle may not want to hear?

For instance, my sister collects stones and can probably hear the colors of the wind like Pocohontas. I’m not kidding, she really loves being in nature. She doesn’t scream at bugs. She makes her own soap and lotion and her toes are rarely manicured or painted pink. However, she studied beauty in the past and can shape up eyebrows better than any Asian waxing lady you’ve ever seen. She’s self sufficient and has always wanted to do things herself. She can even change her own car tire. Like my self-made Indian parents, if she didn’t know it, she learned it.

My sister has tattoos and while mostly hidden, they are special to her, because she is and always has been an artist of self expression. Nothing has ever held her back from expressing her truest colors.

She isn’t afraid of what others think and this can be different than what many South Asian parents or men know. She is a woman who just loves being her.

But she’s got those insecurities, the ones other girls cover with retail therapy, statements like Am I fat?, and the “acceptable” ways girls should feel insecure.

Although, my sisters insecurities are different.

She’s never been afraid of her curvy hips she got from my mom.

Rather, the insecurities she harbors are if whoever she meets will really get her.

Will he accept her? Will he love her in her emo stages, will he ride a beach cruiser bike with her on Sundays, build bookshelves by hand with her, will he do the dishes because she hates the dishes, but can make him a killer indian dinner? (my dad passed on his cooking genes to us)

Will he accept her messy but organized shelves, and her messy but clear fear of love?

She’s afraid of love because she loves wholly, with this sweet purity I have known in her since she used to follow me around as kids, and wonders, will he love and embrace her back? Fully and openly, the way she craves?

She’s honest in the most straight forward way that can shake you up if you’re not used to truth being put in your face.

And she’s a girl whose heart was broken, so she’s not always sure of what she deserves but if this bio data included testimonials from everyone who knows her it would unanimously say, oh, yes, she deserves someone really, really good.

Are you it?

She’s a girl who wants to prove herself in her world more than in a guy’s world she hasn’t met yet, and I guess, cares about who she is before who she is with.

So I don’t know, will these descriptions all fit between her expertise on sewing and jewelry-making here?

Will he know what her acupuncture career means to her when she lists her recent graduation?

Will whoever reads it be the guy she deserves?

It’s hard to know when so many of these bio datas are read by the mothers and fathers of these sons first and so she was right in asking…what do you write? 

I’m not sure. But if that matters to you what your conservative South Asian mother would think, or if this is your conservative South Asian mother choosing girls for you herself, then on behalf of all the single independent, untraditional but still-loves-her-culture girls like my sister (and possibly my daughter when she’s all grown up) they’re not interested in your judgement calls.

What I do know is that if she drew a painting of what all of this looked like, the vibrant colors and intricate details of heart, that would portray her better than the meaningless list this bio data calls for, and so if you see it and jive with that, then yes, by all means, give her a call.

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