Growing up in a post 9/11 world and encountering the nuances of white privilege and classism, I always knew I didn’t want to date a white guy. This wasn’t necessarily a conscious effort; I was always attracted to men of color, but after meeting some hella ignorant people, who all happened to be of the lighter shade, I knew I just couldn’t date them. They don’t get me. Everything I do or say must be because of my background, and anything different is exotic or foreign to them. My struggles are alien; they don’t know what it’s like to get questioned by TSA, every time, or to realize your professor is an asshole to you cuz his kid’s serving in Afghanistan. Today, reading Tanzila Ahmed’s “Why I Don’t Date White Men”, that idea that I can’t date white men was reinforced, and I wholly related to and agreed with the post.
But I am still not convinced that our men are any better. In my case, Afghan-American men.
Being from the first generation, and having a huge Afghan family and network, I feel like I have a pretty good idea of the current state of Afghan-American relationships. Most people my age are ditching the traditional arranged-marriage and are trying to navigate the dating scene themselves (wear a helmet bachem). This is by no means a be-all, end-all guide to dating in the Afghan-American world. These examples are not all-encompassing. But it goes a little something like this:
If you are an outgoing, social, “modern” (I hate that word), ambitious, Afghan-American woman – honey, you better compromise. You’re trying to marry an Afghan guy? Compromise is about to be your middle name. Cuz if the white guy didn’t get your struggle, the Afghan man won’t want to.
See, some Afghan-American men are a false advertisement: he wears Ralph Lauren, drives a nice car, has an active nightlife, but has the mentality of a Talib on crack. What do I mean? Everything about him will scream “American”, “open-minded”, “accepting” “non-judgmental”, but his actions will speak louder than his Instagram page. He is just as close-minded as your cousins back home. It’s the same shit wrapped in a deceiving package. Most Afghan-American men I know pick and choose what they want from both cultures that benefit them the most, and expect their partners to bend, jump, and cartwheel into their conformist, archaic ideals of what it means to be a quintessential, coy and modest Afghan girl. They love girls who wear Western clothes, but have the same mentality as Sharbat Gula. Have ambitions? The Afghan-American man’s needs must be met, THEN ambitions and goals can be realized. He’ll reel you in by saying he’s “different than other Afghan guys” (always watch out for that, he’s most likely JUST like other Afghan guys), but really, the second you dump him, he’ll let the whole loya jirga know what happened behind close doors. And if nothing happened, you best believe he’ll lie so that something sure as hell “happened”.
Are there men that don’t fit this mold? Of course! That’s why I said “some”. The amazing Afghan men who I call my brothers are not like this. I’ve been blessed with having an amazing network of super cool Afghan dudes in my life who are the glimmer of hope in the zoo of psycho Afghan guys (i.e. Amal Mohammadi, ladies, he’s single and won’t rat you out to your parents when you break up!). But the typical Afghan, and I would go as far as saying Middle Eastern, Muslim man does not go for an ambitious or social woman. Their power is threatened, and their idea of a “good Afghan woman” is challenged.
So what you’ll get with Afghan-American men these days is a Frankenstein of different values across cultures: I drink, my girl doesn’t drink. I bang chics, my girl keeps her legs closed. I’m out till 5am, my girl better be in bed by 10pm. I got exes, but I’m my girls “first”, I can’t look like no chump! And she better never lie to me, but she can lie to her parents to see me.
And in doing so, we women compromise ourselves and our reputations at an extremely disproportionate rate than our brothers. An Afghan girl with an active dating life is bad news; who wants used goods? But the typical Afghan man has multiple exes, across religions and ethnicities (And God forbid the Afghan girls’ ex, if she dare reveal she had one, be a non-Muslim).
And how do I know that this holds truth? Because my people feel the same; my sisters and brothers. Because when I gave a presentation at the Afghan American Conference at UC Berkeley this year, the part of my speech that got a round of applause (albeit, a surprise to me), was when I stated:
“We are spreading a false narrative to our men that a perfectly modest Afghan woman will be waiting for them as soon as they’re done messing around.”
The question is, why are Afghan guys expecting a modest Afghan girl when they aren’t modest themselves?
This unequal treatment of the genders stems from how our families raise us. The boys grow up as misogynists and with superiority complexes because our women are allowing it.
Let me give you some anecdotal examples. I come from a huge family. All the boy cousins openly date and bring their non-Afghan girlfriends to every family function. My aunts dutifully and eagerly make plates of food for these girls, making sure they’re accommodated for and feel welcomed – our Persian cousins call this “duduul-tala”, or, the golden penis, the son that can do no wrong. It’s ok if Bilal had a Mexican girlfriend, but if Bilal’s sister Meena gets caught sitting with one, she’s dead. What kinda bullshit is that?
Another example. Two of my cousins were expecting babies out of wedlock at the same time. My guy cousin who got a non-Afghan pregnant got a baby shower. My girl cousin who got pregnant by a man she had been dating for almost a decade? She got disowned.
Am I calling for open season on dating? Am I asking Afghans to ditch their cultural norms of honor so that my sisters and I can swipe right on whomever we please? Hell no. I have a deep respect and admire that dating is something we cannot openly discuss with our parents; to be honest, even if my parents were super open to it, I wouldn’t want to disrespect them by throwing every guy in their face anyway. I’m a Pashtun in the end, I get the whole honor thing, even if that means living a double-identity at times. But the very least we can do is treat our sons and daughters equally. Either Bilal and Meena can both bring their boo’s, or no boo’s allowed at all.
The community often looks at those who marry outside the race with disapproving frowns. Especially if an Afghan girl marries a non-Afghan. But what did you expect? Dating an Afghan man is like signing your life away. The risks, the drama, the perception by the community is social suicide. To avoid all this, some Afghan couples are getting engaged or married very early on, without getting to know each other. This rush is done so that both parties can “keep their honor”, but in the cases I’ve seen, separation quickly follows. Who wants to be divorced at 25? Why are we suffocating our girls just for face? Do we really care that much what the community thinks, that we’d sacrifice the happiness our daughters could have with a partner that would love, support and respect them?
Yes. We do care that much. We will crucify our daughters. Because our community does not raise those loving, supportive, and respectful men I mentioned. And there are some sisters who get respect, but more often than not, they are only respected if they fit the definition of a pious Afghan, Muslim girl.
Again, I need to reiterate that this does not extend to all Afghan-American men of my generation. But my sisters talk to me. They vent their frustrations. And I see it with my own eyes. No, I won’t date white men. But our men are just as oppressive as the systems that placed white men in positions of privilege.
So I’ma take a seat in the single-girls section until I meet a man of color that isn’t a hypocrite.