I live with my parents and am tired of lying when I’m out on dates - I’m running out of friends to pretend I’m “hanging out” with! How do I straight up tell my parents I’m going on a date without them being worried?

Age: 28 

Hi friend, thanks for this question. 

You may or may not have read this roundup of brown kid dating excuses, but if it showed us anything at all, it’s that so many of us are sadly in the same boat. 

We shouldn’t need to be coming up with “excuses,” or lying about our dating lives at our big ages—but we are often left with no other choice. 

Dating is hard enough already, without having to do it in secret. Coordinating getting picked up for dates feels like a covert operation; having to come up with elaborate reasons for why you keep getting flowers, or whisper-talking while you Facetime your boo in secret, or having to have an elaborate, detailed story about your evening in case your parents ask, is all exhausting and unsustainable.

I too have reached my breaking point many times over. How do you tell your parents you’re upset because some aint-shit-ass-man wasted your time, or that you’ve got two Hinge dates next week with two different people? How do I go on that weekend trip with my man without raising suspicions, or stay the night without having to implicate at least 3 of my friends in the process?

These experiences are so far from what our parents know, so complete honesty would send them into utter disarray. But there has to be some sort of easy medium, right?

The answer to your question, unfortunately, is as complicated as trying to date as a brown kid. 

Let me explain.

A few years ago I was in a long-term relationship, and I got tired of lying to my parents. To make my own life easier, (or so I thought), I was honest with them. I told them I was dating someone and that I wanted to be able to tell them the truth about what I was doing and where I was going. As a naturally anxious person, lying to my parents about my whereabouts led to a lot of internal conflict and catastrophizing about what would happen if for some reason I had to come clean. 

What I thought would make my life easier, did the opposite. They immediately began talking about marriage, and assumed that I had told them about him because I was ready to get married. I was only in my early twenties at the time and this was not at all my intention or where my head was at. I just wanted to make my life easier. The relationship later ended, and they couldn’t comprehend that I would tell them about someone and later choose not to marry them. But the world kept spinning, and I have no regrets.

I do however caution that for someone who is on the younger side, this might be something that could cause more obstacles, depending on what your parents are like and how they would handle the news.

I’m older now, so I think whether or not I tell my parents about my dating life depends on a few things.

If I’m just casually dating, I don’t feel the need to get into the details. It’s easier to tell them I’m going out with friends than to say I met a random stranger on a dating app and am going to give them a chance over dinner, drinks, and an awkward side hug at the end.

If I’m consistently seeing someone, I throw in excuses here and there, but I also just don’t talk about it a ton. I let them read between the lines because it’s easier than having another awkward conversation. This, again, for me is more about self preservation than anything else. I also have the luxury of freedom in my home, so I can go out as I please. They will ask questions, but they don’t tell me what I can and cannot do. I recognize this isn’t the case for all brown kids, and that’s a conversation for another day. 

My parents are supportive and we have a good relationship, but at the end of the day, they are still a product of their conditioning. Telling them I’m dating someone, especially if it’s still fresh, puts me in a tough spot. They’re already mentally planning the wedding, while I’m just getting to know someone. 

0-100. Real quick.

If they were to ask, I would tell them the truth and that I’m happy, and let them know I don’t wish to discuss it further until I’m ready. I would ask that they respect my boundaries (tough or non-existent in a brown family, usually), and not pressure me into divulging information I don’t wish to share, particularly if they don't want me to rush into something just to appease them or for them to get off my back. 

I explain to them on a level they understand—that marriage is something I will do when I want to, and I certainly don’t want to start that journey on the basis of being pressured into it. 

So for you, you have two options depending on what your parents are like, what your relationship with them is like and how comfortable you are being blunt with them.

You are the one who will have to deal with the repercussions, so first ask yourself, will you have to change anything about your behaviour if you were to tell them?

An entire overhaul of your parents' thinking isn’t possible, so I’ve learned it's most important to just pick your battles. 

If you think you can set that boundary with them, and tell them you’re seeing someone but don’t want to talk about it further—then that’s likely the best solution. Tell them you don’t want to get pressured into anything but don’t want to lie to them either. You don't need to get into the details about the person you're dating just yet and let them know you'll tell them on your own time. Hopefully they aren’t as marriage obsessed as my parents and accept that as an adequate answer. 

Alternatively, (and this one will cause many more problems, see last week’s column for more), you could move out. It’s a financial burden and may cause some conflict with your parents at first, but trying to appease them like I mentioned last week will only cause you more strife. If you think you can't keep lying and can't be honest, this solution may be the best suited one.

You have to either be honest about this entire situation and your thoughts with them, or continue lying until you’re fully prepared to deal with the incessant marriage talk, or the fall out if things between you and your partner don't work out. Again, it’s not the end of the world in either of these cases, I assure you, but remember to think about how you can preserve your own mental health throughout it all. 

I know this was an extremely long-winded answer to your quite simple question, but as you know, there’s never an easy solution to dealing with our brown parents. They mean well, I'm sure, but you also deserve to date in peace.

Love always,

- Rumneek

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About the author

Rumneek Johal

Rumneek is a journalist, host and speaker. She is currently the BC Reporter at Press Progress where she focuses on systemic inequality, workers and communities, as well as racism and far-right extremism. Her previous work centers on asking tough questions within her community, starting conversation and chipping away at the status quo. Other focus areas for her work include the South Asian community, arts and culture, pop culture, and more. She is a proud Punjabi woman from Surrey, BC.

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