Author’s note: The general idea behind this article is probably applicable to all parents, but since I’m Haitian I decided to base my examples on our society.
“Haitian parents are way too involved in their kids’ relationships! Let the kids learn on their own.” Giuliano Puzo (alias DJ K9). Earlier this year, one of the most popular DJs in our community posted that tweet and since it went viral, I figured there was a certain interest in the matter so I decided to pen this article on whether or not Haitian parents are too entangled in their kid’s relationships.
First off, our parents tend to influence our love life long before it even starts to blossom. Indeed, growing up they often tell us what features our dating partner should have. Here is what my mother says about my potential boyfriend:
“M p ap pran moun ak zanno, cheve trese oswa tatou nan kay sa” (No man with braids, earrings or tattoos will walk pass these doors). I never agreed but I must admit I came across even worse.
“Fò pitit mwen renmen ak yon grimo oswa yon blan pou li ka sove la ras” (My child needs to wed either a light-skinned or a Caucasian in order to save our genes). This has to be one of the most disturbing trains of thoughts I have ever heard. Seriously? “Sove la ras?” (Saving our genes?) What does that even mean?
Moving on to a different kind of “dating rule” some Haitian parents have expressed. “Tu sais, tu ne peux pas sortir avec… vous n’êtes pas de la même classe sociale” (You can’t be dating…you guys are from different walks of life).
This is what one of my friends’ mother said when she introduced her boyfriend. Honestly, I wonder if our moms and dads forget “the heart wants what it wants” quoting Selena Gomez. I mean, we can always have expectations for our life-long partner but if I am to understand the concept of love correctly, I doubt we can predict whom that will exactly be. So our parents can always preach about what kind of in-laws they deem fit, but once we have feelings for someone, there is no reversal.
In order to write this article, I had to conduct a little survey with some of my friends and acquaintances. As a result, I heard some interesting stories. A friend of mine says she cannot introduce any male friends to her mother without undergoing an interrogation process. “Se pa li? Mh! M konnen ou pap di m” (So is that him? Mh! I know you will not tell me). That is their usual reaction when they suspect we are involved with a person but will not let them in on the secret.
Moreover, it is not just our parents inquiring or sharing their opinions about our relationships. Sometimes their friends and colleagues “have” a say in our love life. “Sally, se yon grimo m ap tann nan men w” (Sally, a light-skinned is all I expect from you). This is what one of my mom’s coworkers told me a few months ago. I froze there in shock and remained silent.
As I said before, single young adults often get the end of the stick. “Sally! Ou poko renmen toujou? Ou nan laj pou w gen menaj wi!” (Sally! You’re still single? You are old enough to be in a relationship now!). This is what my uncle’s wife told me a few years back (I was 19). I did not reply because truthfully, all I wanted to say was “Why do you even care?” Why can’t she accept that I was comfortable with my lifestyle and did not wish to settle down yet? You know how many times people said to me: “Mh! Fè makak. Doub sis gen pou mouri nan men w!” (Hmmm! If you wait too long, you could end up a celibate). Why are they pressuring me?
Now let us dig into what I consider the meat of the bone: our parents being too involved in our relationships. First, they bombard us with a plethora of questions. “Is it serious?” “Where is he/she from?” “What is his/her major?” “Where did you meet?” “What do you guys do when you are together?”… And it seems the older we get, the more intimate and personal the inquiries get.
“Did you guys have intercourse already?” This is probably the most common and hated question our parents love to ask. Who really wants to tell their parents about their sex life? I am not sure about anyone else but never in a million years will I imagine myself having this conversation with my mom, yet, she continues to ask. Let’s not forget how much of a taboo sex is in our society. Of course, we’re having it, but we do not have conversations about it because our society tends to judge people who are open about their sexual relationships. We have a tendency of making them feel as if being sexually active is wrong when in fact it is not.
“Mh! Ce n’est pas comme ça que j’aurais souhaité que ça se passe” (Mh! That is not how I would want it to happen). Comments made by another one of my friends’ mom when she found out her daughter lost her virginity. Deep in her story, my friend said and I quote “I could feel the judgment in her voice”. These parents think the moment their children start exploring their sexuality, “yo pedi yo” (they lost them.)
Second, sometimes our parents are too eager to meet our partner. “Mom! I have a boyfriend” “Oh Really? When are you going to introduce us?” How many of you went through that? This is uncharted grounds and we are trying to build as well as strengthen our bonds; we do not know the outcome yet, so please, give us some time! They love to rush us and when we refuse to introduce them, they concoct other strategies.
One of my friends had her entire family compel her into giving them her boyfriend’s last name so they can look him up on Facebook. Guys, do not underestimate your parents, some of them are better stalkers than we are. They look at pictures, comments, statuses… “Oh! Epa l pa mete l in a relationship sou Facebook!” (Oh! Why does his/her relationship status on Facebook says single?). A lot of people say if your partner does not change their relationship status on Facebook it is because they are cheating. Honestly, this is all gibberish to me.
Last but not least: sometimes our parents interfere in our fights with our partners. It does not get any worse than that. As a result of my survey, I came across several shocking yet interesting stories. Can you believe that some parents are texting or calling their sons’ and daughters’ mate to discuss a fight? Come on now, that is crossing the boundaries. I would not want my mom reaching out to my sweetheart in order to lecture him about an issue that does not relate to her. In fact, I would not even tell my mom that my companion and I had a quarrel; only if it escalates to a major dilemma. It is my relationship, it stays between my beloved and me; it is not a love triangle that includes my family.
In the end, I think it is safe to say that Giuliano was right. Our dear Haitian parents are indeed, sometimes, way too absorbed in their child’s relationships. Although some of us do not mind their implication, we have to set some boundaries because no one wants to be involved with you and your entire family.
Sally Riché is a young Haitian blogger, poet, linguist, psychologist and English teacher. Born and raised in Haiti, she writes articles in which she addresses some topics in the Haitian community. To do so, Sally uses her own experiences and those of people in her surroundings. Living in Haiti, her findings are based off testimonies given by people sharing her situation.