Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: I am a 22-year-old woman. My father is Muslim and was born in Kuwait. My mother was Catholic and was born in the United States (but converted after being with my father). I was raised Muslim. Personally, I do not necessarily follow the religion, but I do have respect toward it for my parents’ sake. I am currently in a very serious relationship with a 21-year-old Christian American man, who is as equally nonreligious as I am. The relationship is very serious, and we have talked about marriage and our futures together almost daily. Since my parents are very devoted in their faith, I have never talked to them about my relationship (or about any of my previous relationships). I know they do not expect me to have an arranged marriage, but we have never spoken about it before, except when I was young and that was when I wasn’t even allowed to be friends with boys (taboo in the religion, or at least in my father’s eyes). I would like some advice on how to approach the situation to talk to them and make them understand. When my mother saw a picture of me hugging a guy, she said it would “kill my father.” I don’t want to upset them. I know it will be easier to start with my mother, since she is the American one, but I just do not have that type of relationship with her. — Wondering
DEAR WONDERING: Based on my cursory knowledge about the issue of Muslim/Christian marriages, while a Muslim man is permitted to marry a Christian woman (if she converts, as your mother did), a Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a Christian man and stay in the faith.
My reading about this issue and my instincts based on your letter tell me that this is going to be tough. You should start by asking your parents an open-ended question about what their expectations are of your relationships. If your hugging a man would kill your father (and if your mother tells you this), you can expect both of your parents’ reaction to be challenging.
You and your guy must think and talk realistically with each other about what your lives would be like either without your parents in it, or with them (and other family members and members of the community) pressuring you regarding this relationship. In order for you to live the life you want to live, you may have to emancipate yourself from your parents and your religion (he may have to do the same).
Despite all of this, I want to encourage you to exercise your freedom to love the person you want to love, finding the strength to face your challenges together.
DEAR AMY: My husband and I live overseas and recently got married. We plan to return to the United States this summer, in part to attend my cousin’s wedding in the hometown our parents share. We both come from large extended families, so many family members will be traveling to attend my cousin’s nuptials. My husband and I were thinking of asking my cousin and his fiancee if they would mind if we hosted a wedding celebration (not a full wedding) of our own a week after they tied the knot. Can you weigh in regarding if our request is justifiably practical — or if it is just rude to intrude on the timing of my cousin’s nuptials? We can’t travel home to the United States very often, but we do not want to detract attention from their wedding. Are we being practical or just gauche? — Practical or Gauche
DEAR PRACTICAL: It would be gauche (“graceless”) to preempt your cousin’s wedding by planning a celebration to take place just before his; as it is, your idea seems practical and potentially fun (although traveling family members may find extending their own vacations challenging). Keep your plans simple, and as a courtesy run it by both your cousin and his fiancee first. I hope they will embrace the idea to keep the party going.
DEAR AMY: “Appreciative Out West” doesn’t like the response of “no problem” when they say thank you. I use “no problem” as a response to a thank you all the time. To me it translates to, “It was my pleasure. I’m glad to help out any time. Feel free to call me if you need anything.” My goal is to put the person I’ve done something for at ease for the next time. — No Problem
DEAR NO PROBLEM: I got a huge response to this letter. Thank you for the translation.