Join 3,514 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Oh brother, don't hate me
January 27, 2014 2:07 AM   Subscribe

I've decided to skip my brother's wedding, for very good reasons. Help me figure out how to talk to him about this - it gets long, sorry.

Hi everyone. First, a bit of background (you can also read my previous questions if you prefer): I'm female, in my late twenties, British-Pakistani but living outside of the UK with my boyfriend of seven years. My dad refuses to accept my relationship because my boyfriend is not Muslim (neither am I) and we are 'living in sin'. My mother would accept us but she is too afraid of losing my father to defy him - instead she puts endless amounts of pressure on me to get my boyfriend to convert to Islam.

I told my parents about my bf two years ago - he was a secret for so long because I've known since I was a child that my dad would never speak to me again if I had any kind of relationship with a non-Muslim, and I've always had problems with anxiety and depression related to this (yes, I'm in therapy). My dad was true to his word. I've spoken to him only twice since then. I went to visit once after a year, on my own, for his sister's funeral, when he hugged me and told me he wasn't angry with my anymore - but we didn't get a chance to speak after that. Another year later, he got sick and we thought it might be serious. He asked me to visit him in the hospital and I did, overjoyed he wanted to see me. He was polite to me (we didn't discuss the underlying issues, he was too sick for that), and replied to texts I sent him in the weeks afterwards, asking about his health as he recovered. But he never reached out, and then when my birthday rolled around he ignored it. That hurt a lot and I decided to cut off contact completely with him and my relentlessly pressurizing mother. That was six months ago, and I can honestly say it has just been so nice not being in touch. I have felt so much more free and calm about the whole thing.

My extended family still doesn't know the truth - they know my dad and I are fighting, but don't know about what. My parents don't want to make this thing public. Honestly, this is fine by me. Many of my family members are extremely conservative yet shady, untrustworthy people, and I am point-blank afraid of one of my uncles and my cousin - they have never been violent towards me, but they are violent men. My parents think I am absolutely ridiculous to be afraid of these men. My mum keeps telling me that my dad would never let them hurt me, that they would never defy my dad.

I have a kid sister and brother. I love my sister dearly, she has always been supportive. My brother was at first very harsh with me. When I first told my parents about my bf, he was there and he tried to get my dad to force me onto an earlier flight home, because he was so angry with me. Since then we have been in touch intermittently. He has been far nicer, though reserved. My mother insists he regrets his behavior, but he has never apologized. Things are complicated by the fact that my brother is on the Autism spectrum - he sees things in a very black and white way.

Now my brother is getting married, in Pakistan (an arranged marriage), and he emailed me asking me nicely to attend the wedding. There is no way I am going to this wedding. I am not traveling to Pakistan without my boyfriend, I just don't feel safe. I am not continuing this charade for my extended family of pretending everything is fine. I refuse to allow my parents to continue to save face, while I deny the existence of the man I love. Quite apart from that, I have my reservations about this wedding. My brother is religious, is desperate to get married so he can get laid, basically. He barely knows this girl, they barely even speak the same language. And yes, I am still deeply hurt by my brother's rejection of me. I have never told him how much that hurt me.

Not only is my brother Autistic, he has also been suffering from unexplained fits over the past couple of years. They seem to be brought on by intense stress. My parents have been very delicate with him to avoid causing a fit. Now I need to somehow tell him that I am not coming to his wedding. I want to explain why, and I want to talk to him about how much he hurt me, to find out where he stands on that today. But I am really afraid of stressing him out and causing a fit. If he has one, he will not be able to drive for another couple of years, which will seriously mess up his life.

Can you guys help me think of a gentle yet clear way to explain my feelings to him? What approach to take? Better not to explain, let him hate me? Bonus question: how do I get rid of this guilt for not wanting to be there for my brother on one of the most important days of his life?

Thanks so much for your thoughts, I'm really stressing about this right now.
posted by guessthis to Human Relations (62 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
For both your sakes - your safety and his health, I would come up with some polite fiction as to why you can't come, which will allow him to save face or lie to himself and will protect you. Work won't let you have time off, you don't have enough time on your passport and it's too late to apply for another, you're unexpectedly ill, and the doctor won't allow you to fly, you get the idea.

Normally I would say just tell the truth but your family sounds dangerously unpredictable and I wouldn't do anything to fan those flames. So far as how you get rid of this guilt? You have nothing to feel guilty about when you're seriously afraid of what your family might do to you. That's just being smart. Your brother has chosen his path. If you're still struggling with it, maybe counselling might help. I'm sorry you're going through this. Stay safe.
posted by Jubey at 2:24 AM on January 27 [71 favorites]


You're at the point where you have a growing rift in your family and reasonable fears for your safety. This is not a standard "because it will be awkward if I see Dad" type scenario. It is a complicated, culture-clash issue where patriarchal and misogynist traditions are perpetuated in the name of family honour, and where too often brothers are led to believe that they should be protecting their sister's honour.

I wouldn't explain to him. If he doesn't understand why you have a problem now he is unlikely to suddenly come down on your side or at least see your side. He will, most likely, see your non-attendance as your fault and as a lack of familial loyalty/sense of honour.

The best solution, IMHO, is to come up with a plausible face-saving excuse that can be readily trotted out at the wedding when people enquire where you are. Apologise nicely to your brother. Send him a nice gift. Wish him well.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:25 AM on January 27 [4 favorites]


But I am really afraid of stressing him out and causing a fit. If he has one, he will not be able to drive for another couple of years, which will seriously mess up his life.

There is an undertone of guilt in your entire question — when, in my opinion, you have nothing to feel guilty for.

Whichever way you decide to tell your family you won't be attending this wedding, do it kindly, but know that any subsequent effects (violence on your uncle's part, your brother's health issues, friction within your family) are not your fault.
posted by third word on a random page at 2:26 AM on January 27 [12 favorites]


You have two separate issues here: you don't approve of your brother's impending marriage, and you are distressed by the conflict with your family.

If you're concerned about your brother, concerned that he is about to make a big and irreversible life decision that you think is bad for him, the urgency right now is about him.

By looking upon his wedding as something you can't be a party to until and unless you work out the conflict with him and your family, you are making it about you. That is really understandable, but you mustn't do it. The problem is that it's his life, his health and his marriage, and you cannot make it about you.

I know you have a lot of things to work out with your brother, and you don't approve of the match, and you don't respect his reasons for getting married, or even his mental competence to get married at all. I get that. That's very serious - for him.

If you really think he's not mentally competent to get married, then I guess you have to intervene somehow to prevent the wedding, but I'm not clear that that's really the case. For whatever reason, marriage entails a number of things that he wants and would benefit from, it really sounds like he wants to get married even though you think it's a mistake, and he may well become extremely upset if you suggest that the best thing for him is to stop the wedding.

Is that actually what you want? Would you feel safer for your brother if he knew this woman well? If that's the case, I think it is totally reasonable to talk to your brother and tell him that if he feels that getting married is what's best for him, then you support that, but you're extremely worried about him getting married to a woman he doesn't know well and with whom he has no language in common. So you could suggest that the wedding be postponed for 8 or 9 months while they get to know each other and learn each other's languages. This will cause upheaval, but my guess is that it won't be nearly as upsetting to him as suggesting cancelling the wedding altogether. Being autistic, his ability to strike up romantic relationships on his own, as you have done, is bound to be really limited and I am sure he knows that. Marriage entails a lot of things he wants and will benefit from so I don't think the answer is in taking away those things.

Talking about this is probably going to involve talking to the rest of your family and advocating for your brother on his behalf, but I think that's something you're going to have to face up to.

Also, if, after dealing with your the issue of your brother's well-being, you still won't be able to attend the wedding because you don't feel safe travelling to Pakistan, at least you will have made it clear by then that it isn't because you don't care and that you do support him, albeit from a distance.

A book I always recommend in these situations is called "There's Something I Have To Tell You" by Charles Foster, M.D. I wish more people would read that book.

Good luck. This is a hard and hurtful situation, and I'm sorry you've been hurt and I'm sorry you are going to have to (IMHO) temporarily eat some of that hurt in order to stand up for your brother. But it sounds like you have legitimate concerns and you're going to have to put him first in this matter.
posted by tel3path at 2:33 AM on January 27


Thank you, all, so far! Quick clarification re: tel3path's comment - I believe my brother is mentally competent to get married. Whether or not he should get married is not the issue at the moment - I have expressed my reservations to him in the past and have come to accept that he's a grown man who can make his own decisions. I guess I just mentioned that because I still feel worried about how this marriage will go.
posted by guessthis at 2:48 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


In that case I'd go with the "white lie" approach.
posted by tel3path at 3:25 AM on January 27


Metafilter kinda has a "fuck you, i don't owe you shit" kinda mentality towards family. Although I see it warranted sometimes...most times on here, I can think of other ways to get through a situation without making it horrible for everyone.

As for your situation:

1. I'm a Muslim. I find it EXTREMELY insulting that your parents think that religion is something you can just have someone convert to, even when they don't believe in its most basic tenets just so that the family doesn't give you sideways eye or some shit. Being extremely judgmental, I'd be likely to tell your parents that this attitude is actually inconsistent with Islam. I'd also throw in a few f-bombs.

2. That totally sucked that your family bailed on you when you told them a hard thing. I'm sorry you had to suffer through that without their support. I hope you found your boyf to be your biggest fan at that time.

3. I think you're being a bit harsh to your brother. Sounds like he has problems of his own, and your own pride is preventing you from having a better relationship until he bows down and says sorry. I mean shit, I have a brother and we wrong each other ALL the time. Mofo tried to knock me out at the Bellagio once. 10 minutes later he was all "hey, I know we're angry...but how about we combine our skillz to own this table". THAT was the apology.

4. You remember how hurtful it was when your parents judged your relationship with your boyf. You're doing the same thing to your brother. You can argue it any way you want, but you're doing the same thing. He's picking a partner in accordance with the culture he wants to live in...and you picked a partner in accordance with the culture you want to live in. The difference is that you actually lived through what its like when someone criticizes your choices...yet you're doing the same thing to your bro. Stand down, yo.

5. Many of my family members are extremely conservative yet shady, untrustworthy people, and I am point-blank afraid of one of my uncles and my cousin - they have never been violent towards me, but they are violent men. My parents think I am absolutely ridiculous to be afraid of these men. My mum keeps telling me that my dad would never let them hurt me, that they would never defy my dad.

This is some shady shit. But I'm wondering how "violent" they are. If you actually have a reason to be afraid, get a restraining order. Otherwise, I kinda see that as something you say to people to get their support when you otherwise wouldn't have it. "I like to store my cups upside down, but I can't because my flatmate murders people and he prefers them the other way".

But again, if there IS something legitimate there, get a protection order and hide yourself from your family. But as you had made that information available to your family 3 years ago, and nothing has happened...you should kinda accept the possibility that your uncle and cousin aren't out to harm you.

6. What are you angry at your dad about? He seems old-school and kinda a dick. Seems like he has always been. If your dad was Oprah and had the same interactions ("im not mad at you", a few texts, not acknowledging your birthday), I'd say "yeah...Opes is still feeling kinda salty". But this is your dick of a dad who promised to disown you and is now saying "im not mad at you anymore".

Sure...there are a THOUSAND things wrong with that. But, another way to see it is by saying that from his own perspective, he's reaching out to you. You haven't had contact with them very much and they don't contact you for your birthday and you getting upset about it doesn't make sense. Either stop expecting them to acknowledge the day of your birth and be mad at them forever, or just realize that they still suck according to your standards...but they do want you in their life.

The question is whether you want them in your life.

7. Now my brother is getting married, in Pakistan (an arranged marriage), and he emailed me asking me nicely to attend the wedding. There is no way I am going to this wedding. I am not traveling to Pakistan without my boyfriend, I just don't feel safe. I am not continuing this charade for my extended family of pretending everything is fine. I refuse to allow my parents to continue to save face, while I deny the existence of the man I love

Dude, he asked you nicely to come to his wedding. This is important to him. Can you ask him nicely if you can bring your boyf too? If he says "yes", then shit...all your problems are over.

If he says "no", then hey...no reason to feel guilty anymore, right?

I know its been hard for you, and I think a lot of it is REALLY unfair towards you...but I kinda see you being a tad unfair to them as well.

Either way, good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:40 AM on January 27 [36 favorites]


Both your emotional and physical safety would be at risk by going to this wedding. Unfortunately you can't say this directly without causing more emotional harm to yourself and many others. This is one of the few times I would ever suggest a lie. Make up a plausible excuse not to attend. Even if the lie is obvious to some people, they should be able to realize there is a reason for your excuses and not push the matter. If they do, double down on your excuse.

I would postpone telling your brother about your feelings and concerns until after the wedding. And I wouldn't tell him about how you feel with regard to his reasons for marriage, either. That isn't your responsibility to fix, or change in him. But marriages are stressful regardless of their culture. Give it time to calm down and shake out. Maybe the woman he's marrying will be kind and welcoming to you and your boyfriend? Maybe she's going into this with open eyes. Maybe she wants to have sex, too! Either way, it's going to be a big difficult transition and I'd wait until it was over to speak to your brother about anything other than your inability to attend the event. Like, 6 months later, or something.

Please remember that even if a person's core doesn't always change, their outward feelings and relationships to others do, constantly. If your brother is mad at you for this, it isn't going to be a "hate you forever" situation, especially if you strive to fix things in the future. Right now, your love for your family is not diminished, it's simply of a less immediate priority than your own safety. Which, frankly, should be the case all the time.
posted by Mizu at 4:18 AM on January 27 [9 favorites]


I agree with tel3path, use a white lie.

Your brother's wedding is NOT the time or place to take a stand on issues in your life. His wedding is about HIM, and you should act in a way that keeps the focus on him.

You can deal with your issues and your parents at a different time.
posted by Flood at 4:29 AM on January 27 [5 favorites]


I was going to come back to this and say that as much as you are accusing your family of being black-and-white on this issue, you're really doing the same to them.

Thanks for clarifying that you do think your brother is fit to make adult decisions. That takes the pressure off considerably. But, the way you talked about him at first really made him sound like he wasn't. That's kind of contemptuous on your part and I really think you should do as you would be done by here, by extending him as much respect as you wish he would give you.

I wasn't going to question you when you said you were in danger from your extended family. And I would never urge you to go near people you think will do you harm. But, like, hal_c_on, I wonder if you're saying that to make a "legal" case for not going near them.

Basically hal_c_on took a lot of the words out of my mouth here. If you think it's too dangerous to go to Pakistan for the wedding, then of course don't go, and come out with a face-saving lie as to why you didn't go. But otherwise, try to take a step back and see the shades of grey here. It looks like the hostility cuts both ways, tbh.
posted by tel3path at 4:42 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


a restraining order from a western court is no good in pakistan. your brother tried to get your dad to force you on a plane? whoa. why should your boyfriend go to pakistan and subject himself to relentless conversion pressure?

worst case scenario: you go to the wedding. your family confiscates your passport and arranges a marriage for you to a guy old enough for AARP. you are never heard from again.

you don't need lies or excuses, just say "i'm sorry, that simply won't be possible" and send a nice gift.
posted by bruce at 4:43 AM on January 27 [50 favorites]


If you truly fear for your health and safety, make up a white lie and don't go. If not, then put your issues aside and support your brother. It sucks that he didn't apologize, but it's possible (probable?) that his cultural and neurological background means that he probably won't. My parents are very traditional immigrants. Expecting them to apologize to their children is akin to expecting my cat to feel bad about knocking over my teacup. I spent a long, long time trying to train them into being the westernized parents I thought I needed. Finally, I realized it was up to me to set up boundaries and enforce them; it was not their job to conform to my ideals.

As for your brother. You are estranged from your family over your romantic decisions, yet you are casting judgement on his. It's ok to say "Not for me, but I love you so I will support you."
posted by snickerdoodle at 4:46 AM on January 27 [3 favorites]


You are an adult and wants and needs are not one and the same: "I need to somehow tell him that I am not coming to his wedding. I want to explain why, and I want to talk to him about how much he hurt me, to find out where he stands on that today."

Ignore the wants and deal with the need. If the need is to tell him you are not coming while causing as little stress as possible, then tell him you are unable to come and make up a reason. Ideas: nobody at work gets leave during that month for Crucial Work Reason. You are already committed to a vacation you've paid for overlapping his wedding date. You have scheduled surgery. You are already in another wedding. Whatever. Be kind, regretful and supportive.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:52 AM on January 27 [3 favorites]


yeah if there is any chance that you showing up could lead to your extended family finding out about your blasphemous relationship and leading to you in danger- lie lie lie lie.


"sorry, work just won't let me go that month."
"i bought a ticket, but it looks like i've got horrible food poisoning and can't get on the plane"
"terrible timing! my lease is ending and i need to be here to move or i'll be homeless!"

what ever. just lie and stick to it.

you are be asked to attend a fairly religious wedding with some pretty religious family members as guests in a place with some pretty well known misogyny problems at best and acid attacks at worst, and you are actively going against sexual and moral convention- and these people might find out about it for the first time.

I don't care if you are being judgmental with your dad and brother. being judgmental is what keeps us all from walking in front of moving cars.
posted by Blisterlips at 4:54 AM on January 27 [16 favorites]


White lie. Don't go. You are the one who has interacted with the violent men in your family, you are the one who is best qualified to judge whether they are dangerous or not. Too often, women are told to ignore danger signals because it's rude or exaggerating or whatever. (Although mefites also always recommend The Gift of Fear, so I'm puzzled as to why this thread is ignoring your obvious sense of unsafety.)

You can't take out a restraining order in this situation (and really violent people ignore those anyway!) Your "restraining order" is staying well away from those guys and, unfortunately, not provoking them.

I think that in any family where truth-telling could plausibly lead to violence against the teller, it is okay - even imperative - to lie. I think the modern idea is that if we tell all the truths then...something wonderful or at least moral will happen, or the truth itself will change people. But we have ample historical evidence that this is not the case - the truth doesn't make us free, political struggle in solidarity (which includes stuff like support groups, friend groups, lobbying, etc) makes us free.

Tell a white lie, let your parents save face, keep your brother from flipping out and stay well away from your uncles. I mean, I know people with violent families too, and how hard it is to get people to believe that your uncle really will hit you if [you violate family norms].
posted by Frowner at 5:01 AM on January 27 [25 favorites]


Meta
posted by hal_c_on at 5:11 AM on January 27


Thanks everyone, again, for your input. Those of you who say that I am judging my brother in the same way that I was judged are absolutely right. I know it's not fair for me to feel this way, which is why I expressed my reservations to him a while ago in a kind and supportive way, and told him I would always respect his right to choose his own way in life. I just can't help worrying, but rest assured, I will not in any way be unsupportive or disrespectful of his choice. I think it's a good point that his wedding is not the time for me to resolve MY issues.

Regarding my personal safety… perhaps some of you are right when you say that I might be overreacting, but you're supposed to trust your gut with this stuff, right? I had an auntie who was murdered by her arranged husband when I was very young - it left me with such crippling fear. Some of these men in my family have beaten their wives or sisters, have married women who were pressured into the arrangement, won't allow their daughters to leave home for university, are doing other illegal things. Perhaps I should just believe my mum when she says my dad would never allow them to hurt me if they found out, but I know how much they value their honor and I just can't shake my bad feeling.

Ok, no more threadsitting!
posted by guessthis at 5:14 AM on January 27 [25 favorites]


I guess I just mentioned that because I still feel worried about how this marriage will go.

Basically, everyone in your family feels the same way about you and your relationship.

Concerns about your personal safety, particularly when traveling alone, are paramount.

Some people regard attending a wedding as a carefully considered decision based on whether they approve of the situation and the spouse and so on, while I tend to think that not attending a wedding, particularly of an immediate relative, is the biggest "fuck you" that you can express, but distance and safety concerns certainly moderate that. There is almost certainly some plausible excuse you can give for not being able to travel halfway around the world for a wedding. Use that excuse and send your brother and his new wife a nice gift and take them out for a nice dinner with you boyfriend next time you see them.
posted by deanc at 5:24 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


Based on all you've said here and in previously, I'm going to repeat what I said in your last question: do not go, and especially do not go alone --- this sounds like just another version of their previous attempts to get you there, and once you WERE there, there's a huge probability that they'd prevent you from leaving.

Last time, your disapproving mother suddenly softened her stance in an attempt to get you there; now your equally-disapproving brother is trying the same thing. STAY AWAY: never go there alone, unless and until you are already married to the partner of YOUR choice.... Preferably also with a non-Pakistani passport.

As for your brother's wedding: send your regrets that you'll be unable to attend (maybe use work schedules and/or lack of money as a reason), then send a nice wedding gift.
posted by easily confused at 5:27 AM on January 27 [25 favorites]


You should never have to put yourself in a situation where you think someone will be violent to you.
posted by Houstonian at 5:29 AM on January 27 [17 favorites]


If you feel unsafe going, then no, you don't go. That's the only reason you need. Listening to your gut is the best thing you can do here.

It sounds -- to me at least -- like a lot of the rest of what you've said is about trying to feel like you have Reasons For Not Going (and they're valid reasons, but they're not the main reason). You don't need Valid Reasons. The only justification you need is that you feel unsafe.

Also, you're not at all responsible for your brother's fits (epilepsy?). It's a medical condition and he can seek medical treatment. (And hopefully he already has?) If just hearing his sister can't come to his wedding is enough to set him off, then something else was going to set him off eventually, and I don't think it could be considered your fault.

I think the white lie route may be the best -- and realistically, unless you tell your extended family the whole story yourself, it seems probable that your parents will be coming up with a white lie to explain your absence. If you want to control that lie, be the one to come up with it.

But if you feel dishonest telling a white lie, then just don't explain. "Brother, I love you and support you. Unfortunately, I am not able to go to your wedding. But I wish you all the best, and I will be thinking of you on your big day!"

One other concern I'd have is how giving this information to your larger family group might impact your sister. How old is she, and how could having an older sister make your choices impact her options? Is there any chance your extended family might pressure your parents into not letting her have the kinds of freedoms you may have had at her age?

It sounds like a craptastic situation, and I'm sorry you're going through it.
posted by pie ninja at 5:31 AM on January 27 [4 favorites]


With that kind of history of violence, of course don't go. Stay away from your family and make a face-saving excuse not to go to the wedding.
posted by tel3path at 5:33 AM on January 27 [3 favorites]


I'm just chiming in here to offer you some moral support, because you sound as if you're feeling bit guilty.
1/ You have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about.
2/ Nothing about your brother's wedding is your responsibility. You are not his parent, the family has been completely unsupportive of your own emotional needs and furthermore you would actually be putting yourself at grievous risk if you did what is being asked of you. Anyone with any knowledge of this issue whatsoever is aware of cases when young women have been lured back to Pakistan on various family pretexts and found themselves either forced into marriage or, worst case scenario, murdered. You have no idea what's going on in the wider family, whether more cousins are trending towards fundamentalism or whether there may be money problems solved by a marriage to someone with a British passport or whatever. You are completely right to not go, well done you for refusing to allow a sense of family obligation to put your own self in danger. The more women refuse to be subject to such pressure the better for everyone.

And just tell him a lie. Don't bother to try and change his mind. What do you think has changed with him personally that would make him likely to listen to you? Anything? Or just confirmation that the system is ok because after all he is getting his needs met through it. Yeah, and I notice some of your concern about his marriage is directed at the young woman involved. Good for you.

Honestly, it's a really hard thing to let go of the need for approval when you've been brought up in a culture where the best thing women can be is dutiful and virtuous. But, scuse my language, F@*! that shit. It's just a highly efficient way of getting women to police themselves so they are easier to keep in line. Maybe it will help if you can think of your guilt as left over from some patriarchal conditioning you couldn't help absorbing, but now you can recognise it, you can develop strategies of dealing with it.
posted by glasseyes at 5:34 AM on January 27 [6 favorites]


I find that, in tense social situations, having a plausible "out" is really important -- the ability to go for a walk and cool down, to plead illness and return to a solitary hotel room, even the ability to drive/bus/train away without having to ask permission.

It sounds to me that you won't necessarily have these "outs," and your situation sounds way beyond "tense social situation." Follow your gut; it's telling you more truly than anonymous internet people, however well-meaning.

The face-saving story is good. You might ask a doctor or your therapist to specifically recommend that you not do this, if an outright lie would make you feel guilty.

You are doing the right thing looking out for your own safety, you should not feel bad about that impulse. Best wishes.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:44 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


and I just can't shake my bad feeling

Pay attention to this feeling. Your safety comes first.

Nthing the white medical lie - kidney infection, pneumonia, influenza, ovarian cyst acting up, gall bladder attack - any of those could make travel difficult or impossible but don't necessarily require you to pretend to be hospitalized.
posted by rtha at 6:07 AM on January 27 [34 favorites]


Yeah, don't go. Say you were too visibly sick with food poisoning to be allowed onto the plane.
posted by spunweb at 6:11 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


>I guess I just mentioned that because I still feel worried about how this marriage will go.

Basically, everyone in your family feels the same way about you and your relationship.


I agree with the rest of the answer this quote came from, but just wanted to emphasize that it's fine and normal to have concerns about other people's relationships. Your parents and brother would be well in their rights to not feel happy about yours. But interpreting those concerns as giving them the right to react in anger, threaten to disown, hide the truth from everyone they know, or try to force someone to convert -- that's really another order of thing. I don't see any equivalence between how OP has reacted to her brother's choices and how her family has reacted to hers.

Just wanted to stress this, because it seems like the OP is already feeling guilty about things that are actually the responsibilities of others.
posted by egg drop at 6:18 AM on January 27 [15 favorites]


I would definitely go with a medical or work excuse; a passport excuse sounds like the sort of thing your entire extended family might mobilize the embassy structure about to get you an expedited passport/visa. When you make your excuses (whether they're real or fake), make sure they are a problem your family can't solve.

People SHOULD get the polite-excuses thing as a face-saving exercise, but it sounds like your family doesn't have great boundaries about this issue to start with, and lots of times, especially when there are multiple cultures involved, it's hard to calibrate your polite excuse properly so that people read it as a "NO WAY but I am being nice" rather than "I HAVE A PROBLEM you should solve it." So make sure it's not a problem they can solve for you.

(One of my college roommates worked in a hospital and was exposed for like 2 minutes to a person with tuberculosis (maybe MDR TB) and wasn't allowed to leave the country for a year, until she'd had multiple X-rays and tests proving she wasn't tubercular. I had to get tested for it just for being her roommate. That might be the sort of direction to go, since there can be restrictions on your travel for long periods even if you're not sick, but the restrictions get lifted later and you can be perfectly healthy. It's also the sort of thing you might get exposed to if you were, say, spending a lot of time among immigrant groups, like translating for Pakistani immigrants to your country or something. Pertussis is also on the rise in Western countries and you can't get on the plane with it, but you'll only be "sick" for eight weeks. ... In case you need an excuse a little further out than "Oh, I had food poisoning this morning and couldn't get on the plane!")
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:21 AM on January 27 [9 favorites]


You might ask a doctor or your therapist to specifically recommend that you not do this

This is not a bad idea at all. Is your brother in treatment himself? If so, medical issues might be a shared language you can use (and has the advantage of being hard to second-guess).

Also, it needn't even be a medical "white lie." If your therapist understands your background, I'm sure he/she will readily agree it is not in the interest of your mental or physical wellbeing to attend this wedding, considering all the pretense that would have to be involved, as well as your feeling personally threatened. (Whether that threat is real or "merely" perceived is kind of beside the point in terms of your own anxiety--which is not to say I doubt your account.)

I agree also with posters upthread that you can show your love and support with a generous gift.
posted by torticat at 6:22 AM on January 27 [3 favorites]


Hi guessthis, I agree with Mizu. Also, you have already answered your own question I think: Regarding my personal safety…you're supposed to trust your gut with this stuff, right?.

Your gut is telling you not to go. Trust your gut. We mefites support you in this.

I agree with everyone though that you should come up with a white lie about why you can't go. Your issues with your family and your brother should take a back seat when it comes to his wedding, so just come up with a face saving excuse for everyone's sake. Some people here have given some good suggestions about possible white lies to use with your family, with rtha and Eyebrows McGee particularly supplying some good medical ones.

Also, +1 on egg drop's wise words.
posted by gudrun at 6:28 AM on January 27 [5 favorites]


This wedding is not the time or place for you to have that conversation with your brother. I think that once the hoopla is over, you can meet with him one-on-one and you can both discuss your disappointment in each other.

That said, I agree, it would NOT be safe for you to go to Pakistan with your family.

Don't give them excuses as to why you can't go. This leaves room for circumstances to change (for example, if you say, "I can't afford it," they may pay your way.)

Send a nice letter to your bother, wishing him well in in marriage (because you do want him to be happy) and sending your regrets on being unable to attend the wedding in person.

Dear Joe,

I wish you joy upon your impending nuptuals. I hope that you and Bride will be happy all of your days and that this marriage will bring you many blessings.

I regret that it will not be possible for me to attend your wedding in person, but know that I wish you all luck and happiness for the future.

Sis


Send a nice gift and that's the end of it.

I agree, if you fear your family members, then they are to be feared.

Hang in there kiddo. It's not easy, but it's the right thing to do.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:30 AM on January 27 [7 favorites]


Just wanted to throw in my moral support, too. DEFINITELY trust your instincts here - you have a right to keep yourself safe. Heck, even if nothing happened and you made it home safely, I would imagine you would be on-edge the entire time you were there and not able to enjoy yourself. Nobody who loves you would really expect you to put yourself in a situation where you had genuine cause to fear for your safety - this isn't to say your family doesn't love you, but they might not ever be able to put themselves in your shoes completely. I bet if they truly could, they would feel differently about having you there at the wedding.

And I would keep that in mind as far as your guilt goes, too. Your brother probably can't understand what you're experiencing or really grok the fact that there's a non-zero chance that you could actually be harmed by coming over for his wedding, but you are his sister and surely if there WERE some way to magically give him total insight into your position here he wouldn't resent you for not going. Maybe try to look BEYOND this wedding and figure out ways to strengthen your relationship with him after this one point in both of your lives - the wedding is going to come and go, and you won't stop being siblings regardless of whether or not you attend. As most other folks have said, offer some white lie (be careful of what one you give, though, as you don't want to open the door to your family trying to "fix" the problem - for that reason I'd avoid anything having to do with, say, not being able to afford the trip or whatever), tell your brother you love him very much and are very happy for him, send a thoughtful gift, and then let this go.

Your peace of mind and safety need to come first here. You are doing the right thing by not going. It is very sad that this is what the situation is, but you didn't cause this and you are doing nothing that you should feel guilty about.
posted by DingoMutt at 6:32 AM on January 27 [3 favorites]


I am point-blank afraid of one of my uncles and my cousin

This is all that matters. I don't think you should go even if it was with your boyfriend; I fear that would put both of you in possible danger.

My mum keeps telling me that my dad would never let them hurt me, that they would never defy my dad.

The implication there is that they would hurt you if they could. Please don't go back to Pakistan.
posted by spaltavian at 6:41 AM on January 27 [39 favorites]


Honestly? I would tell them you ARE coming, and then don't. Say you got really sick and you're so so sorry and here's the lovely gift you got them and you wish them well. No confrontation. No reasons except you got sick and just could not come despite having wished to. Do not get on a plane, ever, ever.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:00 AM on January 27 [22 favorites]


Given this highly charged current situation, you cannot trust your father, brother, and mother at this present moment.

Acting for the sake of "honor & shame" is one of the very few ways parents legitimize hurting their own children. This happens in multiple societies, across different faiths and cultures. The invition you received is unfortunately a method used by people to get you to a place where the laws are different, and they can carry out their own version of punishment. This trap is effective because a child cannot accept the fact their parents 'could ever do such a thing.'

Don't feel this is the way its got to be. The bond a parent feels for their child is also extremely powerful and can thaw hearts. Work on building your relationship with your family. Just do it from a safe place.
posted by Kruger5 at 7:26 AM on January 27 [14 favorites]


My mum keeps telling me that my dad would never let them hurt me, that they would never defy my dad.

The implication there is that they would hurt you if they could. Please don't go back to Pakistan.


Yeah exactly, that was the line in the original question that made me go o_O.

That the threat is real is implicit in the OP's mom's response, and we can keep you safe is not sufficient reassurance. Especially when things are already tense with the immediate family AND it appears they are the only ones who even know at present about guessthis's current living situation.

The advice upthread to ask if you could bring your boyfriend, guessthis, is nuts. I'm not Muslim but I do come out of a pretty conservative Christian background, and I can say that introducing that kind of wild card into an already difficult situation--and a family wedding no less--would be a horrible idea for everyone involved. But you probably don't need to be told that.
posted by torticat at 7:26 AM on January 27 [15 favorites]


On update, I agree with fingersandtoes. Do not go, and use the lowest-drama way to accomplish this. Lie if you can, but if you can't, say you'll go and just don't get on the plane.
posted by snickerdoodle at 7:39 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


This is some shady shit. But I'm wondering how "violent" they are. If you actually have a reason to be afraid, get a restraining order. Otherwise, I kinda see that as something you say to people to get their support when you otherwise wouldn't have it. "I like to store my cups upside down, but I can't because my flatmate murders people and he prefers them the other way".

But again, if there IS something legitimate there, get a protection order and hide yourself from your family. But as you had made that information available to your family 3 years ago, and nothing has happened...you should kinda accept the possibility that your uncle and cousin aren't out to harm you.


Unbelievable.

OP, please trust your instincts here. Don't go; just stay safe. Tell your brother a lie (passport problems, whatever) and let him save face.
posted by gt2 at 7:45 AM on January 27 [19 favorites]


I think a white medical lie is the way to go. Something they can't solve by giving/loaning you money. Brainstorm with your boyfriend. You want something that prevents you from traveling, but isn't life-threatening at all. It sounds like you have a lot of control over what they know about you (no one to gossip about you and expose a lie).

I would not go back to visit your family in Pakistan for ANY reason, even a funeral. I'm so sorry you are going through this. It sounds really scary and sad. I'm glad that you have made a life for yourself far away with a good partner who can support you through this.

Good luck.
posted by tk at 7:55 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


Actually, fingersandtoes has it.
posted by tk at 7:58 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


I think the advice to give a face-saving excuse is good but potentially problematic.

Face-saving excuses work best when all parties involved realize that's what they are. If you say "I'd really love to come but I can't get away from work," and the other person understands that you are saying "I choose not to come but I am making a polite excuse so we can all drop this subject and leave with our dignity intact," then everything is golden.

Unfortunately if you are dealing with somebody (like an autistic brother) who may not pick up on conversational subtext, or somebody (like your other family members) who simply refuses to drop a subject, it may not go so well. If you offer a specific excuse, be prepared to have them treat it as a problem to be solved and/or to argue with you about it. You can't travel for the next two months? "OK, maybe we can change the wedding date." Your doctor won't let you fly? "My cousin is a doctor and he says there is absolutely no problem with you flying." You can't get off of work? "For heaven's sake, is work more important to you than family? What kind of horrible person are you?"

if the wedding is happening next week and all the invites have been sent and they can't possibly postpone it, you might possibly get away with the medical or expired passport excuse.

If you feel you can stick with it, you might consider the Miss Manners formula of simply saying "I'm sorry, that won't be possible," and refusing to get drawn into further explanations.

If you are comfortable with the firestorm it may ignite in your family, you might be honest with your brother and tell him you fear for your safety if you go.

Otherwise, you might go with fingersandtoes suggestion and say you'll come, then come down with some horrible illness right before you get on the plane.

Whatever you tell your brother, make sure you also tell him you love him, and you are really gutted not to be able to attend, and you can't wait to take him and his bride out to dinner and welcome her to the family.

Not that you need validation from a stranger on the internet, but I have read a lot of AskMe questions and I feel like I can usually tell when the asker is being a jerk, or is exaggerating their plight, or has only themself to blame. I do not get that vibe from you at all. Just as an additional external sanity check, you seem like a reasonable person who is stuck in an unfortunate situation. None of your options are great, but that is not your fault.

And to answer your question about dealing with the guilt-- just from my own experience, it meant a lot to me when people came to my wedding. But that was just one day, and what has meant even more are the friends and family members who have offered me love and support in all the years since then, whether or not they were in attendance at that particular ceremony.

You and your brother and his wife have long lives ahead of you (I hope!) and you will get many chances to show your love and support without jeopardizing your personal safety.
posted by yankeefog at 8:04 AM on January 27 [5 favorites]


Perhaps I should just believe my mum when she says my dad would never allow them to hurt me if they found out, but I know how much they value their honor and I just can't shake my bad feeling.

As she is a human being, your mother has been wrong before and will be wrong again. Considering that she is afraid to defy your father, you're risking quite a lot on her word that he will not act in a way she has no control over.

Weddings are incredibly stressful for everyone involved, and it sounds like it's enough for your father to simply remove himself from the picture for a period of time to put you in (possibly mortal) danger if your relatives decide it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.
posted by griphus at 9:12 AM on January 27 [8 favorites]


You will not attend this wedding, with or without boyfriend, in Pakistan, of all places. I greatly fear for your safety. You might be kidnapped or killed.
It's just too damn bad that your broke your leg skiing that very same week, isn't it?
posted by BostonTerrier at 9:27 AM on January 27 [6 favorites]


"You will not attend this wedding, with or without boyfriend, in Pakistan, of all places"

OP, from what you've said, your family are not safe to interact with anywhere. I know you say that your feeling of safety would be conditional on bringing your boyfriend with you, and your overall framing of the question made me think that this was about demanding acceptance of your relationship first, and your safety second.

But then you went on to describe things that make your family sound unsafe to interact with anywhere. There are various aspects of US culture that make the USA seem, from the outside, not a particularly safe place to visit either, and I am in no way speaking rhetorically or with an agenda.

From the account you give of your family history, OP, you should not be in their presence at all, in any location. Going to Pakistan or not, with your boyfriend or without him, is a side issue. Approving of your brother's marriage, or not, is a side issue. Your family are demonstrably unsafe to spend time with.

It sounds like you don't want to cut off contact with them altogether (which I understand), but you should probably be ruling out the possibility of ever visiting with them again, from what you've told us.

Sorry, it sucks.
posted by tel3path at 10:13 AM on January 27 [6 favorites]


You're an adult and not the property of your family. If you don't feel safe going and you don't want to go, then tell them you won't go.
posted by empath at 10:23 AM on January 27 [4 favorites]


Perhaps I should just believe my mum when she says my dad would never allow them to hurt me if they found out, but I know how much they value their honor and I just can't shake my bad feeling.

Your father may not condone them hurting you with regard to a beating or other violence, but he may just think that their (gently!) kidnapping you and not allowing you to return to the States, or marrying you off as being for your own good. As you know, family can put a lot of pressure on each other, and he still lives in the culture where male egos can do dangerous things when 'insulted'. Without meaning to, things can go over the top in families when there's conflict. Right now the extended family doesn't know, and when they do find out, his pride will be hurt even more so. As far as taking your SO, your father may never hurt you, but your SO is open season--he's 'insulted' the family and taken advantage of his daughter, and he's neither Pakistani or Muslim. If you take him with you, the cat's out of the bag, and the uncles may just beat the crap out of him to teach him a lesson. Why risk it?

Tell your brother the face-saving white lie. Write him a letter, tell him you're happy for him and that you love him. Encourage him to see a doctor and take care of his health. He has decided to marry within his culture, and it's his decision, not yours.

Help your sister as much as you can. She's the one to be concerned about. Your brother lives in a culture of male privileged, your sister does not.
posted by BlueHorse at 11:17 AM on January 27 [7 favorites]


Can you guys help me think of a gentle yet clear way to explain my feelings to him? What approach to take? Better not to explain, let him hate me? Bonus question: how do I get rid of this guilt for not wanting to be there for my brother on one of the most important days of his life?

it sounds like your best approach is to lovingly express how much you would like to be there for him on this important day, and how sorry you are that you aren't able to be there for X reason. you can't control whether he responds hatefully or with understanding, but you can be loving and kind and true to yourself. you are dealing with a very difficult, hurtful, and dangerous situation. your responsibility to protect yourself, which you have bravely done so far, is much more important than putting yourself in danger to attend the wedding. i personally find guilt a hard thing to reason my way through, but from what you have said, you do *want* to be there for your brother, it is just not safe for you to do so under the circumstances that your family has created. maybe there are ways you can be there for him that don't require your physical presence. putting your safety first does not make you a bad sister or a bad person. i admire your strength.
posted by eseuss at 11:27 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


Folks, the question is not "should I go", OP is quite clear that she shouldn't. The question is what is the best way to tell my brother that I am not going to be there on one of the most important days of his life.

I agree that telling him your real reasons is not likely to be successful - he won't agree with your decisions and he will have a hard time seeing it from your point of view. Instead, i would focus on trying to show your brother that you do care about him. Regardless what reason you give for not coming, I would send him a handwritten letter expressing your love for him and your deep hope for a happy future. Since you already expressed your reservations, don't repeat them but you might say "You already know that I had some hesitations about the choice that you are making but I totally support you in your right to decide for yourself who to marry. I trust that you are making the right decision for yourself and hope that you and {name} will be very happy to together. I look forward to getting to know {name} and welcoming her to our family." You might also want to send a letter to his fiancé/new bride welcoming her to the family and expressing your hopes for a happy future for her with your brother. If there is an opportunity for you to talk with her or them on Skype that can further your message that you care about your brother and you respect his choices.

My sense is that improving your relationship with your father and brother will be a long slow process - at first just being able to be together without talking about it may be as much as you can hope for. I know of some families where the thaw doesn't happen until after their grandchildren on the scene. So, assuming that you don't want to walk away from your family, your job is show your continual, on-going willingness to be in a relationship with them while protecting yourself appropriately. So for now, you don't go the wedding but you do reach out in a friendly fashion by mail. Take it step by step - be hopeful but not stupid.
posted by metahawk at 11:32 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


Thank him for his invitation. You love him, you wish you could support him on his big day, but you have thought about this and decided that you don't want to overshadow his wedding with the conflict between yourself and your parents.

I actually would go with a brief, undramatic email over a white lie now or in the future. It seems very unlikely that your family will take such a thing as a trivial or harmless fiction. If the whole point is just to get out of the wedding, it really doesn't matter what reason or excuse you give. But if you desire to have a relationship with your family in the future, I'd not go handing them needless ammo.

Regardless of how your word/explain/white lie this, your brother has two choices; gracious acceptance (or even understanding) or (more likely) not. You can't control which one he makes.
posted by sm1tten at 11:40 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


This is one of those threads (and shitty MeTa, thankfully closed) that makes me have a straight-up adrenaline reaction. At first I too thought you were being overdramatic, but it took only seconds for me to think, "Well, what if she gets to Pakistan and they take her passport away?" It took me literal seconds to consider that you might be exaggerating and also right. Your follow up floored me. I'm so strongly reminded of the thread with the Russian girls about to be sold into slavery and I am so, so glad that you are not writing this from the airport about to get on a plane to Pakistan.

Story time: The last time I went home to my father's side of the family was in 2001. My uncles sat around the table comparing stories of how they used to beat their wives (some of whom were present, some of whom were divorced) and the point was that it was funny because it was in the past, from "the old days" when you could hit and fight with your wife and not have to spend the night in jail. The part that was less funny was that my grandmother, myself, and all of their SONS were also at that table. (I was 21, cousins were all under 18). And we are American. This happened in California.

Your family wants to control you, and they are using their religion as an excuse. I understand that it's cultural and this is how They Are Going To Be, but that doesn't change what they're doing. They are not going to come around to your side, they are not going to welcome Boyfriend with open arms, this is not fixable unless they change a whooooole lot and do you really see that happening?


Bonus question: how do I get rid of this guilt for not wanting to be there for my brother on one of the most important days of his life?

As a former Muslim I say live your life and leave all this behind. Hopefully you tell a lie and don't go. Even if they're not going to kidnap you or do anything else horrible, this is still absolutely in "you don't get to be a part of my life if you make me feel this way" territory. When my siblings and I rejected Islam my mom was very angry, but she got over it. And what she thinks about my soul or my morals is completely 100% irrelevant to my daily life. (Interestingly, my sister got saved in her husband's church, whereas I just don't believe in God. Mom was more mad at my sister.)

You don't want to go, and you have good reason to feel that way. Tell yourself that every time you start to feel guilt. Every single time. And grieve the fact that to your family, religion is more important than you. Their religion is important enough to them to forsake you, is your happiness (safety, mental health, freedom, autonomy, whatever) important enough to you to forsake them?


That was six months ago, and I can honestly say it has just been so nice not being in touch. I have felt so much more free and calm about the whole thing.

This is everything. You don't have to close that door forever (you might want to be the Voice of Reason for little sister someday), but if they make you feel bad, why do they get to be part of your life?
posted by polly_dactyl at 12:01 PM on January 27 [10 favorites]


Do not go to this wedding in Pakistan.

I'm Muslim, have family in Pakistan, have visited in the past and hope to visit in the future - in short I have no problems with the country or religion but I am asking you not to go. There are too many flags around your family and your relationship with them, that even if you were just going to Karachi it would still be too easy for someone to confine you, take your passport or some other BS. If the wedding is somewhere else, especially if it is in a small village or the north, then I do not see this ending well.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:05 PM on January 27 [14 favorites]


If I were you I'd definitely not go. This reminds me of something that happened to one of my close friends - she's Bengali, from a strict muslim family, and had a non-muslim boyfriend. Her parents invited her on a trip home to see the grandparents, and once she was there was forced into a marriage with an older man she didn't know and could barely speak to (her Syletti isn't great). Her passport was taken by her father and he flew home with it. She was allowed to fly home only after a head injury that caused a stroke. All this is very dramatic but just to say, this stuff that reads like something out of Take a Break really can and does happen, and she didn't even think her family would ever be capable of anything like this. Please please look after yourself, fake a health problem and stay at home with your partner, where you will be safe.

I also have violent men in my immediate family and I'd say trust yourself and pay attention to what your gut is telling you. I know for sure my dad and brother would be capable of forcing me into something physically and they don't see anything wrong with that. I wouldn't spend any decent length of time alone with either of them and especially not outside the country where I haven't got my normal bearings. The fact that your mum acknowledged their threat as credible is confimation that your freedom and personhood is not really for you to decide in your family, and only granted grudgingly by your male relatives. I'd hate to think what could happen when they feel more confident and know that you are more unstable and perhaps trapped.

All the best to you, this is a very hard situation and my thoughts and wishes are with you.
posted by everydayanewday at 12:19 PM on January 27 [10 favorites]


I think you are right to trust your gut. I don't have a suggestion for the magic words that would make this seem better to your family, but maybe just going with "I love and care about my brother and wish him all the best, but I don't feel it's a good idea for me to come at this time," is enough.

It's just a terrible situation - you have some people who seem to be angry at you, some with a history of violence and abuse, and you'd be without a supportive partner or companions of any kind, in a country which is offering only relatively low levels of protection. It feels a little trap-ish. Offer to host your brother and his wife-to-be on their next visit to your own country, and celebrate with them there.
posted by Miko at 1:09 PM on January 27


I agree with hal_c_on and disagree with the prevailing opinion here, probably because I'm South Asian (though not Muslim). You're being just as hostile to your family as they are to you.

If you really are concerned about your brother's choice about getting married, you can try to open up a channel of communication with him and try to figure out how he really feels. Keep in mind he may not be as clueless about his future bride as you're imagining. People who get arranged-married nowadays often spend countless hours e-mailing and Skyping, and end up knowing each other pretty well. Your brother, being conservative and on the autism spectrum, may have a hard time meeting and clicking with women in the Western way, and this may actually be the best route for him personally. There is no rule that says arranged marriages are worse for the couple than love marriages, as long as they go in with their eyes open and some basic amount of compatibility.

As far as boycotting the wedding because your brother took your father's side and started playing proxy parent -- I don't know. I see where you're coming from; it must have been awful that he didn't support you. I'm all for standing your ground when a family member has intentionally hurt you. But he's young, and raised in a culture that says that brothers must defend their sisters' honor, and he was probably just playing that part. It's unlikely he holds any malice towards you. You haven't even told him how you feel. By not attending the wedding, you are escalating the rift to the point of no return, and I really don't see why.

As for the danger of traveling alone in Pakistan -- I'm not sure I buy it. You can go with your sister, can't you? Or cousins? Or (gasp) your parents?

Please go to the wedding. It is much more likely that your family will come around and accept your boyfriend if you show that you care about them and respect their feelings, even though you don't see eye to eye. By flouncing off, you are sending the signal that you don't give a damn -- and when they see that, they're certainly not going to try to compromise.
posted by redlines at 3:33 PM on January 27


As for the danger of traveling alone in Pakistan -- I'm not sure I buy it. You can go with your sister, can't you? Or cousins? Or (gasp) your parents?

Just as a clarification: She's not afraid of traveling alone in Pakistan. She's specifically afraid of certain male relatives, and does not seem to be able to trust that her parents or siblings could keep her safe. Unless you know her parents, and her familial context beyond what she's described here, maybe leave that part of your advice aside.
posted by rtha at 4:04 PM on January 27 [20 favorites]


It can be hard for someone who hasn't been through it to understand, but families will visit all kinds of coercion, cruelty and violence on their loved ones in the name of religion, never mind cultural norms, and I'm talking here in the US.

Briefly, I left my family's fundamentalist Christian faith when I was in my twenties. They decided that I needed to be saved from that error and for a couple of years made my life a living hell. I cut off contact, but they hired a private detective to find out where I lived and worked. They showed up at my apartment, slipping past lobby security, to pound on my door in the middle of the night. They showed up at work, not to cause a scene but to let me know that I was under their surveillance and to imply that they could escalate if they wished. And on and on.

No rational observer would have detected love in any of their actions, but in their minds, that was their motivation. They were trying to save me.

Which is only to say, OP, my advice, like that of many others, is to listen to your gut. Don't risk letting your love for your family override an abundance of caution. And put away your guilt, because it isn't that rare a thing for a family's love to twist itself into something unrecognizable of the word.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 4:36 PM on January 27 [10 favorites]


Bonus question: how do I get rid of this guilt for not wanting to be there for my brother on one of the most important days of his life?

You do WANT to be there for your brother, but through no fault of your own, you cannot be.

It is not your fault. You have nothing to feel guilty about. You should feel proud that you are strong enough and smart enough to stay safe despite familial pressure and feelings of guilt.
posted by callmejay at 5:13 PM on January 27 [8 favorites]


You get rid of the guilt by remembering that it's a matter of personal safety. They are the ones choosing to put you in danger, so it's not your fault that you can't be around them. You want to be there, but they're making it impossible.
posted by tel3path at 5:47 PM on January 27 [4 favorites]


Keep in mind he may not be as clueless about his future bride as you're imagining. People who get arranged-married nowadays often spend countless hours e-mailing and Skyping, and end up knowing each other pretty well

Viewed another way, online dating networks are basically just arranging your own marriage. As soon as OK Cupid has a "wheatish" option, they'll be indistinguishable.
posted by BinGregory at 6:46 PM on January 27 [2 favorites]


I've been thinking about this thread all day. Whoever pointed out that even your religious and in denial mother thinks it's a credible threat is extremely telling. Not that your concern and gut feeling is not in and of itself enough reason not to go, but I would assume your mother has a lot more contact with your extended family than you and a very good idea what they are capable of. If even she is worried about your uncles, then it's very, very real. She may naively assume they would defer to your father and this is probably not an unreasonable belief, but it's sure as hell not enough of an adequate safeguard that I would be willing to bet my life on. Also, it's possible that your brother is in on something and reaching out to you as a means to guilt you into coming to Pakistan. This seems less likely, but hardly impossible.

I think part of getting past the guilt is realizing you aren't not going because of some vague paranoid fear, this is a credible threat in my opinion. Your safety is not even kind of guaranteed and appears to be almost entirely predicate on your father being able to adequately assert control over certain relatives.
posted by whoaali at 6:49 PM on January 27 [7 favorites]


So I think I've decided I'm going to tell a white lie, as so many of you have suggested. Don't worry, absolutely no way in hell I am going to Pakistan. I doubt I will ever feel okay with going to Pakistan again. As it happens I have a medical history which can give me a plausible, just-serious-enough excuse.

I realized that no matter what I say, my parents are going to question it and pressure me. Telling them I am unwell is the best way to minimize that onslaught, and my medical treatment in a different country where they don't speak the language is something they can't influence in any way. It also enables me to tell a sort of truth: I would dearly love to be there if things were different, but it's out of my hands. And it saves face for my brother. I decided, as some have suggested, to wait until the wedding is well out of the way before I start to do more work on my relationship with him, for both our sakes.

The warmth and generosity of AskMe never ceases to amaze me. I know I'll be coming back here to read over these answers when I need a boost, like I have with other questions. Thanks, every person who wrote.
posted by guessthis at 1:43 AM on January 28 [22 favorites]


Telling them I am unwell is the best way to minimize that onslaughr....to tell a sort of truth: I would dearly love to be there if things were different, but it's out of my hands

It's absolutely true: you would love to be there, but you need to safeguard your health (mental and physical), and for that you need to be in your own country of residence. No need to fell guilt about this at all. It is, in fact, true that to remain healthy, you can't travel to Pakistan, at least at this time.
posted by Miko at 7:30 AM on January 28 [5 favorites]


« Older Help me find examples of fathe...   |  I have a leather computer desk... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments