I’ve been on (too) many dates in the last decade of my life to know the pain, the suffering, the awkward bristling of having to field questions on first dates that have nothing to do with my moral character, with what I do for work, with who I am as a human — and everything to do with the fact that I’m immediately seen as an other by my potential paramour. My name, my skin color, and the fact that I trace my family back to a far-away part of the world means that first dates have a habit of skipping the formality of Treating Me Like A Person and diving deep into objectification. But! I have made peace with this inevitability — in fact, there’s a good chance I’ll probably end up with a dude who initially makes all of these kinds of blunders only to emerge from the cocoon of his ignorance a beautiful, informed butterfly.
That said, here’s a handy guide on what not to say for all you potential paramours out there — it applies equally to queer dating culture as it does to straight. That’s right: Everyone’s awful and ill-informed!
1. What are you?
2. Where are you from?
3. Where is your family from?
4. When did they come to the U.S.?
5. Do they speak English?
6. Do you speak Indian?
7. Do you speak Hindu?
8. Say something in your language!
9. OMG, like what do you think about the Bhagavad Gita?
10. I find Hinduism so fascinating–did you know [xxx] was the consort of [xxx]?
11. You have such exotic features.
12. I looooove chai tea!
13. I have a friend, do you know him?
14. I tend to date a lot of Indians.
15. I would love to go to an Indian wedding — is it like the movies?
16. Do they still have castes in India? What caste are you?
17. Well, maybe there aren’t that many Indian actors in the U.S. and that’s why you never see them on T.V.!
18. Oh, are you supposed to have an arranged marriage?
19. I found this great recipe for butter chicken! Have you tried it?
20. I had a college roommate who never showered and was Indian — is that common?
21. Oh! You went to yoga last week — your people must be really good at that, right?
22. Indians are so spiritual right? Like, you guys pray and meditate a lot?
23. Apu is so hilarious!
24. Aziz Ansari is so hilarious! Oh my gosh, so is Mindy Kaling!
25. Hey! You don’t have an Indian accent! In fact, you seem pretty American! That’s so weird! Can you do an Indian accent, anyway?
I mean, basically: