Moving out on my own was among one of the most disgraceful things I could’ve done as a daughter of Bangladeshi Muslim immigrant parents — we’re supposed to live at home until we complete half our deen: the belief in Islam that when you get married, you complete half your religious obligation.
Unlike most teenagers in America, going away for college wasn’t my ticket out of the house. I commuted to my local school in Queens, New York City, where I was born and raised, everyday, from my childhood bedroom. My parents convinced me to stay at home by promising to buy me a car, but they didn’t have to work hard. I wanted to follow the path laid down for Bengali girls from Queens — college and then marriage to a boy from the community. After I graduated and was ready to fulfill my destiny of becoming a wife, my Bangladeshi boyfriend from Brooklyn crushed my dreams, saying: “You’re just not the type of girl my parents would want me to marry. You’re not made for family life.”
At 26, when I still hadn’t succeeded at marriage, I tried something new. I moved to San Francisco, living outside my family and tight-knit Bangladeshi community for the first time. I acquired roommates and called my mom in a panic when I clogged the toilet.
I had to sneak out with my suitcases when they were at work, to sidestep my parents’ wrath.
But the whole single, independent woman life felt fraudulent — living without the security blanket of a husband or family was too much of a departure from what my life was supposed to be and what it was like for most of the girls I grew up with. A Facebook encounter led me to a new boyfriend, from an adjacent Bangladeshi Muslim community in Patterson, New Jersey. So at 28, I was back in Queens, living with my parents, waiting on yet another Bangladeshi-American boyfriend to marry me. When two years later, he still hadn’t proposed and my deadline of getting married by 30 had passed, I moved into a studio apartment a few neighborhoods away from my parents.
They were furious — even my father who otherwise supported me in my ambitions. I had to sneak out with my suitcases when they…