Because that's what we had - a SECRET intercultural relationship. We moved about freely in my city and in M's college town, but because he had almost no family in America, and no real connection between his family and his then-current-student life, he had no reason to fear that his family would find out about me. He certainly wasn't offering them any information about his American girlfriend.
I, for the most part, didn't really care. Actually, at first, a better characterization was that I really didn't KNOW. I didn't know about what sometimes happens when a Pakistani guy tells his parents he wants to marry a non-desi. People often run into a lot of roadblocks from their Pakistani parents when the relationship with a non-desi is found out. There are arguments, disownments, suicide threats from upset parents. (Luckily we didn't meet much resistance, but a lot of people do.)
It only took me about six weeks to introduce M to my parents, but that was only because they pressed the issue. It seemed very early to me. Meeting the parents often takes a lot longer than that here in America. Months into our relationship, though, when I knew more about M, and I knew more about these kinds of half-desi relationships and how they panned out (or sometimes didn't pan out...) I do remember, a few months in, that I asked M, "Do you think you'll tell your parents about me eventually?" and that he answered "Um....I was thinking about it..." (LIE.)
But for the most part, I don't think I cared much about that. Here's why, I think: I can understand if you are in love and want to marry this guy, and you feel like he will never be willing to tell his family (or if he were willing, that his family would never accept the relationship) I can understand being upset about that. It's like you are already committed - you want to marry this person and are that much more invested in the relationship - and the other person clearly does not feel the same way. At least not yet. For M and I, though, that wasn't the situation.
I mean, I did love M, but I never thought I wanted to marry him. First, I was way too young for marriage. I didn't expect to get married until I was at least 30, and I was only 22 when I met M. Second, M wasn't really "marriage material." I mean, he was nice and cute and well educated, he had a great sense of humor and was kind and polite and friendly, but every once in a while, he'd say something offputting that would make me think we could never coexist in the long run. Something about women being different than men, or about how his sister couldn't do this or that. Like once he talked about how his sister was upset because no one would "let" her take the family camera to school with her because girls were so naive and prone to losing things. Or something about race that just shouldn't be said. Plus, he was very immigrant-y. He had a bottle of coconut oil in his apartment that I'm sure he put in his hair regularly, and he had a thick accent. It just wasn't what I thought of a husband material.
The scales tipped gradually. Either I got used to the coconut smell or he stopped using it, and his views (and the things he said to me) about gender and race changed over time. On the 1 year anniversary of the day we met, we planned a big dinner celebration. As I was preparing, a friend mentioned that perhaps M would propose that night. It hadn't occurred to me before that, but I suddenly realized that I would say yes. If he asked me, I would say yes. It was quite the revelation.
After that, I certainly started to care about being a secret.
Sometime after that, M and I were walking somewhere, and he mentioned that a distant family member had not contacted him in some time, and that this family member was friends with one of his local classmates - perhaps this classmate had informed the family member about "what he'd been up to." All of a sudden I was furious. I was so mad at this classmate who may have done something like that, I was mad at the family member who would judge me and our relationship without evening knowing about it, and I was mad at the universe for putting me in such a situation and then making it seem impossible to survive unscathed.
But I was also mad at M. He had a responsibility to me - to make sure that I was loved and taken care of and protected from anyone who would wish me - and us - harm. We had been in a relationship for more than a year and we had exchanged "I love yous" - even if there were clearly no promises of a future, he was by that time my best friend and most trusted confidant. By keeping this secret, he was refusing to stand up for our relationship. He'd already met my family, and while they liked him, they still had qualms about me being in a relationship with a Pakistani muslim. I'd been on the defensive for some time now, and M had refused to even let his family know there was something to defend.
We didn't talk about it anymore that day, but it became a catalyst for much more serious talks about what the point of our relationship was. I just wasn't willing to be a secret for much longer. It's hard to get these kinds of conversations started when they're one sided, though, and M's reaction to these kinds of topics were never very encouraging. He's not by nature a "talk it out" kind of guy, and he would just try to deflect, postpone, and delay these talks. Not really the kind of thing that convinces your girlfriend that you're completely invested in a relationship.
In the end, it wasn't really communication that made the difference, but a last-minute hail-mary showing of courage and determination that made all the difference, to me and to M's family. Who knows if any other path would have been as successful, really. But it's nice not to be a secret anymore. I've heard of women even marrying and having children with Pakistani men and still being a secret. What a life that must be!