The Suitable Boy Checklist

by Shritin Patel – Houston Baptist University Graduate


‘Suitable Boy’ Checklist: Educated? Check. Good family? Check. Wealthy? Tall?  Fair?  Hot AKA Jay Sean? (Ahh, wishful thinking). Appropriate caste? Che…wait..WHAT?

I’m at a loss for words 99.9 % of the time when I sit down and think of exactly what is important to parents when it comes time to send their bonny lasses out to get wedded. I’m reminded of the absurd demands of Jane and Michael Banks from ‘Mary Poppins’ when they were asking their father for a new nanny:

“You must be kind, you must be witty

Very Sweet and fairly pretty.

Take us on outings, give us treats

Sing songs, bring sweets.”

I understand the importance of wanting the best for your child, but I truly cannot comprehend or even begin to WANT to comprehend some of the items on their checklists. A good education is something both parents and girls look for in prospective partners. That is nothing new, nor is it something wholly rare as most people strive for a good education and pride themselves on having a solid background. Although, I have met people that have an advanced formal education, but are lazy and unmotivated. I have also met people without an advanced formal education that are incredibly successful and content.  In both scenarios, the wrong thing is being scrutinized. An education, or the lack of, isn’t the answer; ambition, motivation and determination is.  Just because one has the tools necessary does not mean they know how to wield those tools and build a future out of them.

A good family is also important, but it is not necessarily the only thing that creates a good person; many people have overcome familial hardships and have conquered their lives and the world. Just look at Oprah! She came from ‘the hood’ and now she is arguably one of the most influential and powerful women in the entire world.  There are also many people that have had the world given to them on a golden platter (because silver is for sissies) and choose to indulge in sloth, greed, and lust rather than take on any responsibilities. We are not by-products of our surroundings; we have choices, and it’s those choices that make us who we are.

Wealth. Ah, booty…how seductive thee are. I think sometimes parents forget that their daughters have to live FOREVER with someone. Just because the suitable boy in question may have wealth at that moment in time, does not under any circumstances, mean it will be there forever. Money comes and goes, and basing a life decision of that magnitude on something so transient is silly, naive, and wholly unoriginal. “I ain’t sayin’ she a golddigger, but ain’t messin’ with no broke [people]…” Who wants to be THAT girl? I recognize everyone wants to live comfortably and indulge in luxuries, but is it so important that it becomes a deciding factor in someone’s worth?

Physical attributes are also subjective, unless we’re going to discuss Jay Sean… in which case it is a rule of life that he was, is, and always will be supercalifragilisitcacebealidocious hot. Physical beauty is fleeting and it is one’s personality that is forever. A person is not good or bad because they’re tall, fair, or hot (Jay Sean is the exception to every rule ever). People are good or bad based on their actions. It breaks my heart when I see wonderful people putting up with things they would normally abhor simply because their partner is good looking. Being attractive does not give someone a free pass to treat people badly. Looking past one’s physical appearances and truly seeing someone for who they are is a beautiful quality to have and one that should be cherished.  I identify with wanting a partner that is easy on the eyes, but let me reiterate something: is it so important that it becomes a deciding factor in someone’s worth?

I am truly befuddled every time I hear parents casually conversing about castes and ‘appropriate’ places and families their daughters can get married into.  My biggest gripe with this is the fact that the ideology is dated. Albeit, I realize the importance of making sure your darling child is married into a family that will love and treat her the way you have for  ‘X’ amount of years, but what does caste have to do with that?  If we were living in India and were subject to the societal rules and regulations of the castes in question, I would not be voicing my concerns here. HOW is it possible to deem someone acceptable or not based on the geographical location of their gaam or where they stand on the caste system? We live in a time where people are judged based on their actions rather than their family ancestory; our society thrives on the respect gained from actions. How can we then go backwards and cling to dated forms of worth when it comes to finding a suitable boy?

The conflict here lies in the generation gap; a lot of our parents are the first generation out of South Asia and have had struggled most of their adult lives to blend into American culture, while defiantly keeping their South Asian identity alive. We, on the other hand, have assimilated beautifully into American culture and have struggled to find our South Asian balance. The result? A shift in important values in a life partner; most of our parents were arranged by their parents whom they assumed knew best. This meant that the above items were not only acceptable, they were necessary because they fit in with the time period and societal ways. On the other hand, most of us now have grown up more independent and feel WE know best when it comes to choosing a life partner; this includes finding someone that is ambitious, motivated, determined, confident, funny, loving, trusting, and honest. The difference? The ‘suitable boy’ checklist went from tangible items to characteristics. We see worth in people for their potential and their actions, our parents deem worthiness by verifiable evidence.

If our parents stepped away from the black and white world of their checklists for just one moment, they would notice that there is a whole spectrum of colors waiting across the threshold . If they did, maybe then daughters wouldn’t be terrified of letting their parents down if they dared to fall in love with an ‘unsuitable boy’. We girls could also cut our parents some slack, if we just appreciated the reason for their ideology more, we could see that in between the black and white of the ‘suitable boy’ checklist, there are glimmers of vibrant colors; we just need to hold out our hand and learn to walk beside our parents instead of ahead or behind them.


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