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Is lying to parents for privacy ethical?
Matthew Schneeberger
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May 31, 2007

Part I -- Young couples and their privacy problems

To what extremes will the youth of India go for privacy in their relationships?

Through speaking with 30 teens and young adults across the country, we gathered all sorts of racy responses.

The most common method to which people resort? Lying to family members and loved ones.

Some youngsters tell their parents they are going out of town with friends, only to spend the weekend in a nearby hotel. Others reported using their own vacant homes when parents are away on business or holidaying. And still others tell parents that their partner is 'just a friend'.

But all this lying and misleading surely has consequences, right?

To answer this question, we dug deeper and asked for the secret details of several young couples -- their answers may surprise you.

Our question: Are the emotional and ethical costs worth the added privacy that comes with deceiving your parents?

Twenty-six-year-old Rakhi Zore, elaborated upon this question.

"What emotional costs?" she asked, "My parents are close-minded and too conservative. My last boyfriend was ridiculed and humiliated in my house. I'll never tell them about my private life again. I'm sure they lie to me, too."

Ajay Kumar, a 25-year-old Mumbaikar, also has no problem defying his parents. He says he lies at least twice a week about where he is going and who he is with, particularly when meeting girls. "Do I feel guilty? Yes. Guilty enough to stop seeing my friends and my girlfriends? No."

He adds, "We've been raised in a completely different atmosphere from our parents. Of course, there will be pains and shame, but it's natural for girls and boys to be interested in each other. My parents once found out I kissed a girl on the cheek -- my mother demanded her name and threatened to call her parents! It's crazy! My son will never be pestered about such nonsense."

Others, however, felt that disrespecting parents was too much of a price to pay for a little privacy.

Shivani Patel, 31, lives with her parents in Gujarat. Says she, "I'm not married and I've never had a boyfriend. My parents have worked hard to give me a good life. It would be very selfish to demand such a thing as 'privacy' from them. Besides, it is a Western concept. Here, family is the most important."

Simran Khubchandani, 26, a Sindhi girl who also lives with her parents in Mumbai, had this to say: "I'm from a very tight-knit community. Everyone knows everyone else's business. One time I got caught smoking a cigarette by a distant relative, and two weeks later the whole family knew! I've never broken my parents' trust after that, I'm just too scared. I don't need privacy. I know my parents will do their best to keep me happy and safe, which is more important."

Finally, some of the people I interviewed had horror stories, and wished to advise youngsters against lying. Like Ashley Alvarez, a 29-year-old Catholic from Goa.

"Lying to my parents was the biggest mistake of my life. I began having sex at 23, even sleeping with a few tourists from Canada. I just wanted to get away from my house and 'live a little'. Big mistake. I've been guilt-ridden for the last two years now, going to Church regularly, and trying to be helpful and respectful. Still, I feel as if I've embarrassed my family and dishonoured my future wife. I don't even want to get married."

Says Amit Shah, a 31-year-old making big money as a manager in an MNC in Mumbai, "I have a great job and a beautiful apartment. Unfortunately, my parents found out that I had been lying to them for over two years, and we barely speak. I'm not asked to weddings or other family events."

So what was Amit lying about? He responds, "My marriage was upcoming, an arranged marriage to an average-looking girl. I got into a huge fight with my dad and told him that he couldn't control every aspect of my life -- he's the reason I got into management as well. I started seeing call-girls, drinking and being really wild. I'd come home late at night, and I lied pretty much each weekend, but I think my parents knew. Finally, it reached my future father-in-law's ears that I was a drunkard, and had been with two or three different women, and he called the wedding off. My father now refuses to speak with me. My mom tries, but she knows how my dad is when he's made up his mind. I'm very lonely."

As you can see, just two weeks of research resulted in a wide variety of responses.

Some youngsters don't mind lying to their parents, figuring that they are probably being told lies as well.

On the other hand, some respondents described their search for independence and privacy as leading to misery and unhappiness.

Perhaps the best option is to just be open and honest with your parents. If they know you have a girlfriend and need some privacy, they'll probably help you and give you positive advice. Don't be afraid to ask, you might be surprised.

If, however, they are firmly opposed to you dating and carrying on relationships without their approval, respect your parents or be prepared to live on your own.

In Western culture, there is a lot more privacy and freedom for youngsters. They marry who they want and have very intimate relationships at a young age.

Is this a good thing? Looking at the astronomical divorce rates and children being born outside of marriage abroad, one can never be so sure.

Whatever the case, if what you're doing makes you feel guilty, you probably shouldn't be doing it. Remember, you have your whole life ahead of you!

Part I -- Young couples and their privacy problems


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