Let’s start with this: I think there is a particular skill that almost ALL Indonesian women, at least those raised in religious families, possess naturally because of their upbringing.
Lying. Admit it, we are a bunch of skillful liars.
Coming of age in the second millennium, we grew up with MTV, watching Britney Spears evolve from a dancing preppy high school chick in “Baby One More Time” to a half-naked and gyrating diva in “I’m a Slave 4 U”. If you think that’s quite an influence for teenagers with raging hormones, picture the other side of the coin: the daily religion classes in school, holy scripture study groups, religious retreats, and, of course; our parents.
From my experience, the dynamic with our parents growing up is as intense as the classes, study groups, and retreats combined, if not more. We may be adept at suppressing our true self in school and society in general, but dealing with parents is a whole other ball game. Parents are a 24-hour love machine with a faulty default mode, the latter thanks to a setting ruled by religion.
Here are some of the outputs of that setting:
“It doesn’t matter how smart or successful you are, if you are not faithful to God.”
“You will make your dad and me responsible in the afterlife if you don’t pray five times a day.”
And my favorite: “No one will want you if you lose your virginity before marriage, not the man who could be your future husband, not us, and certainly not God”.
If this is how your parents think of us, what chance do we have in the real world? And what would happen if we do not conform to the stereotype of a woman who grew up obedient to her parents and praying five times a day for a doctor/banker husband from the sky to save her from this biological jail?
We rebel, of course, like those brave souls who came before us, but we also develop the ability to be pathological liars. Case in point: have you ever wondered how you could effortlessly tell your parents that you’d just been hanging out at Erika’s place, when, in reality, you were shagging your high school boyfriend in the back of his dirty Honda?
Living in this extreme juxtaposition, bingeing on over-sexed pop culture before praying together with your mother, provides a perfect environment for the making of a liar. Your hormones scream for sex, but because your parents forbid you to get it in any straight and honest way, you lie. So there: you get your carnal release and your parents’ approval.
The problem is your conscience could only get so far with all the lies, especially when you know you’re too old to be doing it.
I am Indonesian, a woman, 27, and born to and raised in a Muslim family. I also live abroad and am shacking up with my Caucasian boyfriend. And, yet, I still lie to my parents that I’m a virgin (27 years old) who manages to this day to sleep separately from her boyfriend.
And I know that a lie is never only a lie. It’s a gate to another lie and it becomes a part of your behavior before it becomes your character. But for a person in a situation where they must contradict themselves constantly in order to live in peace, lying is a survival mechanism.
Can you blame me, then, for feeling a little heartbroken whenever I lie to my parents, because to them what makes me happy and complete as a person is sinful?
I believe that for most people having a religious faith means having a sense of community, heightened spirituality, and life purposes. I also believe that this world is progressing rapidly, and whatever we believe in must be in accordance with the global progress of humanity. To raise your children and to view and treat women around you using literal interpretation of thousands-year-old manuscripts go against this progress.
By denying what is natural, you are condoning the lying, therefore causing broken relationships, damaged reputations and many regrets in those women’s lives. What I wrote is only a simplified version and a fraction of this problem, and this problem may manifest differently in society. But whatever society we are in, can we at least agree that we do not need another generation of liars molded by their parent’s bad judgement?