Most Ethiopian Americans, grew up in a close knit community. Most of our parents are close friends, and are referred to as gashe or tia (uncle or aunt). That makes the children of my parents’ close friends , my “cousins”. Most of us have grown up amongst a group of people that we have thought were our cousins. We all have later find out as we grew up that we aren’t actually related.
Most of the Ethiopian American kids I grew up with went to the same church, attended the same weddings, fundraisers, and other cultural gatherings. As children we all felt like we were family because we shared similar backgrounds and perspectives on life. As we began to reach our teenage years, with the reality that dating would soon commence, some parents began to feel the need to point out, “he’s not your cousin” or “you know you guys aren’t related”. It was as though our parents finally realized that raising us in such a close knit familial environment would make us feel like we were all actually related, when in fact we aren’t. But how does one change his or her view of someone they once thought they were related to. Its awkward to move through most of your life thinking that you are related to someone, to only find out abruptly that you aren’t. I wouldn’t be able to date said person. I mean really, I just spent a majority of my life calling you my cousin, there’s nothing attractive about that, it just feels like incest.
Some may have developed a crush or taken a liking to someone, knowing there was no relation. But the extreme closeness between families becomes a hindrance to the opportunity of developing a natural relationship. Parents begin to notice the potential between children and begin to create “opportunities” for us to hang out. My parents never specifically did this to me, but I’ve been a victim of the “let’s take this opportunity to allow them to spend time together” move by another parent.
Yes, dating an Ethiopian American Boy would be ideal. But does the reality really exist? I don’t know. Most of the young men I know that are Ethiopian American like myself, are those that I grew up with closely. They are like family, how could I possibly turn around and date you, even though I know we’re not cousins?
Who knows, I may be proven wrong, and find a mr.ethipoianamericanboy that will be my perfect match. Until then most of us tend to be distracted by the non Ethiopians that have developed a fascination to us.
The issue of “cousins” who aren’t really related is not something that only plagues the Ethiopian Community, I’d like to say here that it is actually something that arises in most cultures. People have “play cousins” all the time. I am just writing in reference to my personal experience, especially being from a smaller tight knit community the repercussions of thinking someone is related when they actually aren’t’ are felt more heavily.
But for future references, to all the parent’s out there, if we aren’t really blood related, stop referring to people as family, because now our dating scope has been greatly decreased.