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By Azam Nemati
September 10, 2001
The Iranian

I was looking forward to attending a party my friends had put together for my 46th birthday. When I arrived , everyone was already there. Ah , Persian greetings! Exaggerated and too dramatic for my cynical taste.

After all the hugging and the "you look more beautiful every time we see you" compliments, they managed to give me their few-cents worth of loving advice: "Azizam, you are beautiful, educated, independent and very cultured and everyone loves the fact that you are so dedicated to promoting Iranian culture and causes. However, you are not getting any younger. You need to settle down while there are still some men available."

Everyone had an idea about who was suitable for me. Their idea of a perfect man was someone successful who could provide me with a secure future. I was flabbergasted. I used to get this kind of talk from my landlady while attending college in Iran. She had been married at age 16. She wrapped her chador so tightly, one could only see her eyes. She lived only to be a wife and mother.

Bless her heart, she even went so far as to arrange for me to meet good looking and educated khaastegaars who claimed they would be supportive of my feminist views and let me be just the way I was -- free-spirited and independent. I found her attempts amusing and gave her credit for trying.

Things have not changed much in the new millennium. College graduates these days have such housewife mentalities. Now I realize why I do not have close relationships with most of my female Iranian friends. I do not share many of their backward views.

At my birthday party, these very same women addressed one of the guests, whom I will call Arash. He is the very personification of an Iranian shaazdeh. He is short and bald, with spare tires that are definitely not made by Bridgestone. He had poured a bottle of Just for Men on himself and squeezed his not-so-shapely body into pants two sizes too small.

When the shaazdeh was asked , Why haven't you settled down yet?, his response was, "You cannot find old-fashioned girls anymore -- a beautiful and educated girl with old-fashioned values who will adore me just the way I am." His idea of a romantic evening was to be served chelokabob with light music playing in the background. I burst out into laughter and said, very sarcastically, "I suppose she must make good money as well." "But, of course," he replied.

May God forgive me but the thought of serving a man like Arash (picturing him naked as I always do) made my stomach so queasy that I made a sour face and jolted my body in disgust. Of course, my gestures did not go unnoticed . He pointed at me and called me a superficial person who puts too much emphasis on looks.

Then a sixtysomething woman, who was visiting from Iran, walked up, looked him in the eye and said, "Arash aaghaa, look at her: she's beautiful, smart, funny and so sweet. Why shouldn't she be looking for someone tall and handsome? You are fat and bald, yet desire a young and beautiful girl. She has the right to look for someone who suits her taste as well." She then turned to me and said: "Dokhtaram, ignore all these people. You will do just fine." Everyone looked in her direction. I walked up to her and hugged her. I said "I love you khanoom, we need more mothers like you."

My dear Iranian shaazdehs,

I love you dearly. But let me be the voice of truth. There are two types of real shaazdehs. The first group includes men who are tall and handsome, have a head full of hair and are educated. The second type are not handsome, but they are cultured, polite and very supportive of intelligent and independent women. They go out of their way to impress a women. If God has not blessed you by making you part of the first group, then strive hard to become like the second.

Be realistic. Do not listen to your mother telling you that no matter how old you are, you should marry a virginal maiden under 30 who has never had a boyfriend. Fair warning my dear brothers: many of these young innocent maidens will go to school, become educated and experience the freedom of being financially independent. Then, they will realize they can do much better and, leave you.

Of course, more power to my sisters who will teach you what goes around, comes around. You think you are so clever. You screw anything you can get your hands on, then marry a girl who has not been with any other man but you. Wonderful! You think you got yourself an angel!

The good old days in Iran when a man had to be only a good provider are gone. Many of us are more successful than you are and, make more money than you do, and therefore, "good provider" is no longer good enough.

One more thing, please do not try to impress us by telling us that your past girlfriends looked like a bimbo actress. It makes you look pathetic and insecure. Trust me on this one. Those of you who have been married, do not tell us your wife was Miss America and a rocket scientist. One look at your not-so-bright daughter -- the one who could very well be a wrestler with a mustache -- and we will wonder what happened.

Buy a full length mirror and look at yourself every day. Tell yourself what good manners you have learned that day which would make you more desirable. Help fight the double standards of our culture. My hat off to those of you who marry intelligent and educated women. You are looking for a partner to share your life with, not a doll to impress others.

All you shaazdeh mothers should teach your sons to change their frame of mind, to respect women and think of them as equals. I have tried to be a role model by mentoring my son to admire women for their intelligence and accomplishments. I keep emphasizing that he represents the Iranian community and must be a model human being and a respectful gentleman. There is hope for the next generation.

For those mothers who have fortysomething shaazdehs, remember most of you complain that you did not lead happy lives because you did not choose your life partner. Think of your sons and the position you are putting them in.

As for myself, I have not given up on my dream of finding a shaazdeh who will be big and tall (no short and fat), with a full head of hair (preferably gray), who is not on some anti-depressant drug, loves Iranian classical music and literature, and reads poetry.

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