(and proud of it)

By Ramin Tabib
Los Angeles
The Iranian
August 1997

Beema'refat, vatanforoush, gharbzadeh... these are all reactions I have received since I announced to my family five years ago that no matter what, I would rather put needles in my eyes than play host to any family member who is either coming to Los Angeles to visit or comes here hoping to find a way to stay. I had had it.

I come from a family whose grandfathers had two wives and each wife bore five children and each child produced many of their own offsprings. Now, I have enough dokhtar amou and pesar ammeh that can fill up a whole stadium, and each of them, god bless them, are adamant to visit Los Angeles, Disneyland, Universal Studios and every shopping mall in Southern California, at least once in their lives.

Being the only sort of permanent extension of the family in Los Angeles, I am the implied and designated tour guide and on more than rare occasions hotelier, driver, and attorney to the many cousins and uncles who come to visit. At first I didn't mind. A day at Disneyland and Universal Studios, couple of days to chelokababis for lunch and dinner and one dreadful night at Cabaret Tehran (which was always better when I was not sober) were bearable. I played host perhaps once a year. It was like doing my taxes or a catching a flu; it went away after a couple of weeks.

But then the guests became more frequent and more annoying. The one that did it for me was my older dokhtar ammouyeh naatani. She called and said she was coming over from London with her husband and three boys. They were hoping to stay with me and visit a couple of sights and explore staying here permanently. At the time, I was living with two roommates in a two-bedroom apartment, so imagine telling these poor guys that five people they did not know were joining us for an indefinite period . Fun!

My dokhtar amou's entourage arrived with enough luggage and supplies to warrant the comment from one of my roommates that they must have escaped with all the belongings they had ever owned. They made themselves so comfortable that the two roommates opted to stay away for the first couple of days.

My dokhtar amou, bless her, could not speak in a regular tone of voice, and she practically shouted when she spoke with her husband, who himself was equally as loud. This prompted a visit from my apartment manager who inquired if an auction was going on? The three sons did not leave one piece of my apartment, including my roommates' stuff, unturned; they ruled the place for those few weeks.

And then there were those trips to khouneyeh aashnaahaa. Being unfamiliar with the Southern California, they had made plans to visit everyone they knew here, and these acquaintances lived anywhere from five to a hundred miles away. My guests didn't know, and they didn't care. It was up to me to deliver them at the designated time to the people they were visiting.

But what was most unbearable, was my dokhtar amou's smaller kid who, only one-and-a-half-years old, roamed my apartment in pampers that smelled the most god-awful stench you could imagine. No one cared to change him and I was not about to tell my dear dokhtar amou or her shohar-e mohtaram what to do. So I decided. No more Mr. Nice Guy.

As soon as those few weeks ended, I first apologized to my roommates for the hurricane that had passed and made the faithful phone call to my parents: "From this day on, I will not accept any more family members in my place and I don't even want to talk to them when they are here. Vassalaam."

It is summer again, and my naveh daayi is here for two weeks with his wife, khaahar zan va bachehaa. Guess where they are not staying.


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