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Part 7
New York, Sunday September 25

7:40 p.m
Craaaaaaap! I completely forgot about Nance's birthday party for her husband Hossein! Manny called me around 7 to ask me to borrow my white gold set and I said sure for what occasion hon? She just laughed and broke the news. Ey vAye! Dinner at eight! Told Manny to go ahead without me and I will try my best to make it on time.

Hair all still rolled up at that point. Rats, no time to blow dry. Take them out as fast as I can. Aouuucchhh. Some of the hair is still tangled and damp. Fantasize about converting to Jewish orthodoxy and just wear wig every day. What to do? Only one solution: Take my big brush (a round brush with black bristles as thick as a horse's tail) and just slick back with help of extra-strength gel reserved for just such emergency occasions. Look at myself in bathroom mirror and realize this slicked back bun look makes me out to be a grim sicilian widow. "Vendetta!" I scream out with riased fist at my reflection in the mirror in my best Little Italy accent. Just then lamp on top of bathroom mirror blows out. Almost gave me heart attack. Is this some Sicilian ghost lurking around my place showing her displeasure at my little attempt at humour? Well at least the mirror didn't BREAK which I would have REALLY taken personally.

Problem is, how to do my make-up without any lights? Should I transfer everything to my bedroom? Naaah, will take too much time. Thinking, thinking...Eureka! Those candles I always keep just in case of black-out emergencies (I am terrified of the dark, ever since I was a kid). They're under the sink. Two nice vanilla scented candles. Got matches from my purse, retrieved from last night's pack of cigs (feeling very guilty just looking at them). There, candles lit... Oooh... Light so flattering even though dim... Hey is that the connection? Less you see of people more attractive they seem? Maybe why so many watering holes in this city are dim? No time to deliberate for now, must take up with Manny later. For now, start applying make-up. Wow. Should always use this candle light to put it on. All the colors look so flattering and I become a wizard of make-up artistry, contrary to my previous experiments. Look very pretty in this light and colors. Might as well apply more of it, make it a very glam look in manner of Bette Davis. There, we get some nice eyeliner to contout my eyes, eye-shadow to give me that smoky bedroom eyes look and sexy plum lipstick. So glamorous! Ooopss having too much fun, watch says 7:33 already, have less than 10 minutes to dress and hop into cab to actually have hope of being on time at Nance's. (She doesn't live too far away, in beautiful section of Brooklyn Heights, right by the East river, lucky her!).

What to wear? That's easy: I don't feel like dressing up, all that walking yesterday then dancing all night with high heels at the Morrocan place. I opt for comfortable 30s style round tipped shoes with strap and frilly flowery dress to further enhance Bette Davis look. (The weather has just been incredible and I can get away with this if I just tie my cream-colored sweater around my shoulders). Currently in cab which I nicely hailed down at 7:40 p.m. which gives me an ample 20 minutes to make it to Nance's. Cabbie gave me funny look when stepped inside. Guess glam look is working and he must think I'm some sort of celebrity and dying to ask me who I am? I just smiled at him as I caught him staring at me in rearview mirror. He quickly turned his eyes away, poor soul.

8:40 p.m.
Craaaap. Just as we were to cross the Brooklyn Bridge I remembered I completely forgot to buy a present. No card, no booze, not even a tie. I am mortified. What can I buy Hossein on the way? A bottle of champagne? No that' s more a gift for me! Plus bad impression on kids etc. Everyone will probably have fabulous gifts in manner of Martha Stewart and here I am out of ideas!

Finally decided to stop at Fulton Mall. Not ideal but at least it's open. Got there at 8:02 p.m. I know cause I checked my watch: Damn, already late for dinner. Calm myself down by reminding myself this is after all Iranian culture and everybody will be late. No one shows up anywhere on time do they? Nance will probably be happy to see her guests later so she has time to prepare everything just right. Ran in random store and picked out first card I could get my hands on in the Birthday section. Grabbed first store clerk I could find and quickly explained my dilemma. He handed me some sort of golf computer game. It's not very good but better than nothing. Put big bow on it for final touch and jump back in cab.

11: 12 p.m.
I am absolutely, utterly, and painfully mortified. I wish I could crawl back to the trailer that I must have originated from as I am sure after tonight's disaster that I was switched at birth and I could truly not be the daughter of my mother, the perfectly composed Grand Dame of Etiquette and professional social butterfly. As I am riding in this taxi dragging my poor pathetic self back to my hole-in-the-wall, I take this occasion to jot down all the details of this soiree in all their excruciating details so that if I should hang myself in the morning, my parents will obtain explanation of the motive behind my demise.First of all, I made it to Nance's a full hour late. Jeepers! All the guests were there already. Even the ever fashionably late Manny. The kids were whining because they were hungry and everybody had been waiting for me, the last guest, to serve dinner. I guess Iranian culture failed me on this point. Jeez, of all the traits of Iranian culture, why would they have to pick this particular characteristic to go all Gharbzadeh on me all of a sudden? So, you can say I made quite an entrance. When I realized everyone was there already, my cheeks started feeling hot with embarrassment.

Sweet Nance greeted me at the door. When she came close, she got this funny look on her face, and I interpreted that she was mad at me. I apologized profusely to her. She kept wanting to interrupt me but I wouldn't let her put in a word. To make up for my rudeness, I immediately proceeded to the living room where Hossein was entertaining all the guests and exclaimed a bright "SalAm!... Hi everybody!" Thirty pairs of eyes looked up at me and I can swear they all got a funny expression as soon as they settled on me. I didn't know if they were all mad at me or just dazzled by my Bette Davis look. Or did I just have a broccoli stuck in my teeth? Impossible! I hadn't eaten all day. (Just in case, I discreetly licked my front teeth with my tongue). Hossein walked towards me with a smile and gave me an air kiss which I found odd since we are usually chummy enough to have actual skin contact when he pecks me on the cheek. His lips formed a smile but his eyes were all strange. He took me by the arm and took me around to introduce me to the guests. Most of them I knew already, co-workers of Nance's and Hossein's (He is a computer engineer), relatives and friends.

Ah-Ha... Stopped before one definitely unfamiliar face. Not unpleasant to look at actually. Olive skin and fine almost delicate features, with alert, intelligent eyes though they also have a certain coldness which is almost unfriendly. A slightly receding hairline though he can't be older than mid-30s doesn't diminish the attractiveness of the whole package. When he stands up to shake my hand, his height is medium and he is thin though not skinny. In fact I can distinguish strong firm muscles in his shoulders and tanned arms though he is by no means beefcake which I hate. Hossein introduces him as Ali, a distant cousin who just moved to the City after working as a CNN Correspondent in Europe for the past decade. He has decided to go into free-lance writing. He is dressed very simply and seems to be a very laid-back and quiet person. We exchanged no more than a few words.

As I try to settle in one of the chairs and Hossein asks me what I would like to drink, I see from the corner of my eyes, Manny giving me s fixed stare from the other side of the room. When Hossein is gone, I turn towards her and she surreptitiously starts moving her eyebrows up and down. This is a sign of MAJOR thing happening. We use this signal when we cannot talk out loud either to point out someone or something in the room. Usually it's a catty remark on someone's inappropriate demeanor or obnoxious comments. I look around eagerly but find no one in particular to be particularly offensive. People are conversing in their regular tones, and the only thing is that some of them from time to time turn around and smile at me with that same damn funny look in their eyes. I am starting to think I may have traumatized these poor Brooklyn folks with my City glamor.

I again look at Manny and she is moving her eyebrows even more frantically. I try to scan the room to see if I missed anything and catch Ali's bemused eyes. He has been observing our silent conversation the whole time! Just then Layla, Nance's 6-year old cute-as-a-button daughter comes skipping in the living room. As soon as she sees me, she screams out:

-- Oooooh OOOoooh KhAleh Naz Joon messle Mimi mimooneh.

I smile at her and open my arms as she jumps into them. Layla and I have a special bond. She looks up to me, and is probably likening me to one of her Disney Princesses.

-- SalAm Khoshkell khAnoom... pass man shabiye ki hasstam?

-- Shabiye Mimiiiii (giggles).

-- Khob Mimi kieh?

-- Mimi, oon khAnoomeh from Drew Carey Show!!! (more giggles)

I suddenly feel frozen. Drew Carey?... That show with the big fat woman? Is Layla calling me fat? Did I put on some weight? But my dress is still the same size 6 as it was last time!

I frown at Layla:

-- Layla khAnoom in harf chieh meezani? KojAye man messle Mimi mimooneh?

Layla bursts in laughter:

-- Sooratet!!!!

It takes a few seconds before I comprehend what she is saying. I look at Manny and she has stopped moving her eyebrows altogether. She just stares at me in desolation. The rest of the people in the room have stopped their conversations too and are all staring at Layla and me with the same expression the people must have had when the little kid screamed out the Emperor had no clothes.

Trying to stay cool. Still in disbelief, I pat Layla gently on the head and get up from the chair.

-- Layla mikhAy otAghetto be man neshoon bedi?

Layla is overjoyed. She grabs my hand and I make the best exit I can under the circumstances. Once upstairs, I leave Layla at her toys and go in Nance's bathroom. Horror of horrors. I do look like Bette Davis indeed. Except not the Bette Davis of "Jezebel" or even the Bette Davis of "Eve". Remember "Whatever happened to Baby Jane"? Well apparently, same thing happened to me. Candle light to apply make-up! Great idea there Naz khareh!!! Under normal lights, I finally realize I look like a freak. My eyebrows seem to have been pencilled in with magic markers. My eyeshadow shaped like two blue lakes over my eyes and enough black pencil liners to make Richard Burton fall in love with me in manner of Liz Taylor's "Cleopatra" days. My lipstick is an atrocious color, more blackberry than plum, which makes my usually pale skin look like I have been bitten and drained by a vampire. And everybody has seen me like this???!!! And to think I took those funny looks for compliments. O hubris! The gods have punished me! (Why couldn't they just turn me into a Narcissus instead???)

Now I was faced with a dilemma. Take off all that goo before going back downstairs and have everyone KNOW what a complete flake I am? Or just take it to the surface (be rooye khodam nayAram) and pretend I intended to have this look? After all, maybe it is better if they think I am just an eccentric "artist" type, rather than to know I am incapable of applying make-up until a child points out my mistakes to me?

I finally decided to compromise. I dabbed with a q-tip a slight amount from those dark dark eyebrows and eye shadow, and wiped my lips to lighten the color up a bit, then marched myself downstairs while repeating to myself in my head "You are an eccentric artist type... You are an eccentric artist type..." Somehow I managed to make it through that dinner but there is definitely going to be some explanation to do Monday morning!

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