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Part 16
New York, January 17

9:25 a.m.
Leeleeleeleeleeleeleeleeleeleeleeleeleeleeleeleeeeee!...... No we are not back in 1825, and nowhere in sight do I see pioneers being attacked by arrow-wielding "in'juns". But it was the prevailing sound heard at my cousin Samira's wedding this past week-end. Yup... A full-fledged Iranian Wedding, the one and only place where a bunch of women otherwise dressed and made up very elegantly start screaming in a high-pitched voice that would make all the dogs in the neighbourhood cover their ears with their paws!

Now, all kidding aside, I love Iranian weddings, including the "leeleeleelee" which I myself have been found more than once to utter happily (after a few trips to the bar). What made this so special was that for the first time in four years, this would be a family occasion where I wouldn't be hounded by the matriarchs of the family, my mother as their leader, with the eternal comment: "Nazanin KEY too aroussiye to beraghssim?!" The ultimate proof of tolerance (if not love???) Peerooz agreed to escort me to this shin-dig knowing full well he was going to have undergo many examinations, foozool questions, and generally loony behavior of the tribe I call my family. We drove to Philly where the event was taking place. The marriage was at 5, with the reception starting at 7:30. Of course, as usual in an Iranian wedding, the ceremony didn't start til 5:45, and people started showing up for the reception at 8:15.

I love my cousin Samira. She is the cutest littlest thing with her husband being as tall as the Eiffel Tower. I believe the expression "fil-o-fenjoon" comes to mind. Although I mean it totally in an adoring way. Samira's sister, my cousin Hedieh on the other hand, I cannot stand! Our parents tried to make us friends when we were kids but her lying and cheating at all the games made me so angry that I one day finally burst and pummeled her to the ground, with my fists flying around like a windmill. After that, we were not allowed to play with each other anymore. Well, old grudges never die in an Iranian family and luckily, who was the first one to greet me at the Hotel lobby? Hedieh Joon of course! At this point we had grown up enough to be able to greet each other with all the fake smiles and taarof in the world.

Tall, all bones, and with a perpetual orange-colored tan, Hedieh always looked to me like a giant dried up malakh. This doesn't deter her from her never-ending goal of husband-hunting, and many a times she has shown up with a new fiancé on her arm. She doesn't get married, just engaged. I think she just likes having a party thrown in her honor where she can show off her latest designer gown and ring. Because she is 8 months younger than me, she thinks this gives her license to treat me as if I was the crazy old Spinster of Great Expectations and she was Botticelli's Venus freshly given birth to by Mother Nature. Today, she looked like Morticia Adams with her straight black hair parted down the middle and falling almost to her hips, and a size zero long slinky black dress straight out of an S&M video, with a slit running up to her crotch. I think she felt like she was the Belle of the Ball and to my annoyance, I couldn't help noticing Peerooz momentarily resting his gaze on her very revealing cleavage (Hello! Stuffed Kleenex?!!!). Not that I could blame him. I think a blind accordion player would have noticed her cleavage too.

We made our way to the salon where the beautiful soffreh all in white and gold was set up. When I heard the familiar shrill "Naaaaa-zeeeeee" I knew my parents had made it here before us. Putting on my bravest smile and squeezing Peerooz's hand (which he sweetly squeezed back), we made our way to mAmAn and bAbA joon standing by the bar. After all the cheek kisses, I introduced Peerooz the best I could, with full professional title and alma mater. MAmAn began her interrogation right away.

-- "Khob Peerooz jAn, chand vaghte EmrikA hasstin?"

-- "Umm... 16 sAl..."

-- "Khob ghablan kojA boodin?"

-- "Ghablan Suisse boodam..."

-- "Khob, too irAn manzeletoon kojAsst, mA dar khiAbAneh..."

I cringed and decided to leave them alone while I caught up with bAbA joon. I took him aside and asked him if he was still feeling under the weather? He smiled and replied he was fine but I didn't like the look of those bags under his eyes. "Nazanin heechee nisst, peer shodam, hamin," he says. I hugged and scolded him: "In harfhA chiye meezani? Agar mAmAn beshnaveh, mikoshattett!"

The ceremony: Why is it that those guys, akhoonds or whatever, go on for SO DAMN LONG? I mean, I can't help but have the feeling these are persons who are not listened to during the other 364 days of the year and they seize this opportunity of a captive audience to pour out all they have kept bottled up inside for a whole year. I've been to so many Iranian weddings and every time the bride and groom promise the ceremony will be kept at a minimum, it never works. I have even known of one particular groom who PAID the guy extra for not rambling on for too long and it still didn't work. Meanwhile, everyone is standing in their uncomfortable stilettos, and the air is getting stuffier and stuffier: people start to step out discreetly to catch some fresh air. Well this harangue took a record hour and a half, and by the time Samira was heard to have gone "gol bechineh", everyone felt as if they were going to drop like flies.

Not that it's over at this point, no, no!!! Next comes the gifts for the arouss, enough gems and stones and bracelets and Cartier watches to open up their own jewelry business. And for some reason, there is always a foozool guest who makes it his business to stand by the bride and recite very loudly and clearly for everyone what each gift is and from whom they came. Fortunately for Samira, she gave specific instructions that everyone just hand her the box and she was going to put it in her little wedding gift bag without opening them. Good for her! I could hear my stomach growling and was fantasizing about mouth-watering Iranian dishes.

The reception, as always was the best part of the wedding. I forgot I was hungry and stepped onto the dance floor at the beginning of the night, not leaving it til the end. It was both nice and sometimes embarrassing to have to dance with my long lost relatives like my Amoo Farshid, who is really my grandfater's brother, and dances like Elaine on Seinfeld. Peerooz was a good sport and danced with everyone, from the bride to my mom to my 7-year-old cousin and of course, me!

The culmination for me of that whole evening was the humiliation of the hateful Hedieh. On a rare break from the dance floor, I was standing at the bar getting a glass of water when I heard some sounds, one of them which I recognized to be Peerooz's voice, coming from behind a column. I slowly approached and, hidden from sight, eavesdropped on the following conversation between Peerooz and Hedieh:

-- "Ohhh Peerooz, you are just SO FUNNY, you really are a card."

-- "Well...um...thank you..."

-- "You know it is so nice of you to take out our little Nazanin. You know we were beginning to worry about her; biological clock going tick-tock-tick-tock you know... Hahahaha..."

-- "Errr.. Right I guess... "

Oh nooo... I cringed. Hedieh was gonna make Peerooz think this whole thing was a trap to get him into my family's claws!!!

-- "So... Are you gonna make an honest woman out of her? I really do hope so... I mean I am so tired of seeing her run around with a bad crowd, getting into all kinds of trouble... "

-- "Bad crowd?"

-- "Oh you know... Who else are you going to associate with when you are spending your nights at discos (Discos? Gahhh!!! What are we, in the seventies?) like you were still 16? I mean let's face it... Har dokhtari yek bahAri dAreh... "

-- "Well, you needn't worry. I would stick with Nazanin through tAbestoon, pAyeez, and Zemestoon too... "


This was the moment I chose to poke my head around the column:

-- "Hiiiii Hedieh!"

-- "Heeeeyyy nAzeeee...Oh you are so lucky. Your date is such a card... I mean really funny...Yes... um... well... excuse me. I have to go tend to my sister Samira..."

A good and so-unexpected KHEET! I swing my arms around Peerooz's shoulders and he leads me back to the dance floor.

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