New York, January 17
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
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.