Way back when .... in the early days of the revolution I lived in Tehran. I was 17 years old, married, pregnant and was obviously present during that piece of Irans history.
Prior to those early days of the revolution I always dressed with care and with respect for the religion and culture of the country I had grown to love. My family was zartoshti but the events from August '78 through to January '79 led me to wear chador when I went out for my own safety. Women I knew complained bitterly about it. The first time I wore it it felt strange and I had to practice putting it on and wearing and walking in it before I felt comfotable enough to go out into the street. It was a little like dressing up but this time I didnt have a choice.
My experience was a little different to many I guess, I actually welcomed it, It provided me with an anonymity that was simply not possible for me before. As a young western girl I attracted much attention everywhere I went. It really was unpleasant and unwelcome and I had to work hard to overcome the fear that developed as a result of the constant and unrelenting attention from men and looks of hatred and intrigue from all the women.
I loved wearing my chador. No one bothered me, I could wear my pj's underneath to go across the street to buy fresh nan barbary for breakfast bah bah. I didnt have to make sure I looked presentable, it was ok if I was having a bad hair day. I could wear what I wanted beneath my black all consumming cloak.
Years before, when I had almost no farsi at all, much against the advice of my family and friends I frequently went out alone: head strong and determined not to be dependant on everyone for everything I tried to go about my business, shopping, visiting, or simply site seeing, orientating myself with my neighbourhood and gradually as I grew bolder and more confident, to places further afield, like the bazzar! I never got lost there .. I heeded the warnings and created my own system to find my way around, Anyway I digress, thats another story.... So in those first few months, when I dare not admitt that I had ventured out alone during my husbands absence from home, I was more than a little perplexed when car after car used to stop and the drivers talk to me from their windows ... how innocent I wss. I thought to myself, 'why do they ask me for directions when I so obviously look like a foriegner!' Later when I finally asked my dearest friend and cousin Roshanak, I was shocked! and quickly learnt to ignore it.
I can't begin to describe how intimidating all the attention was. It took away my confidence and I dreaded what I knew would happen everytime I stepped outside the door. I had a small teaching job .. english of course. I managed to survive it for a week before I had to leave because it was impossible to walk through the corridors of the college without an entourage of young men.
So fast forward to the present day ..... I had to renew my passport this week and took my self off to the embassy to get the process underway. No chador this time but of course I had to wear roo sari. I wasnt looking forward to it ... Im not so young and interesting these days and neither am I so shy, but when I speak farsi, ppl want to listen, it still attracts the interest of many. Ppl want know how I came to speak farsi, conversations flourish but the embassy waiting room wasn't a place where I particularly wanted to get into any of that. Again I had to practice a little, try different styles until I felt comfortable and I reminded myself of my grandmother who was often seen wearing a head scarf.
You know something .... again it was not such an unpleasant experience. Of course I realise that here I have a choice unlike our sisters back home. Again it provided me with a modicom of anonymity. People kept asking me 'khanoom ..... what does this mean' 'where do I go' . ... do I look like I know?? !!! And many were kheile fozool, craining their necks to look in my directiion ... I have pretty neat accent!
I have no idea if I will feel the same when I reach Iran later this year. I'll let you know.
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