Only two people would call me at 6 in the morning. My ex-wife Narges from Tehran or my mom from Florida. This time, it was Narges.
She said she needed my permission for something regarding our daughter Mahdiyeh. It reminded me once again that I was not just a single guy living thousands of miles away in New York.
— “Mahdiyeh wants to play the guitar.” — “Yeah . . .” — “Yeah . . . What do you think?” — “Well let her play the guitar.” — “It's not that simple. We have to find a private tutor and buy a guitar. Somebody told me they knew someone who was selling his guitar for 200,000 tomans. Send . . .” — “I'm coming to Tehran in a month. We'll talk when I get there.” — “One other thing . . .” — “Yeah . . .” — “Mahdiyeh wants to go to dance classes.”
Fine, I said. Why not. I first thought, Mahdiyeh is almost 13 and too old for serious ballet lessons. But she just wants to hang out with her friends during the summer and do a little dance too. A week went by. I called Tehran to speak to Mahdiyeh.
— “Hi! What's up?” — “When are you coming?” — “Next month.” — “That's what you said last month.” — “I got my ticket. I'm coming. How are the dance lessons going?” — “Good.” — “Did you learn to stretch and jump around?” — “Yeah.” — “Where did you get the ballet tights and stuff?” — “Ballet?” — “Yeah. Ballet.” — “Dad . . . I haven't been going to ballet classes.” — “…What then?”
Raqse qarbi! That's exactly what she said. I was too shocked to ask for details. Western dance lessons in Tehran? I didn't know what kind of dance she was talking about, but I had a feeling it was far more “provocative” than ballet.
When I got to Tehran I asked Mahdiyeh. She refused to answer all my questions because she knew I would have a good laugh if I could put the pieces together and imagine the whole picture.
I got some basic answers though. Mahdiyeh had already completed five, one-hour lessons with four other girls at a private house. Their fiftysomething teacher was a woman with a very peculiar name that rhymed with Uranus.
I begged Mahdiyeh to show me what she had learned. It seemed she was not too sure about her new dancing skills. She would only show me some moves as she sat in a chair facing me.
From Mahdiyeh's hand gestures, I got the impression that Ms. Uranus had not shaken her booty once in her life. Either that or she had taught the kids a weird mix of moves from the days of the twist and “Saturday Night Fever”.
Mahdiyeh did show off her more traditional dance skills though. Iranian dance. She was good and you could tell she knew she was good.
As her mother and I sat across each other, Mahdiyeh turned on the tape recorder and took the floor in the middle. She danced her heart out. Anything to make dad stay.