In a recent article, one of your writers advocated to young Iranian girls not to get nose jobs so as not to lose our Iranian identity [“Diana not”]. I couldn't help laughing because all my life, there has been one specific, very Iranian part of my body that I have always wanted to get rid of, and it is not my nose.
I guess you could say I have been blessed, through some genetic fluke, with a non-Iranian nose so I never had to worry about that. Not that it makes any difference in my life as all my Iranian acquaintances just assume I had the nose job anyway.
– “Damaaghetto iraan ammal kardi yaa injaa?”
– “Na, in damaaghe khodame.”
– “Eeeeehhhhh?” (then under their breath, “Aareh jooneh ammash”)
Other people assume I am “do-raggeh”, what with my light skin and eyes, and the fact that I don't like to go around with tons of make-up and jewelry (My Nikes are my most precious gems). But I am not mixed, I am a 100% genetic product of pure Iranian-ness. If I ever doubted it, I only have to look down.
That's right, my problem is not my nose, but my oh so very Iranian hips. By hips, I am using a very broad (excuse the pun) definition: I mean the whole area covering my posterior to my “love handles” to my belly. Let me explain what Iranian hips are.
Until the age of 12, I was basically a toothpick: no boobs, no behind, and my ribs kept trying to poke through my skin at an alarmign rate. Some of my weightier relatives were appalled at my weight. I was equally appalled to be seen in public with them. I was taking ballet three times a week, and other sports and regular horsing around the other days of the week.
Being fat was my worst nightmare. I remember when at the year-end ballet show, the whole audience gasped and tried to contain their laughter when one of our heavier ballerinas hit the stage. She truly looked like one of the hippo ballerinas from Disney's “Fantasia”.
Then, puberty hit. Almost overnight, I finally understood that I was not immune to the Curse of the Middle-Eastern Hips. All the women in my family were to put it in a politically correct fashion “curvy”. Well it was true, they weren't fat in a American- Jerry- Springer- overweight- monstrosity- that- hasn't- been- able- to- get- up- from- bed- for- 12- years- way.
Most of them had thin legs, and a thin upper body. But the region defined previously as “hips” was the Bermuda triangle of their body, where everything stopped making sense and where you could get lost in the endless folds and rolls of skin.
It was like a protective layer, an extra belt of fat that went round and round; a belly like the most perfect mosque dome, defiantly peering through the most suffocating of those essential Iranian female garments, the famous “gen”, a sort of body stocking that is supposed to contain your Iranian hips to fit into that lycra micro-mini. A pair of buttocks, so perfectly round and bouncy, they looked as though they could be dribbled and shot through a basketball net.
Now mind you, I did not achieve this wonderful peak right at puberty. But surely enough, by the time I was in full bloom as a woman, I had become the exact replica of my mom and my aunts, albeit 20 pounds lighter: but the same exact body shape, like a snake that has swallowed a rabbit, a thin tube-like body with a round bulge in the middle. No matter how many sit-ups I did, how much jogging, that extra pouch of belly, the stubborn roundness of my butt, the cruel width of my hips, none of it went away.
Finally, all those generational years of eating pollo khoresh and all those noon barbaris had caught up with me, even though I have never spent a minute in Iran. I had Iranian hips, my most distinctive Middle-Easter character in my otherwise neutral, almost WASPy appearance.
In a Western culture, especially an American one, big hips are a big no-no, at least for the White segment in the population (this is ironic as the majority of Americans are overweight, but the media image of the perfect body seems to be a 12-year-old-girl's body with a 22-year-old's breasts).
Ever since I got my Iranian hips, I have noticed that I can't venture outside without an eclectic mix of Black, Hispanic, and Middle-Eastern men making goo-goo eyes at me or worse, making catcalls (“Woo!…That's what I am talking about…mmm….mmm…mmm”). I guess those are cultures where the bigger is the better.
I read somewhere it has to do with macho cultures where women are still seen in the traditional role of mothers and wives, and that big hips are the symbol of fertility and therefore considered attractive by the opposite sex. I don't know if I really believe all that anthropological stuff but at least it makes me feel a bit better.
I may not be everyone's type, but I am at the top of the food chain for certain entire populations! HA! That almost makes up for all the insecurities I feel at the gym, where I never venture without a sweater wrapped around my waist. Or the bitterness at living in a fashion era where everything is concentrated on the belly button! Or my ballet teacher taking one look at me after the summer when I hit puberty and exclaiming: “My, my, haven't we fattened up!”
After so many years of dieting, exercising, and sucking in my stomach, I have finally resigned myself that I have to live with my Iranian hips.
Now don't get me started on my hair…