“Well you see,” says No. 3, “I am after all, ehmm, an eligible bachelor and when I visit Iran, the girls are… ehmm… all over me.”
I call him “No. 3” because he is the third serious Iranian suitor I have had. Already, put off by his arrogance and audacity, I am contemplating whether this game should begin at all. However, maman, khaleh, et al., are relentlessly on my case, waiting for the match to begin. And at nights, images of a giant aubergine torshi in a pickle jar haunt me before I go to bed.
I decide to give in. After all the game only lasts 90 minutes (more like 90 days). I blow the whistle and the match gets under way. The audience cheers wildly (they include my maman, khaleh and maman bozorg ). I remind the crowd (to no avail) that the mere fact that No. 3 wears the red, green and white of our country does not make him a worthy opponent. Secretly, I wish my opponent is a knight in shining armour, a tactful professional, an Ali Daei or Ali Karimi. Wishful thinking.
I must explain that I am the referee and player. Call me a control freak, but I prefer to keep things in perspective. No. 3 is a tactless defence player. His favourite strategy, which he himself calls “my defence mechanism”, is based on the the need to guard his feelings from those ruthless forward attackers (Iranian girls), who are out there to get him.
But before you picture No. 3 as a shy, 20-year-old sweetheart resembling Saeed Kangarani in Daie Jan Napelon, I assure you that he is on the wrong side of 30, and 12 years older than myself. And no manners. At midnight he persists on dropping me off on the opposite side of the road, instead of in front of my door. He is constantly rude; using words such as “khafeh” and “benaal”. So I give him his first warning; a yellow card.
No. 3's tactics are all too predictable. I listen to him rant against girls who have rejected him in favour of “materialism” and “worldly possessions”. And he goes on about his disappointment at their interest in designer items and other luxuries. Meanwhile he is oblivious to my Gucci shoes and handbag.
He lost his previous mating matches not because the girls were cheating. One had “too many Arab friends”, another “went to parties and even had the audacity to smoke a cigarette in public”, and the third committed the unforgivable crime of being almost 30. Racism, sexism and ageism rear their ugly heads as the game continues.
No. 3's no better when he leaves his defence position and goes on the attack,. No roses, not even daffodils, no sweet notes, no wining and dining. Instead he tries to get physical. But I have my own defensive strategy: “I do not believe in premarital sexual conduct. No, not even a kiss. It is completely against what my coach has trained me to do.”
In an attempt to impress, Mr. Moneybags (he is actually Mr. Scrooge reborn) is constantly bragging about his substantial bank account. I have a strong urge to inform him that his green notes will never buy him what he most lacks: class, dignity, and integrity.
No. 3's is coached by his maman joon and khahar joon who often sit on the sidelines and give him directions. Like Chiro's support for our national team, maman joon comes to her son's rescue when I remark that he had better make use of his expensive gym or he will start looking like George from Seinfeld. She defends his looks by insisting that her sister's neighbour's daughter (who?) adores men with protruding guts. So that's that: Justification of No.3's beer belly.
Ordinarily, this would not be the norm, but in this match, it is a re-occurring situation: No. 3 financially supports his immediate family. This is why the coach does not criticise his player because he pays her rent. God forbid if this precious player, this star, makes an error! He would not qualify for the World Cup.
At some point in the game, No. 3 is offside, and I abruptly raise my flag. He asks for my hand in marriage in a chelokababi over two sikhs of koobideh. How romantic. When I ask him, why he wants to score and win so early in the match (we have been tackling each other for only 60 days now), he makes a vague attempt to show affection and mumbles, “I do like you.” Na baba!
During one of our boring courting rituals, curiosity gets the better of me, and I ask whether he has ever paid for sex . No. 3's answer: “There is no difference between sleeping with a prostitute and sleeping with your wife. In the end you have to pay both of them.” I promptly show him the Red Card and toss him out of the field. Game over. Yours Truly (1) – No. 3 (0).