Aaaahhhh! The teenage years Too young to be admitted to night-clubs, too old to hang out with your parents. So, how are you supposed to engage in that most important of teen-age rituals? I am talking, of course, about pessar-baazi!
— “Maamaan, misheh shanbeh shab berim coffee shop irooni baa Maddy?”
— “Shanbeh shab cheraa? Baabaat doosst nadaareh shab beree biroon, migeh sholougheh. Shanbeh bad-az-zohr baa ham mirim, etefaaghan maamaan bozorgett havasse shirni-khaameyee kardeh, dombaaleh oonam meereem va…”
— “Maamaan!!! Mano Maddy mikhaaym khodemoon bereem!”
— “Chee chee???”
— “Hameye doosstaamoon meeran bedoone pedar maadaraashoon, maa ham mikhaaym berim.”
— “Bah bah! Cheshmam roshan! Cheshmeh baabaat roshan! Shab tanaayee mikhaay beri Ghaveh Khooneh? (She put a particularly venomous accent on the word Ghaveh Khooneh) Digeh chi? Pass cigaaram bekesh digeh, veesskee ham bokhor Laa-ellaa-allah-laah!”
All of a sudden the innocent family coffee shop had turned into a seedy “Ghaveh Khooneh” where no doubt my mom imagined legions of moustached jaahels clapping for a thick-ankled table-dancer wearing a mini-skirt and platform shoes under her chaador.
I tried to stop her but my mom was on a roll. She went on vociferously for about fifteen minutes about my lack of respect and the corruption of being raised in khaarej, compared to when SHE was a child in Iran, where of course she was a chaste saint who would never dare cross her mother with such a bold request.
If my mom had been raised the “wrong” way in Iran, she now couldn't control her “hippie” daughter (She still used the vocabulary of the 70s where “hippies” symbolized the biggest threat to social order). Her own mother only had to lift one eyebrow to rule the household of seven children and… on and on and on until I couldn't take it anymore:
— “Maamaan forget it baabaa!!! Ghalat kardam!!!”
And I ran back to my room where I frantically dialed Maddy's number. She could still hear over the phone the sounds of my mom's monologue coming from downstairs. It's funny how once you got my mom going, it was like winding up a toy, and you had to patiently wait while she went through her routine mechanically, oblivious to the fact that she had no audience. (Maybe she was taking God as her witness?) Once she was on a roll, my mom was as unstoppable as the Energizer Bunny, not likely to run out of steam for another half an hour or so. But I digress.
Maddy laughed over my faux pas and said I watched too many American sitcoms where child-parent relations are ruled by the motto “Honesty is the best policy”. Since Maddy had lived in Iran for a long time, she had become an expert in covert operations, that is, how to surreptitiously go around parental restrictions while keeping an angelic cover. She told me to lay low for a few weeks and wait for Plan B.
When Rosi-Joon stopped the car, I was about to tell her I had changed my mind but it was too late. Maddy had already opened the door and stepped out confidently. It seemed for a split second, all conversations had stopped and a hundred eyes were on our car, waiting to see if I would finally emerge.
Maddy and I made our way inside the coffee shop, at the end of the queue. This was a perfect point from which to recover our senses and timidly look up from the pavement where my eyes had been riveted ever since I was thrown into this Iranian sea.
The girls wore enough make-up and hair-spray to have been able to lead an entire Third World village to Halloween celebrations. They favored tight tops and painted on jeans, with platform sandals or stiletto-heeled boots on their feet. They all clutched their designer purses (Fendi, Gucci, Dior) on one hand, and their cell phone on the other. Standing in groups, or seating at tables, they were very busy pretending to be deep in conversation, all the while swinging their hair and cackling loud enough to attract the notice of the eligible bachelors nearby.
The guys seemed much more laid back. Or perhaps it seemed so at first glance. For on closer look, there could be no doubt they had spent as much time as the girls on their “casually” put-together outfit. Their uniform consisted of short-sleeved designer shirts over dressy dark jeans, accessorized with thick gold chains around their neck or their wrist. They all unanimously smelled of Calvin Klein's Eternity for Men. (To this day, I can't smell a whiff of that fragrance without remembering those carefree summer nights.) They had one hand on their cellphone and the other playing with their car key chain (usually a grossly magnified BMW or Mercedes symbol).
The faux campers had brought a backgammon set and they played all night, the message being that they were here for a wholesome purpose only and not for the girls. It was like a contest between the girls and boys: who could ignore each other the most? Yet they were all there for one reason only: To check each other out. (Maybe even slip a phone number!)
After a long line-up, Maddy and I finally got to order our triple – non – fat – single – sprinkle free – double – non – sweetened – caramelized – Albanian – Coffee – Beans – picked – by – Tibetan – Monks – in – the – Australian – Outback – frappucinos. By this time, half of our precious allotted time of freedom had already elapsed.
We proceeded to entirely ignore each other, all the while taking eyefuls when we thought they weren't looking and vice-versa. One of the guys I thought was pretty cute. He looked like my teen idol of the moment, Charlie Sheen. Albeit a fobbier version of Charlie (bushier eyebrows, puffier hair). To my great surprise and horror, “Charlie” suddenly got up and started walking Oh god! Could it be? Oh no please god, no! He seemed to be coming towards me!
At that time, I had never EVER talked to a boy outside of the classroom, and I felt like a deer caught in headlights when “Charlie” actually leaned down towards me.
— “Bebakhshid khaanoom, yekassi shomaaro baa telephone “page” kardeh.”
For one terrorizing second, I imagined my mom's warnings about having “eyes” in the back of her head to have materialized. She had found out about my deception and was now waiting to chew me out over the phone! But I recovered quickly enough to realize this was just a pathetic pick-up line. Nevertheless, my voice felt like an un-oiled door hinge when I replied to him:
— “Bebakhshid, shomaa az kojaa midoonin mano page kardan? Mano ke nemishnaassin.”
“Charlie” answered like an old pro.
— “Aakheh poshteh telephone goftan shomaa khoshkeltarin dokhtareh injaa hasstin, ineke fahmidam ke shomaa ro migoftan.”
ALSO By Niki Tehranchi
Tehranchi's features index