It is a summer night, in northern California, and I am watching the ballroom dancing in my third cousin's wedding. Growing up in Iran I never had a chance to learn ballroom dancing. But I always liked it, like all other dances around the world.
Dance is in my Top 10 list of favorites. I never told my parents about this. Some times I wish I became a dancer. But I was born to a wealthy, educated Iranian family. Dancing wasn't my thing.
I am watching. My uncle tells me why I don't dance, and I tell him honestly : “I don't how to dance.” He says: “Boro oon vasat gher bedeh dige… khodesh miyaad.” And I feel good that I never relieved my desire to be a dancer to my family.
My sister is standing right by me, when CY the 30-year-old son of Mr. And Mrs. GH come towards me with one of his buddies. He is an ironic combo — a healthy dish with chips and soda. An MBA holder with a steady job. A religious guy who prays and can hardly speak Farsi.
His mother expresses concern. “It is getting late. He has to find a wife.” All they want is a “nice virgin Iranian girl, with a good family background.” Oh sounds like my uncle's ex-wife, who left him and their two kids for her American boyfriend.
CY looks at me, and in a pleasant manner: “How are you?” I'm about to burst. I turn to my sister and we both try to hide our laughter. My uncle's American wife gives us a motherly angry look, and in a second CY is gone.
I can't believe it. I am that nice virgin Iranian girl with a good family background. So why does CY try to pick me up the way cowboys pick up chicks at bars? Isn't there some mating ritual in Iranian culture?
CY is confused, and I feel for him. He believes that he should at least he should get some time to know a girl before he marries her. His mother taught him that he would be better off by marrying a virgin.
On the other hand, the virgin doesn't know how to flirt AND be a polite girl. CY doesn't get it. Chicks throw themselves at him. He has a MBA, not to mention those black curls of hair, and pairs of big brown eyes which makes girls crazy for him.
He hasn't heard the word khaastegaari and dokhtare khaanevaadedaar. This is how it's done: His mother should talk to my uncle's wife (her very good friend), and then she talks to my mother and then my mother talks to my father and if they are okay with it, they come and talk to me. After all that he should come to our home and drink the famous Iranian “Chai Dokhtar Paz” tea. Then he can tell me: “How are you?”
He doesn't know how hard and expensive it is to get a nice virgin girl. Poor kid. He doesn't get it. CY's mom has been lobbying for his son's marriage for about a year (my uncle's wife told me). She even saw some girls for him in Iran. But he wanted to be with the girls a little bit before he decides to marry any of them.
At the wedding, I caught his eyes: A cheap virgin let's pick her up. Well yes, I am one of the few mid-20 virgin girls in California. It's personal. I was brought up with the idea that a girl should protect her virginity and parents would take care of the rest.
Now I sometimes question myself. Where are my parents who were suppose to take care of the rest? I am living on my own, my father and mother come and go. My siblings are scattered all over, my cousins can hardly speak Farsi. I am taking care of everything.
When I see guys like CY, I really feel bad. Am I keeping my virginity for guys like him? Guys who want to marry virgins because their mother recommend it?
I was told in high school I should be a good girl, study, go to college, and don't get a boyfriend. I finished college. I have a job, and I never had a real boyfriend (who wants to go out with a girl for more than two weeks when he knows it is not going to end up in bed. Well gay guys are an exception!) I am not that old yet, but a virgin. Never touched.
Like all Iranian girls I practiced how to make tea. And all of a sudden, I found myself here, where girls start to date when they are fourteen. My coworker was asking me how many boyfriends I have had so far. I said I've never had one. She was astonished. She knows I am not a homosexual.
She asked if I have ever been in love. I was confused. I never thought a girl can or should love her boyfriend. Girls who had boyfriends were evil, I thought. How could they love? I said: “Well , who hasn't been in love. But for me it is more like temporary feelings. They fade away in time.”
I remember the first guy I fell in love with. How can I forget? He is now in the East Coast and lives with a Chinese girl. His mother doesn't know and is looking for a good girl for him in Tehran. I never ever though I could marry him. His mother didn't like my type. But I can never forget his dark curls, or his smiles.
I called him twice but hung up when he answered the phone.
There is another family get together on the way. I have to pick a dress. One that fits our family, one that shows our decency. And there are my American cousins the same age as me. My cousin will bring her new boyfriend and my uncle will sit in his chair watching them with an angry face. He will hug me, and tell me he wished I was his daughter.
And I know my other cousin will complain that hot Iranian girls don't want to date him. I should ask him but I won't: Can you tolerate being with a girl without having sex with her? In an Iranian girl's dictionary, there's no definition for “dating for fun”.
And I have to sit and wait for another CY who picks up virgin chicks — and marries them.