Stereotypes all have some truth to them. For example, the myth of the biological clock controlling the destiny of single women. I will talk of my own experience in that domain and put forward the proposal that the myth has been created less out of a supposedly inborn maternal instinct than from the sense of duty and pressure coming from those around Iranians, from acquaintances to the closest family and friends.
I had the extreme luck of being raised by a father who taught his daughter that her worth was not measured by physical traits or being able to attract the opposite sex, but by wisdom, intelligence, independence. I concentrated on my studies and always had the vision that I had to be able to stand on my own two feet in life, without being forced to rely on anyone.
Nothing that happened in my childhood really contradicted that idea… until I hit my teens… that's when the tick…tick…tick…of the biological clock surreptitiously invaded the background of all my activities, as disconcerting and imposing as the mythical war cry of remote African tribes.
However, that tick-tick-ticking did not originate internally, it came from outside. When I was 16 and excitedly explaining my life plan (university, dream career, traveling) to a distant relative, he abruptly interrupted me and said those dreams would only be realized if I managed to 'snag' a rich husband.
If it was anyone else, I would have lashed out, for I had my share of chauvinist male friends. But this was a family member, someone I trusted (at least until that time) and I was hurt.
The seeds of doubt for the first time were implanted in me. If this person who had known me all my life, and claimed to love me, thought I was not good enough to make it on my own, was I just deluding myself ?
Tick…tick…tick…the distant drums started their monotonous rhythm. The older I grew, the more I realized the pounding sound. There was no wedding or dinner party or even restaurant outings that would take place without the drums rolling.
Sometimes, it would be as 'innocent' as a family friend praising me on how I had grown and how soon could he/she attend the wedding? Other times it was as intrusive as mere acquaintances and sometimes complete strangers asking my parents very seriously if they could come 'khaasstegaar' for their son/nephew/2nd cousin twice removed. My mom would jestingly say I had but just recently got rid of my toys. My dad would just blush, embarrassed.
Today, I am in post-graduate studies. I have had a pretty good academic career so far and am looking forward to my 'dream' career. Still, when my mom tells her friends of these things, they nod approvingly and ask eagerly: 'Wow… so when are you going to make her a bride?'
It seems as though my academic path has just been some pre-requisite or some sort of resume that puts me in better standing than other brides in the Great Big Race towards the altar.
Tick… tick… tick… As hard as I try to ignore it, the drums keep banging away in my head. It seems all my accomplishments are 'nice' and 'neat' but when is the BIG DAY, the ULTIMATE PRIZE going to come ?
I think only in this type of culture would a 22-year-old girl be made to feel inadequate because she is not engaged or married with kids already. So the next time you want to poke fun at an Iranian girl seemingly driven by the single obsessive idea that her biological clock is running out, just think that this might not be entirely their fault.