It was in the summer of 1985 when amid my cousin Samira's colorful clothing, bottles of used hairspray and pink make-up I fell in love with the wonderful 80s. Words elude me and I am not sure whether the word “in love” captures the nostalgia I now feel every time I travel back in time.
Samira was the archetype of the 80s Iranian teenage girls. Let me explain. Samira wore her long puffy hair in a ponytail and puffed her bangs with enough hair spray until she formed a big chunky bush of hair that stood 20 cm high. She then thinned out a paucity of that bush with the aid of a comb and wore that in the form of bangs hanging down her forehead. The stark look was called the “stick-up bangs, ultra teased” otherwise known as the infamous “kakol”. Indeed, “kakol” was an indispensable part of Iranian fashion at the time and became the signature of every hip Iranian girl in the 1980s.
Samira then applied her make up, making her cheeks crimson red, her eyes light blue, and her lips fuchsia pink. She pouted her lips flirtatiously in the mirror and then danced around to Modern Talking while placing 3 or 4 slap bracelets next to her swatch watch.
As I sat on Samira's bed that particular warm summer day, munching on slightly salted, crisp goje sabz (green gages), I was fascinated by all facets of Samira's life including her fanciful room decoration. Michael Jackson covered the dull pastel walls to my right while Samantha Fox, Boy George and Madonna covered the walls to my left. Across from where I was sitting on the bed laid her stereo with tapes making their way in all directions. Her collection of wrist bands, lipsticks and florescent colored hair scrunchies were placed next to bottles of hair spray on top of her drawer, above which laid a large mirror.
Samira put on her tight acid washed jeans and laid back on her bed and zipped up until she could no longer breathe. She wore her off the shoulder pink top, put on her pink nike air sneakers and tied her shoe laces in a cross over fashion around her ankles. She then carefully put on her scarf making sure not a strand of her kakol moves out of place. She then reached for the kakol and carefully released it from under her scarf.
Samira picked up her badminton racket and with one final complacent look in the living room mirror she walked out of the house forgetting to close the door behind her. I followed Samira out of the house and into the street and proudly walked behind her.
Samira met her girl friends at Dastchin, the corner ice cream store called . Dastchin had become the most popular hang out in Tehran at the time with its serving of Italian ice cream. Girl-talk commenced shortly and I was ecstatically privy to Mirdamad gossip.
Samira spoke of Pooya, the boy who lived across the street from her and with whom she occasionally went on a secret tryst. She spoke of the late night conversations she had with him over the phone and of the late hour roof top rendezvous they held. Samira spoke of the party that was coming up at her friend Solmaz' house in a few weeks and the girls were overwrought with the thought of what they would wear to this party.
After a while of desultory conversation, one of Samira's friends challenged her to a game of badminton. Samira gladly accepted and the two girls commenced their game while keeping one eye out for the boys who would come and admire the girls' sporting prowess. As the game commenced, I perched on the sidewalk curb cheering on my cousin. I was simply ecstatic to be in the presence of such celebrities.
After the badminton game ended, the boys invited the girls to a game of vasati (“monkey in the middle”). I remained perched on the sidewalk curb admiring Samira from a distance. She exuded such confidence and didn't hesitate to show off her talent in this game. She would jump over the ball with both legs, she would nonchalantly open one leg and allow the ball to escape from under her, and she would catch the ball and gain scores for her team.
At the end of the day, I followed Samira back to the house and into her room. As I sat on the floor of her room and put my back to her bed, I reminisced about the wonderful day I had had. Boy George was playing in the background and Samira was talking to Pooya. I stayed up all night eavesdropping and wishing to emancipate myself from the confines of my age.
These were the wonderful 80s of Iran for me before the fall of 1986 when I traveled to the West with my family. Somehow when I became a teenager, my life never became like Samira's. I think the 80s atmosphere that pervaded Iran at the time was an era of its own, something that could never be recreated. Even young boys of the time, like my brother often speak of their break dancing competitions at family parties with immense nostalgia.
Sixteen years have passed by and I still find myself sitting on the floor with my back to the bed reminiscing about that wonderful warm summer day at my cousin Samira's. In the end, I salute every Samira out there who added so much spice to my 80s experience of Iran. I will always remain perched on the sidewalk curb admiring you from a distance.