I enter my parents' house. They are not home, having left town to celebrate my father's birthday with — what else? — a weekend at a Palm Springs casino. I can hear my brother tapping away on his computer at the other end of the house, and direct myself into the TV room. There, I eye the two couches to assess which will offer a better perspective and choose the one closer to the door. Sweeping my brother's dirty socks from before me, I fall back onto my throne.
A guy named Josh Groban comes and serenades the next NASA flight team. In the tradition of all things American, before we cut to 4 hours of what we can anticipate will be a merciless flood of the results of ridiculous advertising budgets, the government apparently felt it necessary to plug federal spending. He sings with sincerity, taking his part in the evening more serious than the teams themselves do. I try to drown out his warbling and note to myself that he didn't think twice about donning a wool scarf… in Houston. When a chorus of awkward children join in, I know I am ready for the next musical exercise.
I listen to the anthem belted out by Beyonce Knowles and marvel at not only her incredibly powerful voice, but her impeccable hair. Is that suit Chanel?
My brother has not retreated from his cave to say hello, but my parents have called to let me know that they are still on the road. They're sorry to be late and look forward to watching the game together, mom says, but there was another casino on the way back and they had to go “investigate”. No matter. The game is 0-0 and I have yet to see a commercial that really makes me laugh.
Things are starting to pick up. In our household, I mean. The garage door has flown open and mom and dad are home. Mom rushes into the tv room with a bag of goodies from a far-flung designer outlet mall. Christmas is about to revisit the Ghahremani household. As she begins to ruffle the tissue paper in the bag, my American blood curdles.
“Mooooooom, it's the Super Bowl. Ugh. LATER! Sheesh!”
I roll my eyes but don't want to miss any more of the game. She looks at the television and waits for a commercial break, only to be greeted with more of my screaming.
“NOT DURING THE COMMERCIALS! NEVER DURING THE COMMERCIALS! DON'T YOU KNOW ANYTHING?”
The glow of gift-giving washes from her face and she shuffles from the room. A month ago, I would have heard the anxious clicking of a lighter echo from the kitchen, but her New Year's resolution was to quit smoking. I quickly reflect upon my snappiness and assess that: 1) I am a bitch, and 2) only on Super Bowl Sunday would this make me a very good American.
Before these thoughts can sink in, mom has returned from the kitchen with a diet coke and the resolve that she will watch the Halftime show with me.
Enter Janet Jackson. Before the first verse is out of her mouth, my mom begins what I fear will become a running commentary. “She looks just like Michael, but natural. She dances like him too.” I am proud of my mom for recognizing who Janet is but for some reason feel the need to pick a fight.
I keep one eye on the television and decide that this is an important time to fill her in on the “Jesus juice” gossip (and Muslims get a bad rap on TV?) she has missed while out hitting 21 in the desert.
When P.Diddy comes out, I feel the need to point out the useless trivia that he is not “just” a rapper, but a well-educated graduate and entrepreneur.
As the show continues, I feel an increasing obligation to be a cultural ambassador. As the performers change places, I'm not sure how to explain Nelly, the next rapper, to her. As soon as he's begun, we're back to the Shamed King of Pop.
She points out that “Everyone does that now-ever since Michael Jackson.” (What, mom?) “The grabbing thing. They all grab themselves now!” She is right, and I wish for the show, and this awkward cultural tour, to end. How can I sit and listen with any self-respect to Nelly holler “Ass is bodacious” in such direct proximity to a true poet who reveres Hafez?
I feel some sort of relief when the camera pans. That is, until I realize that we are being greeted by the disturbing sight of Kid Rock in an American flag poncho. (And this is the same nation that refuses to let you burn it?)
Before we can “enjoy” his performance, Janet is back, and this time she's joined by Justin Timberlake. I am now genuinely excited, explaining to mom how he's filling in the very shoes of Michael Jackson (see “Jesus juice”, above).
It is thankfully before I can confess to her that I've paid to see him in concert that he begins running around after Janet and — spanking her. Not once, but every single chance she gets within grabbing distance.
As I watch a man spank a woman on television with my mother, I am acutely aware that I want to fall into the cracks of the couch and join the legions of tokhmeh that therein reside. The camera pans out for the infamous baring of Miss-Jackson-If-You're-Nasty's breasts, and I sense that we are all somewhat relieved that the game is back on.
My father peeks around the corner and asks what we're watching. For someone who religiously monitors world events, I search my mind for ways this event could have escaped him.
As he surveys the room, his eyes zoom like lasers, focusing on the dog hair that has coated the carpet in his 48 hour absence. He promptly decides that RIGHT NOW is the time to clean. He disappears for a moment, returning with a broom. He then sweeps up and down the hallway, stopping to alternately comment that my dog is disgusting, and my brother needs to shave.
Halfway down the pike, he stops his sweeping, looks in and asks, “How long is this going to go on?” My mom excuses herself to go prepare dinner and, if I know her, to occupy him so that I may watch the conclusion of the game in peace.
But he will not be budged. Arm on the broom, he watches one team score (We're Iranian. Does it really matter which?). But dad is too smart for this game. “Tsk. See, now the other team will get it and score. Uh oh. Watch.”
I hear the distant clicking of my brother on the computer, and know that I will never again wonder why he is not an athlete. They adjourn for dinner.
The game is heating up. In the last 3 minutes of the game, Mom has returned with a plate of steaming food for me. Hearing our furor over the fact that “Muhammad scored!”
My father's curiosity has gotten the best of him and he sneaks back into the TV room. My brother soon joins us at the couch for the grande finale. My parents cheer in unison “kick it straight”, and Vinatieri hears them.
As the Patriots win, we all cheer and show our commitment to American pastimes by watching the blah ceremony crowning Tom Brady MVP. When my mom mentions that Brady is a pro-Bush Republican, I sense that Dad may have just become more interested in football.
Without further ado, the players retreat to their locker rooms, Mom goes to brew a round of chai and we change the channel.
God bless America.