My name is Lance,… well that's what my dad calls me. My mom likes to call me Raheem. I am a kid… nearly a teenager really, so you might not think what I want to say is important, but I want to say it anyway.
I read Aghaye Bahmani's, Persian vs. Iranian, Khanumeh Sohrabi's, Playing footsie with facts and Aghaye Mohsen's I'm from Purrrsia. It is interesting to discover that adult Iranians have so much trouble agreeing on who and what they are. Whether you want to call yourself Iranian, Persian, or just a cuddly fat cat is okay with me because in the end you all accept one another as part of the big Iranian family. Some us, including me, are not accepted as part of the big Iranian family. I'm not crying about it, I just telling it like it is. My mom disagrees, but she is fooling herself.
You see, unlike my mother and most of you, I belong to a group of people with Persian…. oops… I mean… Iranian blood in our bodies, who are not really accepted by most Iranians. Probably most of you never even think about us. We are pretty much invisible to you. Who are we? We are the mixed kids of Iranians and non-Iranians. In me and my sister's case, we are Ameranians.
An Ameranian is just like an Amerasian. You know, those kids who are half-American and half-Vietnamese who nobody accepts; we are just like them. We aren't alone though. The world is full of Canaranians, Britranians, Frenranians, Japranians, Koranians, Indranians, Pakranians, Germranians and many, many more. All of us grow up with one foot in two worlds, neither of them accepting us completely, however. We are the children of you brothers and sisters, but most of you do not regard us as part of you at all.
Since most of you have not ever given us much thought, let me tell you that we come in two types:
The first type is where the our baba is the Iranian and our mom is the non-Iranian. The second type is where our dad is the non-Iranian and our mom is the Iranian. Type I kids are more accepted by Iranian people than Type II kids. Your acceptance is not complete though and is always given with a lot of hesitation, even for Type I's.
Those in the second group are really difficult for many of you to stomach, especially Iranian men. Me and my sister are Type II's. I have a cousin who is a Type I because my dad's older sister married an Iranian man. Among Ameranians there is competition between the first type and the second.
My cousin, Reza, sticks it in our face that he can have two passports because his dad is Iranian, but since our mom is, we are of a lower class of Ameranians. At least that is what Reza likes to joke about. Reza is a jerk, but he is like me and he knows it full. I'm sure we will always stick together because birds of a feather flock together.
No matter what a butt-head Reza is at times, he knows how it feels, just like I do, to go to Iran and have family members treat us like we are freaks of nature. Reza told me that when he went to Iran last with his mom and dad, his Iranian cousins wanted to show him off to the neighbors, like he was some kind of pet dog or something.
He said that they would talk bad about him while he was standing there even though they knew he could understand everything, or at least most of what, they said. Reza told me they said he was they're dumb foreign cousin who couldn't speak Farsi very well and they joked about his funny accent and his cloths and stuff. He said that he was happy when it was time to leave and come back home.
I know how he feels exactly, but being a Type II Ameranian, my Iranian relatives like me even less. Everybody that is, except my baba bozorg and maman bozorg who always try to make me feel loved and like I'm part of the family. My cousins, though, treat me like I am from outter space. My mom tells me every time we go that I should try to get along with them and understand that they are just curious about me. She doesn't want to accept that they hate me because they feel I don't belong and I don't fit in.
Last year, for example, we went to Iran and my cousins wanted to go outside and play. I was 11 then and they were 9, 10 and 11. They said let's play war, so I said okay. Then the middle one, Hassan, said let's play “kill the Americans”, and I said let's play, “kill the Iranians.” They said, “but your mom is from Iran.” I said “yeah, but my dad is from America!”
Then they wouldn't play with me at all for the next two weeks. They just ignored me. I guess that I should be happy they didn't make fun of my Farsi though, like Reza's cousins did. I think that my mom spent a lot more time torturing me to learn Farsi than Reza's dad did with him.
I don't know for sure, but those of us with Iranian moms sure seem to have it a lot harder than kids with Iranian dads. My mom forced me to learn to read and write and speak and for what? So, the people who read and write and speak her language can make me feel like I'm from Pluto? Yeah, Reza got off a lot easier than me growing up!!!
Reza and I get the same treatment from our American cousins, too. I think my dad's younger sister never liked my mom much or his dad. Everytime we are around her family, they are just a little toooooooooo polite. My aunt doesn't seem to understand that you can't out tarof a tarofer and believe me, my mom wrote the book on tarofing. I can always feel the tension in the room when my mom and my aunt are together.
My mom isn't comfortable with any of my dad's family, really, except Reza's mom. All of our American cousins have blond hair and blue or green eyes. We don't. My sister and me look a lot like our mom and Reza looks like his dad. We all have brown eyes and brown hair. Our cousins never let us forget that we don't look like them. Whenever terrorists do something terrible on tv, they always ask us what we think about it. I guess they think we must support them since we have dark hair and eyes like they do.
My dad and mom have been married a long time. They were married in the olden days before cellular phones or PCs, if you can believe that. Sometimes I think my dad is kind of weird and gross. My sister, who is a lot older than me, thinks so too. When he thinks we can't hear them talking, he tells my mom stuff like she is “one hot Iranian chick” and that “he wants some sugar.” It's not sugar he wants at all though.
My dad is like the Ever-Ready Bunny and I bet my poor old mom is just hoping his batteries run down one day. My sister says he should act his age instead of his shoe size. She says there is nothing more gross than thinking about your parents “getting it on”. One thing is for sure though, my parents love each other and us and me and my sister know that will never change.
Although me, my sister and even our cousin, Reza, have grown up in a psychotic atmosphere where one parent is singing Googoosh and the other Garth Brooks, all three of us have always had our parents love and acceptance. Sometimes we got our cultures mixed-up a little… like the time when I was in kindergarten and Santa came to my school. I thought that he was Hajji Ferouz and I asked him why he was turning white. My dad said it was because Hajji Firouz and Michael Jackson were one and the same.
Another time, when my sister was younger, she went camping with a friend's family and they built a campfire. My sister tried to show the kids how to jump over it like on Char Shambeh Soori. My mom still laughs when she tells the story of how the mother of the friend came to her very upset, telling her my sister kept trying to get her children to jump into the fire. She said that she knew they name of a good child psychiatrist that could help.
As I have gotten older, I have learned that when American kids see my mom, or hear her speak, many of them look at me differently from then on. They think that I am less American than them. When Iranians see my dad the same thing happens, except they completely treat me as a foreigner even though I speak Farsi as well as their kids. I know I speak without an accent because my mom began teaching me to speak when I was a baby and my grandpa in Iran has told me many times that I speak without an American accent.
We get the cold shoulder from both sides. That's why I said at the beginning we have one foot in each world, but aren't completely accepted by either. Don't cry for us though, cry for yourselves. We know, accept and like who we are, but you guys don't seem to accept who you are. You can't even agree among yourselves who you are. Whether you want to call yourself Persian, Iranian, or Fat Cats, you should thank your lucky stars that you all have a lovely country and a culture to be proud of.
Whether you wish to one day accept us fully, or not…. one thing is for sure. No matter how different you think we are from you… we know we are in many ways the same. My mom tells us to be proud of being Iranian, like her. But, we know that we are not like her. Regardless of that fact, I will always be proud of who I am because it makes my mommy-joon happy, I want to put all people from Iran on notice who call themselves Iranians, Persians, or Fat Cats that as an Ameranian, I claim my Persian/Iranian/Fat Cat heritage and so do my sister and Reza, too!
About the painter
Ali Dadgar is having an open studio at 1556 Seventh Street in Oakland (CA, 94607) on June 5, 6, 12 and 13 from 11am to 7pm. Closing reception Sunday June 13, 8 pm. For information call 510 251 1636 or email email@example.com.
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