This past Friday night, we went to see “” with a few of our friends. If you haven't heard of it, it's an Iranian movie about female fans wanting to get into the football (soccer to any American readers) stadium to watch the games. While this is not a controversial issue in most parts of the world, there is a social and political battle going on in Iran, where women are banned from entering the stadium.
As we were getting ready to go, I was thinking “I'm too tired to enjoy a movie, even if I do like the director.” The topic wasn't particularly interesting to me because I'm not a huge football fan (with the exception of the World Cup, during which I become a crazed fan with no understanding of the game) and I'm not especially passionate about women being allowed in the stadiums — I always think there are bigger problems facing women in Iran. But considering M had already promised everyone we'd be there, I felt compelled to go along.
The movie was good. It was funny, and I thought it did a good job of showing the absurdities of life with contradictory and illogical laws. But I liked it — and disliked it — for a different reason.
The closing scenes of the movie show people celebrating freely, happily–openly. There are no male and female; rich or poor; religious vs. non-religious. There is unadulterated joy. And it almost made me cry. The capacity and need to be happy is stronger among Iranians, than almost any other people I know. For all of our complaining and neuroticism, we love to have fun. I miss seeing that.
I miss seeing people happy for the sake of being happy, having picnics on the side of the road, eating bread and cheese with orange soda. I miss people clapping, singing and dancing, even when there is no music and there is danger of being caught. I miss the simplicity of the whole country uniting, even for a brief moment, on the joyful occasion of a soccer win. But most importantly, I miss having ever experienced those things.
As the lights went on in the theatre, two of our friends started reminiscing about the times they were arrested for talking to boys, wearing too much make-up or whatever other random excuse was used to arrest them. They giggled about the parties, the adventures and the holidays. Even the most mundane events were charged with an energy that just doesn't exist here. Of course, that may have a great deal to do with the fact that you can sing, dance, drink and talk to who ever you want here. But life is different in these United States. People have fun by going away from people they know, eating at restaurants and flirting with strangers they will probably never meet again. There is no common exuberance.
The thing is, I'm nostalgic for that exuberance that all my Iranian peers talk about. The memories I never participated in while I was in Iran, are the memories I cherish the most. I feel twice as sad at these events, once for being in exile from what I was meant to be a part of; and another time for never having been a part of that world, even when I was submerged in it. I hear my friends wistfully recall their days as adolescents and college students; saying they miss Iran, the smells and sounds and even the complications that came with the moments of joy. I miss the idea of an Iran that I never saw and never experienced. If others feel their love for Iran is like an interrupted love, I miss Iran as the lover I never had, but whose love I passionately and painfully cherish.
How strange, this power of nostalgia.