The older I get, the more I am utterly perplexed by my parents relationship and how they interact with one another. What I used to mistake as real fighting between the two of them, when I was much younger, I now know wasn’t and isn’t real fighting at all, but I can’t say that I know what it is. Since I am unable to see how my friends’ parents interact when strangers aren’t around, I don’t know if my parents are different from other couples, or just like everyone else’s parents. I’m not sure if the tension between my parents is normal between any man and woman who have spent three decades together and know everything, or nearly everything there is to know about each other.
Adding to the complex relationship between my parents is the fact that they are from different cultural backgrounds: my dad is American while my maman is Iranian. My parents in many respects seem to mix nearly as well as oil and water. Dad is as laid back and easy going as he can be while my maman is as high strung and wound up tighter than anyone I know, except perhaps my maman borzorg. Notwithstanding there many differences, my parents seem to understand one another better and care about one another more than anyone else could.
I have been a witness over the years to how my maman, being the control freak and perfectionist she is, tries to run our home like a well-oiled machine. At the same time, I’ve witnessed just how stubborn my dad can be when he feels that my mother is being too pushy about something. Absent the cussing and the big bucks, my parents relationship far more closely resembles Ozzy and Sharon than it does Ozzy and Hariet. It’s as if the irresistible force and the immovable couch potatoe decided thirty years ago to get married and have kids.
I don’t even try to pretend to understand the dynamics of their relationship, and I’m not sure if Sigmond Frued could figure the two of them out if he were alive today. As a couple they are a complete mystery to me and my sister. We could more easily solve the Riddle of the Syphynix than we could the Riddle of Fruitcakes’ Love.
One minute my mom is ripping my dad a new rearend for something as petty as bringing home mushy peaches from the supermarket and the next minute she can be calling him her Sweet Peach. The two of them can go at one another like cats and dogs when arguing, but they never seem to get angry…I mean really angry…with one another. What’s really strange to me though is that while they will argue, insult, and demean one another for hours over the dumbest crap, they would never permit a third person to argue, insult, or demean the other. Whenever it comes to an outsider, they are extremely protective of the other. Another thing about the way they fight is that I’ve never heard them say anything really hurtful to the other; you know, the kind of thing that would carry a lasting sting. They raise their voices all the time, but never to a point of being hurtful…it’s as if their hearts aren’t really into it.
Having watched the two of them all my life, I can say without the slightest hesitation that my maman starts 95% of the arguements my parents have. My dad, being laid back like he is, will let her shout and carry-on until he has had enough. He is like a volcano in that way. She’ll keep on pushing him and pushing him verbally, knowing full well just how he will react and he keeps smiling and letting her vent, all-the-while repressing his temper until he reaches a point where it EXPLODES! That’s when she knows its time to drop the subject, but too late, he is just getting started.
Last week, he was trying to watch a ball game on TV and she kept nagging at him over something trivial. Eyes glued to the television screen, he kept saying ‘uh-huh dear, yes dear, ok azizam, I will honey’ as he tried to keep his focus on the game. With each answer that came from his mouth as if his brain were on auto-pilot, my maman’s voice got louder and louder and angrier and angrier. The louder she got, the more he raised the volume and the closer he moved toward the TV screen. He couldn’t win that, though. If I’ve learned one thing from my mother in life, it’s that Khuzestani women don’t take being ignored, very well.
Finally, when a commercial came on, she snapped at him and said, ‘Have you been listening to me?’ He said, ‘of course.’ When she asked him what she had said, however, his face went blank and she knew she had him. Then the arguement turned from what she had been ranting about in the first place to how he never listens. When she wouldn’t let him get back to his game, he temper began to rise until finally he exploded.
He roared that he didn’t listen her because other men didn’t have wives with Tourette Syndrome, like he did (she doesn’t really have Tourette Syndrome). He asked her if she remembered the 1970s cop show, staring Robert Blake called ‘Barreta’ which she did. He said you remind me of Baretta becase he was pushy, and so are you, but there is one difference. Being married to you is Baretta coming face to face with Tourette Syndrome because of all the nonsense that just flies out of your mouth without you seeming to be able to stop your little lips from flapping.
Then he started calling her ‘Taretta.’ Although I could hear them just as everyone on the block could, I knew they they weren’t r-e-a-l-l-y fighting, so I wasn’t too concerned. After a short while, I came from my room and asked a fairly unintelligent question: ‘Are you two fighting again?’ Instantly, my dad replied, ‘We’re not fighting, but Taretta, here, won’t leave me alone while I’m trying to watch a friggin’ ball game.’ Trying to stay out of the fray, I tried to reason with both of them. I told him that if he’d just listen to her, she’d let him watch his game and I told her that if she’d wait until his game was over, he listen to her.
As expected they both looked at me as if I had committed the gravest sin in the world-by taking the middle ground. I rolled m eyes, threw my hands up in the air, and turned and walked away, leaving these two nuts that I call dad and maman to hash it out for themselves like they always seem to do. About two hours later, I walked into the den and what did I see? They were both asleep on the sofa. My mother’s head was on his shoulder and they had their arms around each other. I think the only thing they can’t stand more than each other is the thought of not having each other to love.
I wonder if other people’s parents are as baffling as mine?