I met two Iranians today. Both have kind of freaked me out.
The first was a young student called Azadeh. ‘Azi’ was studying English translation in university and wants to be my new best friend.
She sat next to me on a bench and told me excitedly that she is finally going to get married this summer. Azi is 23. Her marriage was approved 3 years ago but she’s had to wait for her fiance to get a house and a car first. That’s how it works here in Iran – no house, no car, no girl.
In her purse she carried a mini album of her engagement photos which she handed to me. I opened it to see an almost unrecognizable Azi coated in white powder and cleopatra-style makeup. She was wearing a rather bizarrely low-cut dress coated in sequins and sparkles and behind her freestanding tower of curls and hairpins peeked her fiance.
In each picture they posed in varying states of dreamy marital bliss. They reclined on a black leather chaise lounge, leant pensively on a Napoleonic armoire, and (my favourite) snuggled on a red fluffy carpet holding matching heart shaped pillows.
It all seemed so simple: boy + girl + house + car = a lifetime of happily ever after with a few heart shaped pillows thrown in. Genius.
I walked back to the safety of my magical little Yazdi caravanserai hotel vowing that never, ever will I pose with my future husband on with heart shaped pillows. Never.
Then entered Vahid. That was how I met him. He just kind of entered. I’d like to say that our meeting was dramatic or exciting or full of chemistry, but it was not. He was bossy, he was grouchy, he was wearing an American style golf shirt and seemed a little cynical. He partly stared at me and partly disregarded me.
His first hello was more like a bark than a greeting. His eyebrows knitted together into a kind of scowl and he seemed tense and angry. If it hadn’t been for his kind uncle who had the misfortune of being shown around Yazd by this grumpy nephew – I would never have agreed to join them on a walk.
He said words like ‘chador’ and ‘allah’ and I instantly fell in love with Farsi. It was a language that could sound utterly parochial and literary or teasing and romantic depending on what was being said and to whom.
Vahid mentioned that his mother was a great cook. I tried to sound casual as I mentioned that I was interested in Iranian food. An invite to lunch was extended and he scribbled down his name, address and phone number. “Call me tomorrow at 1 p.m.”, he commanded, unsmilingly. “Ok” I said, delighted with myself and hoping that his mother would be nicer than he was.
I sent a blanket text message to everyone I could think of – “It’s only my first night in Iran and I’ve already been invited to someone’s house for lunch tomorrow!”
‘Slut’ replied my neighbour Justin.