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Something wrong
Me and my veiled cousin

By Mona M. Maisami
March 7, 2003
The Iranian

I see the life that I could have had in the faces of my Iranian relatives. They are like ghosts of the life that my parents left behind when they moved to "Amrika," haunting us with a vision of what our lives could have been.

Their lives are not reality to me -- I was born in the US, and it is the only reality I know. My overseas relatives say that I don't even look Iranian anymore, as though it has faded out of me like the color from a pair of old jeans. I have even heard them compare my accent to that of an illiterate peasant's daughter -- they say I am "de-hauty."

I hear them innocently laughing at me when I say, "Salaam" (hello) or "Quelly-mam-noon," (thank you). I smile politely or even laugh along. But in my heart, it makes me feel incomplete, as though a part of me is missing.

My cousin Nina is a FOB -- fresh off the boat. Her family has only been in the US for three months now, and she still wears a chador and scarf. She and her family are guests in our house today, and I am in charge of entertaining her.

Nina is my age, so I feel comfortable around her and think that we may have some things in common. She may be the link that can help me relate to my heritage. I am anxious to be alone with her so that she can teach me how to be more Iranian.

I take her to a park that is within walking distance from my house. Nina's younger brother, Ali, comes along with us, too. It is a hot, sticky, humid August afternoon. I am wearing a tank top and the jean shorts that my mom bought me to wear for our dinner party.

Nina has on her traditional Islamic clothing -- everything is covered except for her hands and her face. Looking at her, I begin to wonder what my friends will think if they see my cousin and me at the park. Ali, on the other hand, is wearing khaki shorts and a black Adidas t-shirt. He will be able to blend right in with the other kids at the park.

Nina and I walk over to two swings that are next to each other. Ali heads over to the basketball court where a group of boys are playing "H-O-R-S-E."

She appears to be shy, so I decide to initiate the conversation.

"Don't you ever get hot wearing a scarf and robe? I'm hot right now in what I am wearing. If I were you, I'd be jealous that Ali gets to wear shorts and a t-shirt." I look over at Nina expecting her to give the obvious response, that she is in fact jealous of Ali.

"It's not a robe, it's called a chador. You should get your facts straight if you are going to make fun of other people's lives."

She says this and sharply turns her back. I can tell that she is not happy spending the afternoon with me. All of a sudden, I feel like I am not good enough for her.

Her scarf is made of silk and is light pink with tiny green and purple flowers on it. The colors are pretty to me, but something inside of me screams that it is morally wrong for her to have to cover her beautiful thick brown hair. I want to tear the scarf off her head and set her free. I want her to be more like me -- is there something wrong with that?

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