I read today's cover story, "The
woman we wanted to be" with interest. Laleh Khalili is a thoughtful,
thought-provoking writer whose imagery is lovely and easily grasped. As
a regular reader of your magazine, who just happens to be a zan-e aamrikaie
married to one of your countrymen, what I can say is that the angst expressed
by Ms. Khalili's essay is more the angst of Woman -- not just the Iranian
Her longings are the longings of women in general -- just the names
are changed. Only a woman can understand the tides that rush in and cover
the shore and then draw the sand back out into deep ocean as they go diving
back to sea; these are the desires of Woman. No man can understand what
it is to be a woman and sacrifice self to the extent that a woman does
(particularly if she is a mother). No man can understand -- completely
-- the war of desires within a woman.
The desire to be happily committed/resigned to being "only"
a mother; the desire to become "all" that she has in her to become.
We women recognize that being a mother is a high and holy honor, truly
the "hardest job" -- and that is not meant in the condescending,
patronizing way it is usually doled out to women here in America -- yet
it is disdained by the cultural attitudes toward motherhood (in the U.S.)
and held down by the cultural attitudes toward women (in Iran).
It is a constant battle to understand the self, to delve deep and ask
ourselves what matters most. To break out of cultural expectations and
find out what our own expectations of ourselves are. Women feel this confusion
around the world--but it is only when our "consciousness is raised"
that we have to enter the fray of battle within our own thoughts.
Before we "know better", we don't ever bring up those longings;
what would we do with them once we recognized them? We don't allow our
feelings to really come out. We never have to suppress our desires, our
longings, push them down, tell them to be quiet and stop confusing us.
It is only when we bring them out and look at them, like a box of odds
and ends that must be sorted, that we have to make decisions about what
it means to be a woman.
And even then, the answers come in paradoxical sets. Beautiful, but
intelligent. Sweet, but clever. Yielding, but fiercely protective. Submissive,
but fully alive. Quiet, but opinionated. Goal oriented, but living in
the moment. In the end, we must choose what matters most. And for most
of us, what matters most is what lasts longest--love. And giving up ourselves
for others, our husbands, our children, our parents, our friends. In giving,
we are blessed and made full. In hoarding for ourselves, we end up in
an empty room surrounded by our accomplishments.
Thank you for a well-written glimpse into the secret mind of a woman.
May our similarities unite us and our differences only enhance the experience
of living together on planet earth. After all, at some level, the experience
Ms. Khalili describes so aptly, is the experience of being human.
Walking away with "yearning under my skin", I am,