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January 12, 2003
The Iranian

Part 14

February 14
5:36 p.m.

Stuck in another traffic nightmare this time on the 101 when my cell phone rings. It's Chloe. I try to utter "Hello" but after almost ten days spent screaming my lungs out on camera, I can't even whisper without a scorching pain moving up and down my throat.

Today, mercifully, my Hollywood breakthrough role as "Woman in close-up screaming at Return of the Attack of the Killer Tomatos" has come to an end. It is fitting that my first foray into acting in Tinseltown doesn't even consist of a line, just a whole lot of screaming and a tortured facial expression. Believe me, I have plenty in my life right now to easily come up with a tortured facial expression on cue.

-- "sup Naz?"

-- "Nada... Just stuck in traffic as usual..."

-- "How did it go with...?"

-- "The movie? It's over, thank god!"

-- "Great! So you're gonna be free tonight?"

I get suddenly suspicious. I smell a set up coming a mile away.

-- "Chloe!!! Forget it! I'm not going on a blind date, I don't care how cute/rich/smart he is... I told you, I'm still..."

-- "What? Pining away for someone who dumped you?"

Grrrrr... When Chloe wants to get something, all her claws are out.

-- "I just don't feel social okay?"

-- "But Nazzzzz... It's Valentine."

-- "Forget it Chloe... I just would ruin your evening..."

-- "But Naz..."

-- "Whhheewwww...Wheeeewwwhhh" I start blowing into my cell phone "Oh...ooopppsss... I think I'm losing my connection Chloe....Byeeee"

I hate hate hate Valentine's Day. When I don't have a boyfriend that is. And even when I did have a boyfriend, I still resented this so-called holiday that puts so much pressure on women's already thin self-confidence. I mean for days on end, you are bombarded through the radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, movies with Valentine commercials, Valentine love songs, a special Valentine episode of "Friends", Valentine dinner specials, Valentine red paper hearts decorating everything from your drugstore's yeast infection medicine shelves to the local butcher's Valentine Sale "Meatballs" Specials. God forbid you don't have a special someone in your life at that time of the year, you feel like the biggest loser on earth.

Not to mention those annoying women who take a perverse enjoyment out of advertising the fact that they, as opposed to you, are loved, pampered and desired. You know the ones: On Valentine's Day, they purposely wear a red sweater, a red pin, or a red barrette in their hair, anything short of a giant billboard proclaiming to their less fortunate sisters that they have a man. I knew a girl at the office I worked at long ago in New York who on Valentine's Day received a single red rose from her supposed boyfriend. Well, she spent the whole day carrying the single rose with her wherever she went. She would rest it on her desk, in full view of the rest of the staff, while she typed away at her computer. She would fidget with it playfully while sipping her coffee in the company cafeteria. She even took it with her to the washrooms! Later on, we all found out she had sent the rose to herself, which made us all feel immensely better. Yes, this is what it's come to for us women on this most "romantic" of holidays.

This Valentine has been worst than others for me. Not only do I not have a boyfriend, I feel like I very well may have had my last chance at a serious relationship. I'm going through that phase where I am convinced that I am an unattractive, dumb has-been who's going to die an old "torshideh" maid. I can imagine all the relatives in my family, Maamaan at the helm, gossiping about me and pointing me out to the younger generation as the "One who didn't get married."

On the radio, Tom Likus is encouraging male callers to cruise their local bars and nightclubs tonight in the hope of scoring with women desperately trying to fill their loneliness. What a jerk! Normally, I enjoy him on a very surreal level during these long drives home. But today, I have no patience.

I switch the radio to 670 am and it's the Dr. Holokouie show. A teary woman is on the air. For half an hour, she tells Dr, Holokouie (and the entire Iranian community in Los Angeles) about her sob story:

-- "Doctor...Sniff Sniff... Boyfriendam mano emrooz dump kardeh... (My boyfriend dumped me today) Boo Hoo... Rooze Valentine Day!... Ugh Ugh... Az Iraan be man zang zadeh migeh mikhaad aroussi koneh!... (He called me from Iran and said he is getting married...) Arrr Arrr... Baa dokhtar-amoush!... (to his cousin!) Sniff Sniff... Maa baa ham 3 saal doost boodim... (We were dating for 3 years) Boo Hoo... 3 taa bacheh ham daarim... (We have 3 kids together) Ugh Ugh... Be man ghol daad baa man aroussi koneh... (He promised he would marry me) Arr Arrr... Migeh baabaash majbouresh kardeh baa dokhatr amoush aroussi koneh (He says his dad is making him marry his cousin) ... Sniff Sniff... Vali Aghaye Doctor, khodesh 49 saaleshe, baabaash 89 saaleshe che joori misheh hanooz ba harfe baabaash goosh bedeh? (But Doctor, he is 49 and his dad is 89, how could he still be listening to his dad?)... Migeh hanooz mano doosst daareh... Ugh Ugh... (He says he still loves me)... Doctor fekr mikonin hanooz mano doosst daareh? (Doctor do you think he still loves me?) Sniff Sniff..."

After a pause, Dr. Holokoui replies:

-- "Shomaa bacheye chandomeh khanevaadeh hasstin?"

(What number child are you in your family?)

Oh man! This is so depressing. Am I going to come to this one day? I shudder at the thought.

Ali has not called me for more than ten days now. It's really over. Or is it? Sami keeps trying to convince me to talk things out. When she went to his place a couple of days ago to get the rest of my things for me, she told me he looked miserable. No Shohreh in sight. He asked how I was doing, just wanted to know if I was okay, whether I needed anything. Sami says that I need to deal with this right now before it's too late, and that I can't run away from my problems. I tried to laugh it off.

-- "Oh yeah...famous line... Isn't that what Norman Bates told Marion Crane before he offed her?"

Sami sighed:

-- "Nazanin... sometimes it would be nice if you stopped living in the movies and joined the rest of us back on earth."

Aouch!!! Her criticism had all the subtlety of a Jake La Motta punch.

Sami's point definitely had me thinking over the past few days. I have been itching to dial the familiar numbers and get in touch with Ali. But I don't think I want to do it until after Valentine's Day. I just wouldn't want to do it for the wrong reasons, being all emotional and feeling sorry for myself. If I still feel this way after this manipulative holiday, then I will call Ali. And then, maybe... Who knows?

6:47 p.m.

I get home and Chloe is whinier than a two-year old child in front of Toys R Us.

-- "Naz...pleeeeaassseeee.... Puuuuhhh-leeeezzzzeeee... Do this for me! I promised my guy I would bring a girlfriend so we could double date with his friend. Please say yes! As a favor to your favorite roommate!"

-- "My favorite roommate is Artie!"

-- "Naaaaaaaazzzzz....pleeeeaaaaaassssseeeee!!!!"

Aaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggghhhhhhhhhh!!! I can't take her whiny voice anymore! I reluctantly agree to do this ONE-TIME favor for her, if she will promise to leave my love life alone from now on. As a secret revenge, I decide to make sure I look most unflattering so she learns her lesson once and for all.

The guys are supposed to pick us up at 8:00 p.m. At 7:45 I am still on the couch with Artie, singing along to Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music.

Chloe comes out of her room all made up, hair, face, killer outfit and all. She lets out a horrified wail at my sight.

-- "Naz!!! Come on hurry! They're gonna be here any minute!"

I roll my eyes and get up. I wish so much that I could spend this evening curled up in front of the TV with Artie! PBS is having an old Hollywood musical marathon. Now I normally don't like musicals, but I love a few: Sound of Music is one of them. Cabaret is another. Two slightly different takes on the Nazi era! But it all works for me.

I drag myself to my closet, where of course, I realize I have nothing to wear. Tonight's date is supposed to be casual chic whatever that means. I just opt for some black pants and a hideous silk shirt maamaan gave to me for my last birthday: It is mint green with large yellow circles on it.

At Chloe's request, Artie is brushing through my hair in the hopes of creating a halfway decent look but it's no use. The humidity of the last couple of days have upped the frizz factor and my hair strands just won't stay still. I look like I've stuck my fingers in an electric outlet.

8:15 p.m.

The sound of someone knocking at the door turns Chloe pale with fright. After forcing some lipstick on me, she drags me to the door, to greet our dates.

The gentlemen who are going to share our evening are two lawyers. Ugghhh!!! Already I am readying myself for an exciting evening spent discussing the finer points of the latest civil code amendments. After having worked for a grouchy old attorney back in New York, all the glamour put on this profession by TV shows and movies has long worn off.

Chloe's date seems like a nice enough Joe Everyday, although as bland and square as can be. His name is Marc and he does mergers and acquisi...snooorreeeee!!!

Meanwhile, my date introduces himself as :"Doctor Ahmad"

-- "I thought you were a lawyer?"

-- "Yes, I am" He replies grinning " I am known in the community as Doctor Ahmad."

I resist the temptation of introducing myself as Mistress Zelda, Queen of Darkness.

In the car, Chloe whispers to me:

-- "So what do you think? Marc told me his friend was Eye-ranian, so I thought he would be perfect for you!"

-- "Chloe?" I sigh " Do you say 'Eye-talian' ?"

She looks at me dumbfounded:

-- "No of course not!"

-- "Why?"

-- "Because it's ignorant."

I look at her waiting (hoping) for the lightbulb to go on. Sadly, it never does.

8:48 p.m.

We are at El Cid, this weird, out of the way Spanish restaurant that looks and smells moldy. The framed pictures on the wall evidence a glorious past but that was back in the forties and fifties. Tonight, nary a patron inside the deserted dining room. Except for... What in the hell are those?

-- "Chloe!" I whisper between my teeth "What are those camera people doing here?"

Chloe just whispers back "Shut up Naz, this will be good exposure for our careers!" and walks faster on ahead. When we are seated in our booth, I realize with horror that I have been left in the dark about a little detail in this evening's plan... WE ARE BEING FILMED AS A SEGMENT OF A TV DATING SHOW!!!!!!

I keep kicking Chloe under the table to let me get out of our booth but I get Doctor Ahmad instead, who immediately thinks I am playing footsie with him and grins at me adoringly.

The cameras are all in our face, as our host shoves a microphone between my nose and my soup plate, asking for my comments. Before I have time to throw a few choice words his way, Chloe grabs on to the microphone and coos: "Oh Charles, we are so happy to be part of this episode of 'Date and the City', aren't we guys?"

The two lawyers nod their head enthusiastically. Doctor Ahmad adds a cheery: "Hi Mom, hi Dad... I am Doctor Ahmad!"

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! What kind of a nightmare is this? Even by Valentine's Day standards, this evening rates as worse than the time my mom set me up with a khaastegaar who asked me if I was a lesbian because I wouldn't stick my tongue down his throat on our first date!

A-Ha! I have finally caught sight of the only escape from this evening!

-- "Waiter!" I cry out "Bring me a jug of Sangria!"

-- "Oh what a great idea!" Says Marc "I love these exotic drinks"

I glare at him. Actually I meant to have the whole jug to myself. Oh well!!!

10:45 p.m.

Hehehehe... It'shhhh... like.... (burp)... 3 jugsssszzz of Shhhzzzz...Szzzssaaangria later and... (hiccup)... I musht shay... Thissshhh iiiissshhh ... by faaaaarrrr... the bessshhhtttt Valentine'ssshhh Dayyyy.... Ever.....Hehehehe

Doctooorrr Ahmmmaadd issshhh shooooo cuuuutteeee... I luuurrrvveee heessshhh bald heaaaddd... (hiccup)... I keeep runnniiinngg my handssss on it... hehehe... and ashhkkinnngg: "Genie Genie! If I rub youuuuu guuuudddd, will you grant me the-reeeee wheeeesssshhheeeezzzzzzzzzz????"

11:57 p.m.

Wow!!!! I have never sobered up this fast in my life. As we were all getting out of the restaurant and heading towards the car, TV show cameras in tow, a woman about 4 feet tall and 200 pounds weight suddenly jumped out of the bushes and into the arms of Doctor Ahmad. She started beating his face, shoulders and chest and screaming out profanities at him in persian.

-- "Pedar Sag.... Fellaaannn felaaaannn shodeh.... Mikoshamett.... Pedaretto dar miyaaram!"

The woman was soon followed by an army of photographers, and cameramen who seemed to attack us from all sides like the last scene from Scarface, when Al Pacino's mansion is being besieged by Columbian hitmen.

I just stood there, numb, wondering what kind of dating show this was. But apparently, the new camera people weren't on our team.

-- "Hey hey hey wait a minute here, what's going on? Who are you?" Our TV host Charles exclaimed.

To which a skinny bespectacled Latina woman with an attitude, wearing a Columbo-style raincoat and dark sunglasses replied: "I am Maria Conchita Fernanda Costas-Aguila, from the TV show 'Caught'. This woman hired us to follow her husband, whom she suspected of cheating on him."

Maria suddenly turned to me:

"So? How do you feel ruining the lives of a family of four?"

I opened my mouth but no sound came out. This always seemed to happen to me when I most needed to say something! Luckily, just at that moment, Mark and Chloe pulled up in the car and motioned to me to jump in.

"That's right!" Maria uttered venomously as I stumbled in the passenger seat and we took off "Run away bitch! That's what you do best!"

Last I looked, Mrs. Doctor Ahmad was still beating on her husband, while what seemed like hundreds of cameras were hovering over them, like vultures fighting over a piece of rotting meat. This signaled the end of the evening: Happy Valentine to me!


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