March 7, 2003
The Iranian

Part 22

March 18

-- "Maamaan! Left or right?... Left or right?... DO I TURN LEFT OR RIGHT?"

I am screaming at Maamaan to make up her mind as we are dangerously close to the intersection. Whose idea was it to let her give the directions to my cousin Hedieh's wedding? Oh yeah, I remember, it was Baabaa, who wisely decided to stay behind and join us there later.

-- "Aaaaah Nazanin mano hol mikoni!" Maamaan screams back at me.

(You are hurrying me!)

Finally, she triumphantly exclaims: "RAYTTT! RAYTTT! TERN RAYTTT" as she motions in the left direction with her hand.


I make a guess and turn left.

-- "A-haaan! Didee? Allaan miressim." Maamaan smiles.

(See? We are almost there.)

Soon enough, we pull up in front of the ritzy Biltmore Hotel. It's huge, gaudy, and expensive. Just the kind of taste I would expect from Hedieh.

Not that I should talk. My mother made me splurge on a red Versus dress that is so tackily bright and exposed, my cheeks are almost the same shade of red in embarassment. Since I had no money to spend on an evening gown, Maamaan was holding the purse strings and she decided on this one or another horrible pouffy concoction the color of human bile. At least this is an A-line skirt so I won't feel like a hippo ballerina traipsing around in a puke-green tutu.

We are greeted at the door by Khaaleh Sanam and my cousin Sami, who looks mortified to see me here. Hey? Why is she acting like I am the sore thumb here? By all accounts, I should be the one glaring at her for keeping her sister's wedding a secret from me. I really thought she was a friend, but now I see that after all, she has more in common with the evil Hedieh than I thought. As I enter the ballroom where the "aghd" ceremony is to take place, she tries to follow me in and talk to me, but I just pretend like I don't see her and settle in with Maamaan in our seats.

We are, as usual, more than fashionably late, so the salon is already full. As my butt hits the chair, the first sounds of "dadadam...dadadam...dadadam...", our own persian version of the Wedding March, starts playing. The doors at the back open to reveal the bride and groom. Out of vanity, I of course haven't worn my glasses, and I have never been a contacts person. So I try to squint as surreptitiously as I can to get a good look at Medusa and her prey.

At first, the glare from Hedieh's diamonds prevents me from distinguishing her traits or that of the groom. She has them everywhere, on her tiara (where are we, a Southern beauty pageant?), her ears, her neck, her arms and fingers. She even has diamonds sewed into her dress, which is so skin-tight it seems painted on. I can almost see the bones protruding from her emaciated figure, which is even more anorexic-looking than usual. After all these years, Hedieh is still the same shade of orange tan that she has been since she bought her very first tan-color lotion at the age of fourteen, which gives from afar the strange impression of a carrot wrapped in white gauze.

Miaoowww... I hate being so nasty and catty. I have to get a grip on myself. This is her wedding day. And no matter how I try to badmouth her, I can't escape the fact that she is a tall, beautiful girl who looks genuinely happy. I have to control myself and let bygones be bygones. As usual, I will take the higher road and wish her a ...WWWWWHHHHHHAAAAAAAAA????????????

What the...?..............

At the risk of smudging my mascara, I rub my eyes to make sure I am seeing what I am seeing. I also check my breath to see if I have inadvertently downed some alcohol, which would alter my vision. But no... I am perfectly alert. And this is really happening.

On Hedieh's arm, the dark, handsome groom has a devilish smile, eyes covered by long, romantic eyelashes, hair slightly gelled back to reveal even more of his square-jawed Superman good looks.


My cousin and my ex-boyfriend: I can't believe my eyes???

This is the guy that I was dating last year in New York, long before I met Ali. I actually was foolish enough to fall in love with him before I found out that he was cheating on me with an albino model, of all things! Last I heard, they were engaged, and she had the big rock to prove it. So how the hell has this happened?... Peerooz and my cousin? How? When? Where? Why?

I feel faint. To the scandalous looks of my neighbors, and the irate left-left look of my mother, I get up from my chair as discreetly as possible and head out. There is just no way in hell I am staying for this spectacle. It is too much. I need a drink.

I go to the hotel bar where I ask for a shot of vodka. As the bartender begins pouring, I thank him and grab the bottle. Before I can escape, I find myself nose to nose with Sami, who is looking at me with big, scared eyes.

-- "Naz! Can we please talk?"

Reluctantly, I set the bottle back on the counter.

-- "Sami, what the hell is going on here?"

-- "Naz", She replies with a sigh, "I am so sorry, you must think I am the worst friend. But believe me, I was just trying to protect you from more hurt. I think what Hedieh is doing is terribly wrong. I was just hoping she would get on with her wedding and get out of town, before you found out anything."

-- "How did this happen?"

Sami sighs.

-- "Are you sure you want the details?..."

-- "Sami!!!!..."

-- "Well, I'll try but I'm not too close to her or anything. You know Hedieh: She has had an average of twelve engagements every year so... at first... I didn't take it seriously when she told me she was getting married... Apparently, they bonded in the aftermath of 9/11..."

-- "What????" I almost choke on my vodka shot, "Waiter... please make the next one a double..."

I continue downing the vodka while both the bartender and Sami looked at me alarmingly.

Well that is just perfect. Leave it to Hedieh and Peerooz to turn the biggest tragedy experience by my beloved hometown into a romantic setting. This is not that surprising actually. Before the smoke had cleared, there were all these reports that couples had been brought together by the horrible event. Experts said it was a renewed awareness of mortality that made people reprioritize their lives and jump into loving relationships. I say, it was because the TV stations halted all their programs and people had nothing else to do.

Cynical? Horrible? Disrespectful? Say what you will, I am in no mood anymore to restrain my cattiness.

The question is: How the hell am I gonna go through with the evening?

I reluctantly head back to the salon with Sami. The "aghd" is mercifully over and the bride and groom have gone back upstairs in their snakenest... oopppsss... I mean lovenest... to do god knows what.

Maamaan tries to take me aside and chide me but miraculously, Baabaa shows up at the same moment and saves me. I sigh in relief when I realize that neither of my parents have recognized Peerooz. After all, they only met him once, briefly. The less explanations the better. We spend the "intermission" mingling with various relatives and friends that we haven't seen in years. This is the only semi-nice part of the evening. There are a lot of aunts, uncles, cousins, and childhood friends I haven't seen in years and we enjoy catching up with each other. The only awkward pause inevitably comes when they ask me about what I do for a living. When I say I am trying to act, they all look at me with the same pitiful look and then turn to my mother, who has lowered her eyes in shame. Grrrrrrr...

The reception hall is mercifully finally opened and we go to our designated tables. The bride and groom appear shortly thereafter "dadadam...dadadamm..." Dammmn that song again! This time, after pickling my liver into a bottle of Absolut Vodka, I feel much easier at seeing them. When they finally come round to our table, I see both Hedieh and Peerooz visibly gasp at my sight. But it's only for a split second. They are the real actors here, not I.

The evening's entertainment is, as predicted, loud and obnoxious. A woman in a wedding gown that has been obviously dyed peach and 5 inches of black roots belying her blonde mane, cackles and whines her way into several Googoosh, Ebi, and Dariush songs. God awful! She looks like she has been teletransported from the set of a seventies-era film farsi to torture us in the future. And naturally, she is completely enamored of herself and does not shy away from showing it.

-- "Salaam azizaan" She purrs into the microphone, "Man Nassim hasstam, and aye aam going too breeng breast of fresh air baraayee tammaame shomaa! Lelelelelelelelelelelelelele.....Yee-Haaaaaa..."

Yeah right! As if, love.

Thankfully, the torture subsides and dinner is served.

An overly bosomy Iranian lady and a middle-aged man with silver gray hair come over to our table. Instantly, Maamaan puts on her social mask and adoringly introduces us. Oh brother, this must be the guy she is trying to set me up with. The poor man has buck tooth and the worst breath this side of the Pacific Ocean. So when his mom proudly tells me he is a dentist, it is all I can do to stifle a chuckle. Nobody else seems to be getting the irony of the situation so I decide to ditch them and go out for a smoke.

I start wandering in the parking lot, hoping I can find some solace. As I hide behind one of those beastly soccer-mom SUVs, a curious scene unfolds before my eyes. Ms. "Nassim", the fobollah-y singer, is making her way to a dark limousine parked in the back of the parking lot. What? She is leaving already? It's not even 11 pm yet, mere breakfast time in Iranian wedding time. But she gets in the back alone, no driver in sight. What the...?

Oh. My. God.

Who am I seeing lurking about discreetly, eyes shifting suspiciously right and left, making quick leaps from car to car in an attempt at hiding: Why if it isn't that peach of a male specimen, and lucky groom Peerooz!!! Come on. Even I didn't think he could stoop that low. My jaw on the floor, I observe as Peerooz leaps to Miss Nassim's limo, no doubt to sample that "breast of fresh air" she was talking about earlier.

The funny thing is, I could laugh, smile, gloat but I don't... I just feel this immense, immense sadness. This is so ridiculous, a farce straight out of Luis Bunuel. Why oh why all this hypocrisy? Why reduce the beautiful symbol of marriage to this ludicrous level? I almost want to go back in and hug Hedieh. But she would just look at me like I was crazy.

By midnight, I finally convince my parents to get out of here. I decide to take them to my diner for a late night cup of hot coffee and Sal's famous Apple Strudel and Vanilla ice cream. As I see Maamaan relaxed and happy, feeding Baabaa spoonfuls of ice cream, I wonder if my generation has lost that certain intangible something, that makes marriages like my parents work so well.


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