Can They Come Too?

Life is bathing in the lake of present...*


Can They Come Too?
by Nazy Kaviani

From "Kissing all the frogs" series.

I live in a dangerously thin, long, and deep stretch of space, which is my identity. I live in America, taking daily pains to practice what I know well—being an Iranian. On good days I think I have the best of both worlds. I am free to live, to be, to think, and to talk, because I am in America. I am surrounded by wonderful friends that Americans are, loving and supportive and respectful of me. I am free to love Iran, to follow its news, and to appreciate its music, poetry, and art, among all the other cultural elements I follow.

On bad days, though, I feel lost, belonging to this land never, and belonging to the old world no more. When I lose my balance and fall off my thin stretch of identity, I am lost for I am neither Iranian nor American.

My friends have asked several times whether they could introduce me to their single American male friends. They say: “Jim is a nice man, a good man, an architect. He is handsome and fun, and he is lonely. We think you two will be so good together.” I say: What would I say to Jim? Talk politics? O.K. We will talk about George Bush. We will talk about Obama and elections. Talk social issues? We will talk about our mutual disgust for Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. Talk life? We will talk about our past experiences, our triumphs and failures. We will talk about our children and their individual characteristics. Talk spirituality and the environment? We will talk about religion and global warming. Then what? What will we talk about?

Can Jim and I talk about Sabzeh Meidoon and Tehran Bazaar on a smug-ridden weekday? Can we talk about Sohrab Sepehri’s Sedaye Paye Aab, reading the passage which says: …zendegi abtani kardan dar howzcheye aknoon ast (Life is bathing in the lake of present..)? Can we talk about the nuances of Forough’s Fath-e Baagh? May we be engrossed in talking about Ahmadinejad’s latest antics? Can I convincingly tell him about my trip to Ghasem Abad Olya, a village on the boarder of Gilan and Mazandaran provinces? Can I tell him about the eerie feeling of Khaneh Mashrooteh in Tabriz? Can I describe the strange and sad and sweet feelings I felt watching an Ashoora parade in Tehran? Can he listen to me tirelessly while I play track after track of sweet Alizadeh music, describing how he wrote Neinava, and how I saw his many live performances, and how they made me feel?

On certain nights, can I inexplicably take my Hafez book and make a wish and open the book to cite my Khajeh’s words of wisdom and hope? Can Jim understand fully what it meant to grow up a tomboy in Tehran Pars, riding bicycles and fighting with boys who grew up to follow me home and carry my books, a few years later sending their mothers to my house for khastegari (asking for my hand in marriage)? He might. He will have to, if I am to bring him into my life. I can only go to any Jim’s life, if Hafez, Molana, Sohrab, Forough, Alizadeh and Ahmadinejad can come, too. I have yet to meet such a Jim. Have you?

* Sohrab Sepehri's "The Footsteps of Water" 

This piece was first published in Peyk in September 2007.



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We're all good and different

by Monda on

Nazy jon, I have a hard time generalizing relationships. There are times when I feel myself blessed for not living with an Iranian man for all these years because, I have lived most of my life around non-Iranians; it's difficult for me to see eye to eye with an Iranian man 24/7. On the other hand, if my daughter falls in love with an Iranian-anything, I'd be as happy as a mother can be, only IF the man shares the same values with her, loves her, cares for their relationship as much as she would, etc.

Now, can I see eye to eye with my European husband, 24/7? Heck No! Because of all the reasons in my upbrining in Iran that you described so beautifully in your piece. I can never make him relate to being an Iranian, as he can never make me relate to growing up in Europe. But what we have in common has been enough to keep us as a team long enough for me to say this: It has been a learning experience! I have learned to focus on commonalities rather than exceptions or exclusions, I have loved learning about similar cultural patterns in his family (in fact I have adopted some myself, long discussion, here or backchannel not unlike mine in Iran but at times with a twist). 

Our relationship is not complete, or as balanced as I'd wish it to be, because I have been to his country many times, have had access to his past...heck I have even met his  favorite 2nd-4th grade teacher! but he has never been to Iran and he has no clue why I get teary-eyed as I read a story or read a book in Farsi, or see photos of Iran.... But it is him, that is the kind of person that he is. Plus while I'm at it, let me confide in you that I still don't stay quiet when after 18 years I hear a nuance of a generalization about Iranians. (Just as much as I dislike it when someone refers to Italians as mostly money-motivated or big-talkers, vain, etc...)

Nazy jon, forgive me if I sound corny but in all, I love to look for exceptions to the rules and believe me they ARE out there, I see them all the time and they are not all gay, tourist or married either :o)

By the way you wrote "On bad days, though, I feel lost, belonging to this land never, and belonging to the old world no more. When I lose my balance and fall off my thin stretch of identity, I am lost for I am neither Iranian nor American.", I'm there with you sister and it's not getting any better as years go by either! 

I love your writing. Thank you for sharing your personal "Real" stuff!


> thanks

by Another Lost Iranian in France (not verified) on

Nice reading you Nazy, I totally understand you.

Another REALLY Lost Iranian in France


Nazy jan: I think these are

by goforit! (not verified) on

Nazy jan: I think these are all excuses. You're just not ready to have a relationship because you think you don't deserve one simply because you preceive your previous marriage as a failure...You did not fail, he did.

You need to let go of the past...There is a whole new world out there. Don't be afraid! Your friends are here to take you through it.

Nazy Kaviani

Thank you!

by Nazy Kaviani on

Thank you all for your very kind comments and for your participation in the discussion. Thank you for sharing your valuable personal experiences with me and others. I have been reading your comments intently and learning from them.

Just to be clear, because so many of you pointed this out, I should mention one thing. I did not mean to generalize and over-generalize the point. Though I may not have met too many Americans who love the things I do, I have met plenty of Iranians who don't! So, while I was trying to make a point about the cultural differences, I didn't mean to make blanket statements.

I hope this discussion goes on. In the meantime, thank you all for your very touching sentiments. At some point I will address some of the points you have raised in a separate piece.


Khashayar every dream comes to and end

by Rjab (not verified) on

As I said in Nazi's other piece it depends on the age group. While you are in your 20s or 30s you have time to chase a dream and wait for the right person but when you are in your 40s or 50s time is money and you can't wait for ever. Of course you always can but you can loose an otherwise valuable relationship.

Before you know it you'll be collecting retirement and in your 60s and all these talk become less important and you just want to live your golden years in peace with or without a mate.

You always "wake up" from a dream, otherwise you're just "dreaming" ;-)


Nazy jan, I also think it

by Anonymous on

Nazy jan,

I also think it depends on the person and how much interest he has in knowing you and your past and the country you came from. I am gonna have to be honest with you, I still have not talked to Jay about Sabze Meydoon.. but believe it or not, I have got Fale Hafez for him.. He know Hafez. He knows the story of Simorghe Attare Neyshabouri and he knows ta'arof and many other things in our culture very well. It may take us a few more trips to Iran before he feels comfortable with everything. But I can tell you from an experience that the effort and interest he has in learning about my culture and my language makes it hundred times sweeter for me than anything else. It is simply a proof of our love. I obviously know that if I had married an iranian, I would have had it easier in some aspects. But it would not have necessarily brought me the respect and the love I receive from my husband.

A friend of mine (American) who is married to an iranian guy was telling me the other day that Sohrab Sepehri is her favorite iranian poet and she enjoys forough Farrokhzad's so much. So I would not necessarily generalize this idea based on where your partner would come from.



Dreams are meant to be desired, not discarded.

by خشایار (not verified) on

Nazy, I may be pessimistic but you may hardly find such a man Iranian or not in reality. Now, does that mean you should not "desire" Him? Not at all! On the opposite, desiring the One who is absent and keep looking for Him in unexpected places and moments can add depth, enthusiasm and meaning to our everyday life, the very way that our memory becomes even more clear in the most banal and uninspiring situations. What matters is not the reality, but the things that we expect from it. Keep your dreams alive!


frogs are frogs

by Feshangi on

Nazy jan, I think it all depends on the person you meet. Whether he is Iranian, American, or any other nationality.

You and he will be drawn to each other only if you both have attributes that are attractive to each other. Obviously looks is one, then you may like the way he looks at you, and when you start talking to each other, you may find him to be a deep man with values that you admire.

He may tell you about his childhood, say in Chicago. He will talk about his childhood neighborhood and his parents. In turn you will describe your childhood experiences and how much you love your mom and dad for what they did for you. You will tell him a little story of when you were seven or eight. He looks at you and you see his eagerness to listen to you and to drink in each word that leaves your lips.

Nazy jan, does it matter if the man sitting opposite you is not an Iranian?

If the person is right and he is a good and a decent man, it makes no difference. You need a good friend who will be with you and beside you for as long as you both choose. If he loves you, he will listen to every story you will tell him about your beloved country and her great poets and writers and philosophers and kings and worriors. You will not have a great Iranian friend but you will still have a great friend who loves you and is eager to learn about all the things that you love and hold dear.  




Pros and Cons

by Married to American (not verified) on

Let me tell you about my experience. After years of exclusively dating Iranians, I reluctantly agreed to be introduced to an American man and ended up marrying him. My husband offers a lot more in the way of respect and appreciateion to me compared to most Iranian men I knew. He's a good father to our children and a loyal and devoted husband. Additionally, my relationship with my in-laws is far less complicated than it would traditionally be in an Iranian family. However for me, life with an American man has not been without its challenges. Apart from the expected language barrier with family members and my husband feeling like an outsider in Iranian gatherings, there is a cultural and emotional barrier that I feel my husband will never be able to cross. Hence a small part of my soul feels lost/yearning in this marriage.
Perhaps I'm fortunate enough to have an otherwise harmonious life that allows me the "luxury" of wondering about matters of soul. If you view marriage as a union of souls and care deeply about your culture and language, you shoud favor Iranian men or only consider a non-Iranian who shows great eagerness to learn about your culture and roots. In all fairness, my husband never did claim such interest, even when we were dating.

Like most choices in life, marrying an American has pros and cons and the outcome is very much dependent on the individual.


Some generalization

by Souri on

Although generalization is no good and we all know it, just let me tell you that old joke ! Of course take it only as a joke please:

American husband
: Has a girlfriend too, but he loves his girlfriend better than his wife.

French husband
: Has a girlfriend too, but he loves his wife better than his girlfriend.

Iranian husband
: Has a girlfriend too, but he loves his mother better than both, wife and girlfriend !!!

I am married to a French man (who has no girlfriend :-) since a quarter
of century. Many times I have been asked this question : If a French or
non-Iranian husband is better than an Iranian husband.

Really it depends of many thing. I, personally integrated the French culture when I was only 20 and got married at 25. It is easier for younger people to
integrate a culture and get into a close relationship with someone from
the same culture.

There are good and bad in every culture, also good and bad in every person. Also, I don't like to use "good and/or bad" but rather one unique word "the compatibility"....this is the key.

For the rest, I do agree with Rajab.

Re_JJ's opinion : Happiness in a relationship, is an arbitrary word. Happiness is a journey as they say, so we can't say for sure if, a person or a
relationship is "happy" always forever...



by HandyMan (not verified) on

That is very interesting JJ. I have heard the exact opposite from Iranian Ladies. The ones I know, much rather be with an Iranian man than other nationalities. That said, they complain that Iranian men are sometimes not as easy going as American men.

Jahanshah Javid


by Jahanshah Javid on

Every individual is different. You can't set them aside because they are Iranian or American or of a different race or religion than yours. Generalizations rob the person of his/her humanity and individuality. I have noticed that Iranian women are happier with non-Iranian men. Maybe in these types of unions, the women can grow outside strict Iranian cultural and religious limitations without a huge struggle. I don't know... something to think about.


Better than nothing

by HandyMan (not verified) on

Although, I understand what Rajab is saying, I have to agree with Nazy. I am married to an American woman and miss many of the things Nazy is talking about. It is true that after a while as a couple you don’t read poetry to each other. However, it sure feels great to know that your partner gets you when you are talk about all the good things Nazy mentioned.


Better than nothing

by Rajab (not verified) on

Generally speaking I think it is best to find an Iranian mate who is good and can walk and talk at the same time ;-)

But if you can't find that Iranian mate a non-Iranian mate is better than nothing. It's not like living in Iran where ALL you can find are Iranian mates. So adjust to your surroundings.

Forget about Hafez, Molana, Sohrab, Forough, Alizadeh and Ahmadinejad. Aren't they old news?! Seriously, how many Iranian couples do you know who read Monlana or Alizadeh to each other? Seriously. Maybe when they are dating but once the man gets to 3rd base, Sohrab and Forough are kicked out the door!

Find out about where you live and where you can go and what you can do and who you can go out with. While dating is a bitch and hassle you should learn how to deal with it and not stress over it.

Go out with a buyer's mentality but keep your feelings to yourself. When you go out shopping (buyer's mentality) you don't buy everything you see, do you?