Friday, February 29, 2008

The Secret

One of my new favorite stores is Target. It is one of those places where I go in for a $3.49 greeting card and come out with 3 bags and a $107.35 receipt. A few weeks ago I was roaming around aimlessly in Target, going through each and every aisle. I had to make sure that I do not miss any new and exciting product which I may not be aware that I desperately need (I mean how did I ever live with out Vanilla flavored potpourri?!). After I picked up the much needed 4Th pink lip gloss and the very necessary "Mona Lisa Smile" DVD (just in case I would like to watch it for the 5Th time) I found myself in the book aisle. The best seller section had a few books that I had already read, but I came across one which caught my attention, The Secret. The movie made a bit of a buzz when it came out and I have heard a little buzzing here and there about the book as well. Sounded to me like the same old message, "good energy will bring you good things and vise verse with bad energy". I had dismissed both the movie and the book because I figured that we have all heard the story before through other similar movies and books so it is just repetition. Standing in the book aisle in Target I found myself feeling the NEED to add one more item to my cart in order to feel satisfied with my shopping experience. The book was right there in front of me so I said "what the hell" and picked it up. I will read it to see what all the fuss is about.
The book is about "the power of attraction", indicating that one can attract what they desire into their life only by thinking about it. All they need to do is 1. ask for what they want (from the Universe), 2. believe that they will receive it, and 3. act as though they already have it. The book provided us with numerous examples of different individuals who have used this technique and in result became millionaires, published best seller books and found true love. The book also states that one will attract what they do NOT want into their life with their thoughts. For example if you think "I do not want to trip and fall" the universe will hear your thought and grant you a trip and fall. It does not matter if you are asking for it or asking for NOT it, you are thinking about it. "Your wish is my command" is what the Universe is continually telling us. As I was reading, I started becoming more and more conscience of my thoughts. Even though I was not yet convinced I seemed to be trying to discard of the negative thoughts (just in case). So obviously my thoughts automatically travelled towards the plane crashing (I was reading on a plane), the loss of my luggage and having an awful 3 day weekend. It became such a struggle to control my thoughts and to really believe what I was thinking that I felt exhausted.
Now I am not a philosopher, but I have always been a strong believer of "Energy". My theory is that if you have positive energy others will feel it and return it to you and the same goes with negative energy. The reason is simple and far from superstition. "Energy" is just how you present yourself. If you are sincere, happy, optimistic and kind, that is positive energy. If you are an insincere, sad and lazy pessimist, you are dispersing negative energy. That only means that others will feel your vibe and return the exact same thing to you. In addition your feelings, good or bad, will bring you more of the same feelings.
I am not sure if I would go as far as believing that what enters our life is the doing of the Universe, or how with out wanting or knowing we could attract negative events to our lives. All I know is that when I am happy the chain continues and when I am sad it is very hard to break the cycle. I also know that reading The Secret made me very nervous about my uncontrollable thoughts.
I believe that it is not the Universe that is "commanding your wish", it is all inside you, your beliefs, your thoughts and yes, your actions!
I am out of the Vanilla flavored potpourri, I HAVE to go back to Target.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"If I knew then what I know now"

If I had the opportunity to go back in time in order to have a conversation with myself at different times of my life, I would have so much to tell each one of them. So many words of encouragement, advise, insight and of course warnings to share with them. These are only the high lights of some of the conversations.

I would sit my 12 year old self down and tell her this:
"You are so sad now, but do not worry every thing will be OK. Yes, you will miss your life here and every one who you are leaving behind, but I promise you that you will have such a better life in America. At first it will be very difficult and challenging, however you are a very strong person. You will find friends again and you will learn the language. You will have freedom to live and opportunities to grow. One day you will thank the Universe for taking you out of this country and giving you the privilege of a fuller life".

I would sit my 13 year old self down and tell her this:
"Every one your age is unsure of themselves. Every thing that you are doing and feeling is normal".

I would sit my 14 year old self down and tell her this:
"The most important thing in life is self confidence. Do not forget that you are strong, smart, beautiful and a good person. You make a difference because you are important. You can do great things and make changes. Have motivation to do more and take advantage of these years. Do not let things stand in your way of doing what you want to do. Love yourself more and do not forget that you deserve great things as much as every one els does".

I would sit my 16 year old self down and tell her this:
"Just wax".

I would sit my 17 year old self down and tell her this:
"Pluck your eye brows and lose some weight. Get better clothes and use some hair products for god's sake!".

I would sit my 18 year old self down and tell her this:
"Do NOT give him the time of the day! He is a negative person to have in your life and he does not care about you. You are better than that and you deserve much more, so tell him to 'Fuck off'' much sooner than you are going to".

I would sit my 21 year old self down and tell her this:
"Well I am going to leave the decision up to you however I would like to warn you. If you give him a chance 'just to see how it turns' you will fall into the biggest trap of your life and you will not be able to come out for a long time. You will experience the most powerful and intense love that exists, Young Love. This is something that not every one in this world has the privilege to experience and feel, only the lucky ones do. On the other hand you will get hurt so deeply over and over again that it will break you down. Since I still cannot decide whether or not it was worth it, I will let you choose".

I would sit my 22 year old self down and tell her this:
"Work in the field for some experience before you go straight into Graduate School right after graduation".

I would sit my 23 year old self down and tell her this:
"Do not let him treat you badly. Do not let him put you down and disrespect you. Have respect for yourself and show some back bone. Do not give him another chance, learn your lesson and be stronger. You are only letting him bring you down more by not standing up for yourself. You deserve some one who knows how to love you, some one who respects you and is loyal. Do not believe his apologies and his lies".

I would sit my 24 year old self down and tell her this:
"I am proud of you. You made the right decision and you will be happy now. This is the beginning of the rest of your life. This is proof that you are strong and smart and guess what? You will find true love again even if you say that you are "done" right now. Keep up with having a good time".

I would sit my 25 year old self down and tell her this:
"Spend more quality time with your dad".

I would sit my 26 year old self down and tell her this:
"What no one tells you when you become engaged is that marriage is difficult. First of all you have to be mentally ready for a married life, second of all you have to be up for the challenge. Think about it and make sure that you are prepared for whatever life brings you. Are you really ready?".

I would sit my 27 year old self down and tell her this:
"Chill out girl, it is just a wedding! Relax and enjoy the process, not every thing HAS to be perfect. No one will remember what the 'place cards' looked like, no one will remember if the color of the dinner napkins matched the color of the flowers and people throw away or lose their invitations. So save some money and sanity and have a good time. But all in all great job on all of your hard work, dedication and fabulous taste".

I would sit my 29 year old self down and tell her this:
"This is normal! Marriage is difficult and most couples go through this. So do not "freak out" because you think that you are the first person in the world who is facing challenges. I know that it is annoying to listen to people say "have patience, compromise, communicate and pick your battles" but believe me when I say that they are so right. He will never learn to fold his towel and place it on the rod so just accept it. It will get so much better, I promise".

These are the words of wisdom that I would share with myself if I could. But what good does that do now? They lived their lives with out knowing and with out being informed.
On the other hand they did survive and things did turn out OK for them. They must have had some wisdom to be able to get some things right. So all in all I guess they did alright.
I am just grateful to all of them for teaching me so much and for helping me live a better life now. I also hope that I am making my 45 year old self proud now!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Jonathan and my hairy arm

His name was Jonathan, he was a tall scrawny boy with dark blond hair and pale white skin. I had one class with him in the 7Th grade at Sequoia Junior High. I looked forward to that particular class every single day because I had a huge crush on Jonathan. I watched him through out the 50 minute class, each time I spotted him in the hallways and in the cafeteria during the lunch hour (hey it is not creepy when you are 13 years old, OK?), but he did not know that I exist.
One day we walked into class and the teacher informed us that she was changing our seating arrangement. As Mrs. whatshername was reading the names of each student and sending them to their new seat I was secretly wishing that she would sit Jonathan and I together. My wish came true and we were seated right next to one another.
I was ecstatic! I was also very nervous and shy, not sure of what to do with myself. The thoughts kept running through my mind: "Should I put my hand under my chin or on the table? Should I sit up straight or should I lean back? Should I look down at my book or look up at the teacher? How do I look? Did he look at me? Oh my god, my arm! It is hairy!!! He is sitting so close that he can see every single dark hair on my arm! He is going to think that I am a monster. I am going to die of shame".
That night I went home and came up with the solution to my crisis. For the first (and last) time in my life I SHAVED my arm.
My arm hair was not as hideous as I believed it was, but being surrounded with white blond girls, their smooth white arms and the invisible blond hair, mine looked like a gorilla's arm.
So because of Jonathan who was sitting on my right hand side, I shaved my right arm. Yes, I left the left arm hairy. Why did I not just shave both arms you ask? Well because no one important was sitting to my left, of course!
Jonathan probably never noticed my arm through out the entire class, but the crisis that I put myself through was very real.

I am so glad that I am not 13 any more!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

What I used to call "Home"

I miss the loud streets, the quiet alleys, the crooked side walks. I miss the old buildings with history. I miss the streams of water running through the streets of town, carrying with them every piece of trash imaginable. I miss the little stores, the cranky clerks, the persuasive shoppers. I miss the different smells, the yummy tastes, the lovely chaos. I miss the orange taxis, the beat up buses, the cars that would never pass a smog test. I miss the barbecued corn dipped in salt water that one can buy on the side of the road from a young boy who will guarantee it's sanitariness. I miss the taste of the fresh pistachios, fresh nuts and dried fruit. I miss sitting on a rug covered bed eating abgoosht and smoking ghalion under the stars, while listening to traditional music. I miss walking through the parks, seeing children play on the swings, witnessing a randez vous of a girl and a boy and watching family pick nicks. I miss the lively bazars and the sound of the azan. I miss the juice stands, the ice cream shops and the violinist playing beautiful music for lunch money. I miss the trendy coffee shops, the lit up malls, the restaurants. I miss the parties that lasted until 3:00 a.m. and the unguarded and pure fun.
I miss my house on the fourth floor, my room with pink walls and the roof top where I went for solitude. I miss the sound of Masht Hassan's nightly whistle, the old "night watch" who walked around the streets holding his stick and blowing his whistle letting the neighborhood know that they are safe for he is out there (with his stick)! I miss Alavi, the little convenient store by our house with the grumpy and mean owner (Mr. Alavi) who sold spoiled milk.
I miss my kind aunts, their homes, their cooking and their love. I miss my sweet uncles, my polite cousins and my childhood friends who are all mothers now.
I miss the enormous trees that casted comforting shadows on the hot streets, the colorful flowers, the dirt. I miss playing lei lei, bala bolandi, gorgam be havai with the neighbor's kids in our safe neighborhoods. I miss the torching sun of the hot summers, the chilly snowy winters and the fresh rain.
I miss the 4 hour car ride up north. I miss the views, the greenery, the ladies with skins turned dark from a lifetime of working under the sun, selling dough on the side of the road. I miss the familiar breakfast joints by the road that sold eggs (sunny side up) with a side of cream and warm fresh bread. I miss the magnificent sea, the quiet beach, the sand. I miss the great rice fields that filled the air with their wonderful scent. I miss the vacation bike rides and lying under the sun. I miss eating watermelon by the stream after it had been floating in the cool water for hours.
I miss the little authentic tea glasses filled with dark dark tea. I miss the snow covered mountain, the hiking, the fortune teller with the bird.
I miss Norouz. The gold fish sold on the side walks and the music blaring every where. I miss seeing the colorful rugs hanging from each home's balcony rails waiting to be dusted. I miss the family visits, the food, the sweets. I miss coloring eggs red, blue, green and yellow for the haftseen and of course receiving gifts.
I miss the traditions, the rich culture, the humble people, the long history, the pride that never shatters, the warmth, the love. I miss my county. My country that is still holding on strong in spite of all the dark days, in spite of our abandonment. I miss what I used to call home.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Hot Yoga

Recently I had been hearing numerous people talk about "Hot Yoga". Hot Yoga is a new trend where the act of Yoga is performed in a room with the temperature of 106 degrees (F). This feature is supposed to make your body more flexible and your muscles softer. It is also meant to help your body sweat all of the toxins out leaving it cleansed and purified.
The concept did not make sense to me so I dismissed the idea of trying it for myself. I knew that I will not be able to handle the heat and the activity together. I could see myself collapsing on the yoga mat from overheating and exhaustion. However due to other's insistence and being the adventurous person that I am as well as so open to new ideas (not really but I've been trying very hard these days) I decided to give it a chance and try it. I figured that if so many people are raving about how much they love this new trend and what a great experience it was for them, there must be something to it that I am missing. So I told myself: "try new things, experience great adventures, broaden your horizons, come out of your comfort zone".
Wendy was one of the people who had been trying to persuade me to try Hot Yoga. She believes that I am officially a couch potato and need to move my recently widened ass (I blame the holidays). So we took the step and embarked on a new and exciting adventure. I felt good, I felt excited, I felt cool.
The Yoga studio looked very trendy and exotic, from the large size pictures of the Yoga gurus (they actually have pretty hot bodies, you just have to refrain from looking at their faces), to the music, to the type of people who worked there.
We changed in a little room called the "locker room" which reminded me of when I was a little girl and was forced to go to swimming class in Iran where they made us change in a dark and wet little hole of a room. But I continued to keep an open mind. We did not have our own mats so we were directed to a rack that held the hanging orange mats. I was happy that they looked like they were hanging to dry up from the process of sanitizing. During our initial registration process I spotted people coming out of the earlier class soaking wet, I started to question my decision to come, but I reminded myself to keep an open mind.
As we opened the double glass doors to enter the Hot Yoga class we were struck by a very strong and distinct smell, it was the smell of feet! I continued to keep an open mind and blamed the smell on the CARPET in the Hot Yoga class which absorbed every scent. We placed our large fresh towels on our mats, covered our water bottles with the smaller fresh towel and sat and waited, the heat actually felt good on my body (since I am always and forever cold). As we sat there and watched the people walk into the class I noticed that many of them were men, shirtless men, men with hairy chests! I kept an open mind.
The class started. There was no music and the instructor spoke very softly, yet continuously and with out a single pause. She informed us that if for any reason we want/need to stop our session in the middle of the class we do not have permission to leave the classroom until the entire hour and a half is completed. Fine, I kept an open mind.
As we started with the moves I started to become hotter and hotter and the smell started to become more familiar to my nostrils. Then it started, the sweating. It was not only your usual underarms and middle back, but there was sweat coming out of every single pore in my body, places that I was not aware had pores. I noticed for the first time in my life that my leg can sweat! Do legs have sweat glands? As my hair was sticking to my body and sweat was dripping into my eyes from my brows, I was trying so hard to perform the moves while keeping up with the task of breathing through the smell of feet. Then I looked up and saw every one els in class dripping sweat, big chunks of stinky water dropping off of each one of their bodies. Then there were the men, with their shirtless bodies and their chest hair (some with back hair as well). Drops of sweat crawling between the curly hairs of their bodies and splashing onto their mats and some on the carpet as well. There was drops of sweat falling out of the inside of their shorts from their crotches. I think I threw up in my mouth a few times. The smell started to get stronger, the men started perspiring more, I was holding on to a thin thread to an open mind which was on the verge of breaking.
About 15 minutes into the class I was miserable. I could not breath, every muscle in my body ached and I swear I saw the face of Jesus in the mirror across the way. I wanted to run out of that awful place, into the fresh cool air, away from all these disgusting people, nasty wet people, and the stinky carpet. But I was not allowed, I was trapped. I was a prisoner inside this 106 degree room with all these crazy people and forced to stretch into an unachievable pretzel. I looked at Wendy and she looked as miserable and I was, lying on her mat for much longer than she was instructed to do so. I started thinking about all of the germs, sicknesses, diseases and hideous rashes I am going to suffer from. I had locked my eyes to the classroom door, the door to freedom, air, life, peace and comfort, right on the other side. I ran different scenarios through my head on ways that I can get out of this misery, but none would work. I kept counting the minutes of the longest hour and a half of my life. "Why did I get myself into this? Why? Why? Why?".
The voice of that monstrous woman who was holding me prisoner and making me work so hard would not cease! She kept talking, in that low, mischievous and extremely annoying voice. She said things like "you are releasing all of the toxins in your body", "your body is loving you right now", "you are fighting diseases and sicknesses as we speak", "you will have so much energy for the rest of the day"... Ah I so wish she would just shut the hell up! Get me out of here! I hate Hot Yoga!
So just like every other torture session this too ended after 5 years or an hour and a half. Wendy and I looked at each other and we did not have to speak as our eyes said it all.
As we were trying to get out of that hell hole as soon as possible, we went to return our orange mats. I was expecting to throw my mat into a pile of "used" ones on their way to be sanitized. Well, not quite, we hung them right up there on that same rack where we had picked them up from, ready for the next group. Yes, there was no "sensitization" of the mats, they were just being re-used by every new patron. Uuuuugggghhhh I wanted to scrub my body in bleach.
Not only my body did not have more energy that day, I was a sleepy lump in pain all day long, in shock and traumatized.
Ok, I tried it, I kept an open mind and I experienced something new. That teaches me to never try anything new ever again, or at least never to go against my instinct, which is usually right. I am going back to my comfort zone (air conditioned yoga class) and staying there.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Who ever that came up with the idea of Mehrieh was a genius. Think about it, 90 years ago when Soghra was getting married to Nasrodine she was only 15 years old, had no education, no job and absolutely no savings. So what did they do? Her family negotiated a price for Nasrodine and his family to pay in order to "take" Soghra as a bride.
The details of Mehireh is that the negotiated price (cash, real estate, cattle, etc.) will belong to the bride and only her. She is the sole owner and has all rights reserved to her. She can demand payment either upon possible divorce or any other time that she damn well pleases and the husband must pay up, by law.
It makes complete sense to me. If Soghra decides that she does not want to put up with Nasrodine's crap any longer, she does not need to worry about not having any financial leeway to leave his wife-beating ass.
The other beautiful part of Mehrieh is that Soghra can demand that price any time she pleases, even with out the occurrence of divorce. Lets say Soghra would like to give a couple of camels to her mother as a birthday present, but Nasrodin has such a tight ass that he refuses to allow the little woman to proceed with her wish. Soghra cannot disobey her husband because remember, no education, no income, no say, right? Well, here is where the light of Mehrieh comes in. Nasrodine had promised Soghra 500 camels on the day that they sealed the deal of marriage. Well Soghra has every right to demand those camels and present them to her mother. Nasrodine has no say in that.
Mehrieh gave women power, freedom and a sense of security. It was a way for them to have some cushion in life in case of possible mishap.

Time has passed, people have evolved, we have come a long way. Women are now allowed to get an education and not just a high school one, but college as well. Women hold jobs, own homes, have 401K accounts, wear lipstick before marriage and damn it they can vote! Women no longer tie the knott between the ages of 14 and18, they have been getting hitched in their late twenties and recently not even until when they are in their early 30's. Part of the reason for that, other than the newly found independence and power, is the fact that we get to live longer than 45 years old in this century! We can have children up to 50 years old! Ahh, the miracles of science!
Now what baffles my mind to the point that I see steam coming off of my flat ironed head of hair is that people are still continuing with the tradition of Mehrieh! Families are still negotiating and setting prices on the bride. For the woman who can buy 100 camels (or a car, depending on your taste) with her own money if she wishes. The woman who has the ability to drive, go to work, and go out with friends with out the need to acquire a man's permission. The woman who owns her own home for god's sake!
Last week I found myself in the middle of a heated discussion between a couple of my friends and their parents. I had to keep checking my calendar to make sure I am still in 2008, or even the 21st century for that matter! I could not believe what I was hearing and was so shocked that I felt my hair slowly raising on the top of my head. Thinking about my foggy memory of my temporary travel back in time I can recall statements such as "you have to show your worth and respect by setting a decent amount of Mehrieh", "khodeto sabok nakon", "do not be stupid and disregard Mehrieh, it is your womanly right", "do not ask him to sign a Prenuptial Agreement, that will offend him" (the prospective bride has a job and an income where as the prospective groom is currently between jobs). I did not have a single response for this group as my feelings were beyond words. I strongly believe that arguing with such group of people gets me nowhere other than to the medicine cabinet for some headache relief.

SERIOUSLY??!! Are you kidding me? I mean there is steam coming out of my ears!!! I cannot believe that I have to explain this. We have to think about why a tradition or custom was originated, and if those reasons still apply to us in this age. Mehrieh did determine the worth and "cost" of a woman back in the freaking stone ages, for whatever reason they believed right. However, I really would like to believe that in our time (maybe we can call it the pebble ages) a woman's worth is determined by her beliefs, values, strength, education, determination, self worth, and not by her money, her family tree, and the value of her Mehrieh.
These days a woman does not need Mehrieh to be able to stand on her own two feet upon divorce. These days a husband and wife share their assests, they are equal. So when a woman is contemplating giving an apartment (or a set of cows) to her mother as a gift, she makes that decision with her husband as they have a relationship not an agreement.
So why are we continuing with the tradition of Mehrieh? I understand people's need for tradition and a sense of culture, but if we use our ever so capable brains we realize how some parts of our culture and traditions are not only not applicable, but also so ridiculous in this day and age. We, the new and improved (in some ways) species of the Iranian decent have many beautiful traditions that we can hold on to such as the Sofreh Aghd and all of the ceremonial gestures that go with our wedding ceremony. However, we need to put our custom in a colander and get rid of the ones that not only keep us from improving, but they are so negative, offensive and disrespectful to a group of us (I mean women, if you are not following me).
It shames me to think that this tradition is still being followed when so many women have fought so hard for what we have and where we are now.
Whoever that came up with the idea of Mehrieh was a genius, whoever that continues to follow that idea now, in my opinion, is not!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The selfish helper

When I was in my early twenties I had many goals of different nature. From selfish ones to selfless ones, from short term goals to long term goals, easy to difficult, and from doable to unrealistic ones. One goal that was very close to my heart was to at some point in my life go to Iran, live in one of the poor and underprivileged villages and teach to young children in schools. I figured I could teach these children all I know about life, the world and possibilities. I wanted to give them hope, teach them to dream, show them their worth and possibly make a tiny little difference in their lives. I planned to go live among these young children, go to school with them and shower them with love. I had a goal to encourage them to learn, grow and to demand a better life. To show them that they are special, beautiful and wonderful beings who deserve great things in life. I wanted to make a difference.
Like every other goal that I had it seemed challenging but doable at the time. But then life happened. Marriage, responsibility, age and reality happened. My goal and dream of helping packed up and went up to the attic, collected dust and was eventually out of sight. Yet it never managed to go out of mind.
I still think about that goal and dream of mine. I think about what could have been, if I would have actually accomplished it and what it would have looked like. I day dream about the children's faces, their bright eyes when they look up at me listening to every word and absorbing every message. I picture the surroundings, the sounds and finally the remarkable satisfying feeling that I would have in my gut. I day dream...
Looking at how my life looks like now (husband, house, career), I feel that I will never be able to live out that dream and accomplish my goal. And by "never able to" I probably mean "chose not to give up what I have for others".
Therefore, I can not help but to wonder, are these so called selfless goals truly pure and have the true essence of giving, or is it to satisfy our own ego and desire to be good? Would we continue with our random acts of kindness and with helping others if that warm and satisfying feeling that we receive in return was taken away from us? Are we then filling up our quota of "being kind" to make ourselves feel good rather than to actually make the world a better place?
These are all good questions to ask, complex scenarios and fascinating, but what happened to my dream and to the goal? What happened to the children? It seems that the desire to help is still there, but is the price too high now? So if I was a single poor person here in America with nothing going for me, then maybe I would proceed with gracing the unfortunate children of Iran with my presense and assistance. I wonder if I would be granted the same amount of "credit" then as if I proceeded with the "dream" now.
Ultimately, just by thinking about it does not make you a good person. To do a good deed when it is convenient does not make you a good person. It is when you actually act on a good deed when it is difficult to do and no matter what the cost, that is when you will go into my book as one who I would admire.