Have you ever wondered what it would be like if suddenly your father uprooted you and the whole family back to a country with the word mystery written all over it. Well, let me tell you it was no fun! I was THAT girl and only 15 years old when we made the trip back to the mothership where a new but yet exciting and cultural journey was awaiting me.
I knew where Iran was located and its capital city, knew the language was Farsi and that I barely spoke and understood it, and knew both my parents were born there. Other than this and maybe a couple of other random facts I had no idea the hot water I was stepping into. My days were spent outside, gliding through the sun soaked boulevards of the city, taking in the magical sights, smelling homemade tomato sauces prepared from scratch rather than emptied from a can and gazing at the Coney Island Ferris Wheel or some hunk's six packs without a single worry in my head. Brooklyn was my home and where I had grown up. A place where I could be my whole female opinionated self and voice my thoughts freely without fear of being judged.
The journey was a mix of how I could adapt and conform to life in Iran versus life in New York City, the one thousand obstacles existing in the Iranian society for a female Westernized teenager, exploring my first love in a repressive society, and learning the deep and rooted role of family and parents in the Iranian culture. Let's call the love portion, 'Forbidden Love' because I was always trying to hide for fear of being judged or my parents' reputation coming under a question mark. I was raised in an Italian/ Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn so I had that kind of sarcastic humor that was similar to that of Jerry Seinfeld and Whoopi Goldberg combined in a female teenager body. That made life pleasurable for me, personally, as this entertaining combo of an attitude walked the streets of Tehran and tried to make sense of every complicated, labyrinthine, tangled, and miscellaneous situation I bumped into.
Love in the romantic teenager sense is a very complicated term in Tehran. For someone like me complication took on an extra layer of oil. The kind that needed bleach for clarity. Lucky for me, I had allies to help me understand the assortment of 'candied' perplexities. My best friend and my cousins were my saviors who were the same age and in the same boat with me. The exception was that if I went insane I had a ticket to jump off and swim back to the US! I was a torn gal! Torn between the rules and my heart's true desires so I made the decision to return.
This route exposed many similarities between Brooklyn and Tehran than I might have thought. But I also came to realize there are many, many differences between the two universes. Female teenagers had a very rough and tough road to becoming completely independent and understanding their true self. And to say the least, they are extremely capable and hard-working.
My recent semi-memoir "The Burden of My Red Lips in Tehran" is an eye-opener to what life really entails for female teens in the most heated years of Iran's modern history and it also serves as a weapon and shield to help teenagers move through the limitations and roadblocks. Contrary to popular belief, it was not all dark and horrid as portrayed via the news and politically motivated authors.
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