Family, Iranian Style

June 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

Somehow, when an American is embarking on a trip to Iran, every single Iranian-American knows about it, and promptly calls their family back in the motherland to prepare a true, Iranian welcome. My father happens to work in the construction business, the least likely place to find any Persians (all of which are doctors, lawyers, or engineers). Yet, he happens to work with a man named Ahmad, who, upon learning that his colleague’s daughter was visiting his home country, insisted that his cousin in Shiraz meet me to show me around and offer me a home-cooked meal. The next morning, my aunt ran into me and told me that her new Persian clients had already called their parents in Tehran and we must meet up. It’s astounding. It’s like I have a whole family waiting for my homecoming, and I don’t even know these people!

I saw Woody Allen’s new movie this afternoon, Midnight in Paris. The main character (played by a Allen-esque Owen Wilson) is accused of having Golden Age Syndrome. As he walks the streets of Paris at night, he dreams of Fitzgerald and Hemingway, his literary idols, and the splendor of their lives in a time so much more meaningful than his present. This syndrome, an awfully “pedantic” side character elucidates, befalls those who are perpetually dissatisfied with life in the present moment, and wistfully worship another time. I instantly thought of the country I am about to visit, and how all of its people (in my amateur diagnosis) are plagued with Golden Age Syndrome. For you see, Iranians don’t just idealize another time in the past, they can actually call upon the era when Persia, the Empire, ruled the world. These are not just illusions of a better time, but the painful and tragic knowledge that the best time has come and is now long, long gone. And so maybe it makes sense, when a foreigner departs for Iran, the locals wish to show the splendor of their past, a wish to make their reality known. This must be family, Iranian style.

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