Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Prism of My Personality!

My close and distant friends often tell me that they think I have a complicated and “layered” personality. They tell me that at any given moment I could surprise them with my actions. A close friend has even told me that I scare him when all of a sudden I “switch personalities” unexpectedly.

Since many friends have pointed out this complicated characteristic of mine, I always find myself thinking and analyzing this phenomenon of multiple personalities and its role in my life. It seems to me that having multiple personalities is not necessarily a disorder, as long as it does not exceed a certain limit. A quick review of my friends’ personalities makes me realize that most of my friends who like me grew up in Tehran and have relatively less strict families tend to have complicated characters. While I do not want to blame having multiple personalities on having grown up in Iran, I do think that living under a strict political system and the feeling of being constantly watched by someone else could in fact, create such a phenomenon.

For instance, let’s go over a simple day that I would spend at home, in school and outside when I was still in Iran and was a teenager:

My father would wake me up early in the morning. Before that, however, I was already waken up by the sound of the morning prayer that could be heard from the outside (for those who know we lived closed to the Mossala of Tehran). I, however, did not care much about the morning prayer and had simply taught myself to tune out the very loud sound of the Quran and sleep. In my pajamas, I would go to the kitchen, have breakfast with my father and if I had time I would listen to my Western music until it was time to go downstairs and wait for the school bus to come. Then, I would quickly wear my garment and tight scarf (maghnaye) and run downstairs. In school, my friends and I would not cease talking about this and that Hollywood movie, American and European actors, actresses and singers. Meanwhile, we would pretend to be very religious and anti-West during some of our classes (i.e. Islamic studies and the Koran). We would say prayers in school and sometimes we would find some silly reason to burst into laughter while praying and that was when we were in serious trouble. After school, some of us would go to English classes and music classes. The environment of these extracurricular classes was fun and it was much less strict than the actual school. I remember one of the things I used to enjoy was to be able to wear some makeup for my English classes in the evening. Anyhow, as we got older, liking boys and dating were added to the list. Those of us who had relatively liberal families would manage to throw dance parties (where we would dance techno and Persian dance) and hang out with our friends and our ‘crush’ at the time. I remember that whenever I had a birthday party, for instance, my parents were very scared of the moral police breaking in the house and giving us trouble for having thrown a co-ed party and having consumed alcoholic beverages. We were the lucky ones, because some of my friends who had more conservative families, had to meet up with their dates out in the streets away from their houses. That by itself was a real adventure. They basically had to make up on lie after another in order to run the kind of social life that due to their age and desires they needed to have.

Many of us were constantly advised to never share what goes on at home with our friends and our teachers. Although we often failed to abide by this ‘privacy’ rule and would share our stories with some of our friends, most of the times we would manage to keep these stories among ourselves and not have them leak to the authorities of the school or our teachers. The funny thing is that later when I was old enough to see things more broadly, I realized that our teachers and the staff of the school would do the same exact thing. They would talk about their controversial opinions and lives at those teachers who were in touch with the authorities of the Ministry of Education and other governmental institutions.

All in all, while being a teenager in Tehran was fun, “fun” was not easy to achieve. In other words, whenever we were partying, dancing, drinking, talking with boys on the phone and in general doing things that were against the strict rules of the regime in Iran, we would feel as though we were real supermen and superwomen who had no fear of breaking the restricting rules. I must admit, later on when I came to the US, it took me a while to understand that the joy of partying, socializing and even drinking is simply because of getting together and having a good time. In Iran, I was brought up to think about these things(having a good time) as rebellious actions that showed our opposition to the strict rules were ordered to abide by all these different social institutions—starting from families to the government.

Anyhow, it is because of the kind of daily life that we(I am specifically talking about the middleclass, more Westernized middle class of Tehran) had during our childhood and teenage years that I think, many of us who grew up in Iran have developed more than simply one “face” with which we present ourselves to the society. We have learned from early on to be a certain way at home and to pretend almost the opposite of that in school and outside. This is why, I think, many of my non-Iranian friends or those who have not grown up in Iran tell me that I have many personalities and that I can easily switch from one “face” to another!


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