by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson
Why do I always find the best things when I am procrastinating?
Screwing around on an article I am writing, I happened to catch up with Fatemeh, who let me know about a truly fabulous blog, Sex & The Islamic City.
The writer, known as English, paints a gorgeous description of her expat life in Iran:
The cultural life of Tehran is surprisingly rich, with private views of art, secret screenings of controversial documentaries and movies, underground rock concerts, officially sanctioned classical concerts, and even illegal fashion shows on offer almost every night, as long as you know the right people. Alternatively you can get on the party circuit with Tehran’s rich and beautiful, those expensively-suited men and their glossy, whippet thin wives who live in penthouse suites of marble towers or behind the walls of sprawling villas in the north of Tehran in the lap of the mountains. If this isn’t your scene then you can penetrate the circle of foreign journalists, diplomats and NGO workers with their unkempt hair who observe life in the city with a wry detachment always amusing to a girl missing the dry British sense of humour and longing to party in jeans with a face bare of the thick make up that is de rigueur in society here.
When I get bored during the day, I slick on some lipstick and ring my most glamorous cousin who screeches up at the gates in her huge white SUV, a pair of outsize Chanel sunglasses perched atop expensively blonde hair and the season’s latest silk headscarf knotted loosely at her throat. She takes me off to a number of very shiny shopping malls in the north of Tehran where we browse designer boutiques and drink coffee in wannabee coffee shops called things like Starcups. We swap gossip about the family, discuss the best shape for me to train my eyebrows into and laugh at the fashionistas who have taken the summer’s tanned look a little too far and are glowing bright orange. She drops me off when she has to pick up her son from his round of classes, always leaving me with a party invite. I love my cousin and I enjoy dipping into her Yummy Mummy routine once in a while, but after attending several of her parties, I feel life is too short for the vapid conversation and explicit competition that characterises the interaction of these Yummies when they are gathered together with their husbands.
And yet, she remains cognizant of the struggles of others:
Life in my tower is easy and comfortable. In the few days I have been here I have been seduced by life as lived by those northern Tehrani ladies who have plenty of money and nothing much to do. In London I may be a poverty-stricken writer, but here I am quite well off, at least for the purposes of daily life. I think nothing of spending the equivalent of £10 on a pretty silk headscarf and blowing £40 on treating a bunch of friends to dinner in a fashionable restaurant when a little further south, people struggle to live on £60 a month.
But regardless, I ask my doorman to call me a cab wherever I want to go, thinking nothing of spending up to £2 a trip on private taxis when I could instead line up at the end of the street shouting out my destination to passing savaris who load up to full capacity with people going the same way, and who cost on average 10 pence per trip. Now that I am here alone, and it is hot, savaris have lost the appeal they used to have when my then-platonic lover visited me in Tehran on previous trips.
English also uses beautiful prose to describe the evolution of her relationship:
From part four:
Here in the Islamic Republic of Iran, in this culture that is fed by feeling, run by a regime that has ritualised religious fervour and passion to fever pitch, I have had to learn to quell floods of desire with mere drops of satisfaction and to find my love answered with the subtlest of glances. And I have learnt to have it be enough, the vastness of our love expressed in a quick kiss, a longing look, a whisper under the covers – in the absence of freedom, I have finally had to learn to be content with my lot.
And a few surprises – at least, to my western sensibilities:
Imagine my surprise… everyone here goes naked. I mean, not with their clothes as obviously this is the Islamic Republic of Iran but underneath all those layers and veils, underneath knickers and tights, vests and chadors, Iranian women – and men – have no pubic hair. And so, although Iranian women sport the most splendid eyebrows in the world, the luxuriousness that is trained into perfect black arches above is not welcome down below. Down below is meant, apparently, to be naked. Clean, as I was told.
I always thought that compared to my Islamic brethren, hailing as I do from the individualistic, tolerant shores of Great Britain, I was the liberated one. The one who had long ago shed inhibitions and had lost the ability to be shocked. But now, in bed finally with the man I have spent the last few years chastely and platonically in love with, I am shocked. He has no pubic hair. And what’s more, he asks me, with total ease, why I have hair when he touches me for the first time. ‘Er…’ I stumble.
While I could happily devour an entire novel or memoir written by English, it appears that is not meant to be. Sex in the Islamic City ends as abruptly as it starts, with ten posts over the course of the year. Questions still linger in my mind, as the final entry poses a solution with no details.
Honestly, I wonder why publishing houses waste their time with the likes of Margaret Seltzer when there are vividly real narratives to be found all over the internet.
At any rate, here’s to hoping that English comes back to finish her tale.