Sunday, September 14, 2003

The Women's Party


I was invited to a women's party. When I got there, there was a room full of women elegantly dressed and me in my baggy muslin pants and gray t-shirt. I felt like such a slob. The women had their hair streaked, curled, and set. They were wearing tight, tight pants and low-cut nylon stretch shirts. They were wearing beautiful dresses and elegant pant suits. They wore gold and pearls. The house was amazing: three floors of marble with an indoor pool.

The women were also amazing. Once I overcame my fashion faux pas, I started talking to the women about everything: food, men, politics, religion, culture. This was such a new experience for me. Alone, these women were so relaxed. They didn't attend to my every desire or worry that I was not eating enough. At one point I said, you guys are so different when men are not around. "Yes," one woman answered. "With men we cannot be ourselves."

There were women of all ages there from 6 to 80. Everyone crowded around a big table where delicious food, ripe fruit, nuts, and cakes were laid out. There was a lot of talking and laughing. At one point, the conversation turned to politics and religion. It turned out that most (not all) of the women were Ba'hai. They told me a little about the Ba'hai faith and its respect for all religions. They also told me about all of the Ba'hai who were killed during and after the revolution. There were graphic throat slitting motions all around the table.

"Every religion has its martyrs," one woman told me. "At the beginning of every religion: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, many people were martyred. Here too, with the Ba'hai. Pregnant women and children were even martyred."

"My grandfather was a mullah," another woman told me. "He and his brother accepted Ba'hai, and here we are today."

"Most of the Islamic people I know are very warm and caring," a bulldog of a woman told me. "There are just a few who are intolerant and crazy."

"There were more intolerant people before," said the first woman. "Now we Iranians like each other more. Now we are more tolerant of each other."

This comment surprised me since most Iranians tell me how much worse people are since the revolution. On the other hand, I was not surprised because the people I have met here have been surprisingly tolerant and open. I told them that even the very religious Muslims that I meet in Iran profess a desire for freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

Later we spoke about America. One of the Islamic women attending the party told us how much she liked Bush. She also told me that she felt Sharon was fighting for freedom of religion.

You never know what you are going to hear.

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