"Women would be much less sexy if they were not wearing manteaus," K's brother told us the other day. "They are so tight and sexy looking now, it would be better if the women were wearing their normal clothes."
It's hard to believe that in certain areas of Iran, women will not be dressing according to their own tastes by next summer. Things could change of course, but right now, many more young women than last summer wear their scarves low on the back of their head. (The best thing to do, it seems, is pull your hair back in a ponytail and then rest the scarf on it.)
The hemlines have come up and the waste lines have come in. It's fashionable to wear manteaus so tight that the buttons are stretched. At first I thought that women were just buying their manteaus too small or gaining weight. When I went to buy a new one a couple of months ago, the sales clerks all tried to convince me that the manteau that was too small for me was the one I should get. "It's too tight," I told them. "It looks better too tight," they responded. It was then that I finally caught on to the trend. D'oh.
On our travels we talked to many groups of young women. At one tourist spot we met a group of about 20 university students who wanted me to explain to the family we were traveling with that they were dressed conservatively because they were in university. "But they look so great," the man of the family commented. I had to agree, they did look great.
The thing I keep saying about Iranian women is that they are really fun and really different when no men are around. (They can be fun when men are around too, but not as…) One of our friends told us a story that reinforces this point. He went to Damascus last year with a tour group of about 45 people from about 12 different (mainly Western) countries.
"There were busloads of women making pilgrimages to Damascus. You could always tell when a busload of Iranian women had arrived. You could hear them laughing with each other before they got out of their buses. Then they would get out and come directly to our group and start taking pictures of us. This was a bit strange for us because we were the ones use to making the pictures," he laughed. "Within five minutes the women were all practicing their English with our group. The other women from different countries never approached us. Only the Iranian women."
We related this story to K's sisters. "Iranian women are more religious than Iranian men," they told us. "That's why we go on more pilgrimages than the men. But also we go just to be together and have fun."
"What is it like for someone who was born free to live in a country where you are not free?" K asked me.
"It's not easy," I answered.
"I am not myself here," K added.