Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Finger across throat, slide to the right

Most Iranians I meet are really curious about Americans and the way Iranians are perceived by the outside world. If you’ve been reading any part of this blog, you know that. I tell them that most foreigners do not know the difference between Iran and Iraq or between Arabs and Iranians. This surprises and upsets them.

“I watch an American movie almost every night to learn more about your culture,” one bearded man told me recently.

“Then I don’t think you’ve learned much about my culture,” I answered.

He continued, “That’s how I know you do not have the problems with poverty that we do.”

“We do have problems with poverty,” I told him. “We have 40 million uninsured people and one of the lowest health care standards in the developed world. Our poor are fat because fast food is cheap. Iran’s poor are healthy looking because nutritious food is cheap here.”

“That’s true,” he answered.

[I am always amazed at how healthy looking Iran’s poor are. Fast food is still a luxury here, and it is expensive. Many fruits and vegetables are cheap in Iran. Only the rich can afford to be fat in Iran. For less than the price of a Hardee’s Burger, you can have an excellent meal. Meat is expensive. Greens are cheap. Case in point: herbs. Iranians eat tons of fresh herbs. For about 50 cents they can get a gigantic bunch of mixed herbs. The equivalent would cost us about $20. I am always scavenging and saving herb scraps that Iranians would throw away. They think I’m weird.]

The man continued by telling me about family he has in Germany. “Their neighbor is a German woman. She is a good friend to my brother’s family and visits often. She loves my brother’s family, and they love her. Recently they asked her to come visit Iran with them. She said no. When they asked her why not, she answered [the throat-cutting gesture: finger across throat, slide to the right]. We were so disappointed that she felt that way about us.”

[Another reason that poor men look especially good in Iran is that they cannot afford to be fashion victims. Young Iranian men have a pathetic sense of style (sorry boys). They use way too much hair gel and shape their hair into bizarre shapes. They sport odd shaped facial hair growths, cell phones, pointy shoes or converse tennies, and wear American logo-wear --- most of it fake. Poor men can’t afford all that shit.]

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