Chances are if you’re from a Middle Eastern family (although Israelis are generally more liberal), there are certain conditions your parents have laid out before you that you must follow in order for them to be a part of your life. To be quaint, there is no such thing as “Unconditional Love” in most Middle Eastern families. This is especially true in Iranian families, liberal and conservative alike.
The terms and conditions of this conditional love vary from family to family, but the most common ones I see include the following:
-You will get straight A’s while you are in school.
-You will become a doctor, engineer, or something of equal prowess.
-You are not allowed to date unless you plan to marry that person.
-You will marry a man/woman of my approval with a good family and background (to be decided by me if they are truly “good”).
-You will provide me with grandchildren and I will have a say in not only their names but also how you raise them.
-You will live close to us in the future and support us financially like we supported you for 20+ years.
These plans and conditions have been laid before us because our parents want to protect us from what they see is unfit or the evils of society. Upon stepping past this fictitious bubble their support of our lives becomes fragile and usually falls apart because like their parents, they have been conditioned to believe that if your child outsteps these cultural bounds, not only are you a bad parent to let it happen, but you’re also no longer a respected person of the community.
Admittingly, it’s these conditions and the fear of the loss of my parents that’s kept me from coming out to them. I adore my parents, especially my Mother whom I’ve looked up to my entire life. The idea of hurting her, alone, is like a sharp knife to my stomach.
I stand at a cross roads of my life where I don’t’ know if I should cut the strings of the puppeteer, and lose the respect and support of my parents, or leave the strings attached and play to their tune. Fortunately, God has blessed me enough to see both sides of the coins through my ex’s.
My first ex ran off and married a black man, while my prior ex decided to get married to a woman to make his family happy.
And to be honest, neither of them is happy.
My ex-girlfriend is pregnant with her second baby, with no grandparents to show her sons. While her husband spends his holidays with his family, in the comfort of their laughter and joy, she sits through them alone, wishing her parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins were with her as before so that she too could laugh along and be comforted by their presence.
On the other hand, my ex-boyfriend has his family. Too bad he is now doomed to a life of wondering what could have been, lost in his dreams and fantasies of living his life out as he is, and not as his parents want him to be. And every day he comes closer to the realization that no matter what he does he will never truly make his parents happy. To top it off he’s married to someone whom he can only love as a best friend at best, with the sting of temptation always around the corner for him to cheat on his wife with another man.
So here I am, standing at the crossroads, as confused as I was after my first kiss with a boy, not knowing whether to head East, towards conservative but familiar Iran, or West, towards the liberal and lonely waters of San Francisco.
And all I can do is just breathe, and take it a day at a time…