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Lost Opportunities and the Iranian American Identity

Last week, I told my mom I deleted all my dating apps.

I wanted to replace mindlessly dating with hobbies, writing at different coffee shops, going to concerts, and not depending on the men of Los Angeles to have fun. I assumed she’d be pleased. She was not.

My mother does this thing with her face when she gets stressed out where her already ginormous eyes begin to glisten and she scrunches her forehead until there’s an adorable crease in between her eyebrows. Her response sounded as if I personally hurt her.

“What happened to dating a hundred men and writing about it? You’re not even a quarter of the way through and you’re just going to give up?”

You see, my mom is a huge fan of my dating blogs. She texted me after every entry I’ve ever posted and ask for more details. My mom expressed that it was of vital importance for me to go on as many dates as possible, and then said something along the lines of not having the same opportunity as me to date.

How could you not take advantage of that freedom?”

It was then I understood our discussion, which I found comical, was beyond dating.

My mom’s father was an atheist who referred to religious folks as close-minded. He was in love with the American dream and admired capitalism. He referred to Edison as a Prophet, and purchased enough books to make my mother’s basement a library. My mom had seven older brothers and was considered the boy of the family. She was trouble—arguing with anyone she disagreed with. When she was eleven, she punched a boy in the mouth and broke his tooth because he forcefully tried to take what didn’t belong to him.

There were talks of a revolution coming to Iran, and if anyone did not belong in a country about to be taken over my extremist that viewed women as a commodity, it was my mom. When my mom was twelve, her father told her she’d be taking an elongated vacation to live with her two older brothers in California.

By elongated vacation, he meant forever.

When she was seventeen, my mother met my dad, a man 28 years her senior and a predominately known Iranian television personality. He put her on Iranian TV and later married her. My dad had several wives prior; however, he was the only man she would ever kiss.

In 1979, the Islamic Revolution took Iran by storm, overthrowing the last monarch, replacing it with an Islamic Republic and the deplorable Ayatollah Khomeini and my mother, a smart, self-made, beautiful Iranian woman on television, was unable to go back home.

She drowned her sorrows in her business and making sure my older sister and I had everything we needed to live a comfortable life. My dad had most of the attention for being “famous”, but my mom was the Rockstar. A depressed Rockstar who yearned for her home. Her family that would never be. The Iran she once knew.

Her story is one countless of other families face: first generation parents raising their children in hopes of giving them the opportunity they didn’t experience. Some parents want to live vicariously through their kids and push them to overachieve, other parents become too broken, too angry, too resentful that everything was taken from them.

My mother?

She wanted me to date as many men as possible, because when her parents found out she lived with my father, they demanded her to become a married women.

She made sure I dressed however I wanted, because she was constantly scolded by her brothers and parents for having her cleavage out.

She never wanted me to pursue entertainment news media, because she witnessed how problematic drawing attention to herself could be.

There are unique psychological challenges first generation college students face, a major one being guilt. The decision for a young adult to pursue a higher education comes with the price of leaving their family, and pursuing opportunities not ever granted to their parents. They feel like they are abandoning their parents, who had already been rejected by an entire country. Parents who immigrated may unknowingly put certain pressures on their child to emphasize the opportunities they never had, whether it be academic or in my case, the emphasis my mom placed on dating.

There are reports that Iranian Americans are actually experiencing a generational shift in identity, tying it to trauma of exile with their own version of isolation, similar to their parents. Sort of like loss identity, where we yearn to understand our roots, but at times reject it.

So whether you immigrated from your original home country to a different country, or you are a child of an immigrant, I think it’s really good to be aware that feelings of identity loss is going to happen, and there are many ways to seek support if you cannot find any within your household.

I suppose I did feel guilty, agreeing to dates just so I can call and tell her how below-par it was. But one thing we’re both working on is recognizing that the journey is our own. I know she’s reading this. I know because I told her this was a dating blog (sorry, mom). And I promise, mom, when I’m ready, I’ll re-download the dating apps. And, who knows, maybe by 2020, I’ll find a Rockstar of my own without having to binge on Bumble.

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