The unusual sexual awakening of a woman.
I value intellect and a strong, passionate personal connection, the strength of the chemistry between us. With Orkideh, I was becoming increasing drawn into her personality. The fact that she was soft on my eyes only made me regret more that she had an engagement ring on her finger.
"From the youngest age, I remember learning that the most important skill was lying. We lied because we had to. At school you were supposed to cover your hair with these tiny scarves," she said, holding up her hijab. "When I was younger we could only wear black ones but nowadays white or bright colors are permitted. Our teachers would ask us if we were always wearing our scarves, and we quickly learned to lie and say we were.
"The questions did not stop at our attire. We were also constantly asked about what kind of music we were listening to and what kind of movies we were watching to make sure that we were not being exposed to anything that was forbidden. Even though we learned to deny it, when at home we could easily have access to video tapes - considered illegal then - containing musical videos and banned movies, all kinds of stuff.
"Most foreigners find this funny or rather unbelievable, the issue of restrictions in my country. I am not talking about the basic rights of human beings to live their personal lives -- about which too much has been said already -- but rather how all this has created a culture in which we learn to speak a dual language, and the psychological toll that takes on us. That dual culture requires little kids learn to lie at school about our moms wearing or not wearing a hijab in front of men, to lie in high school about our favorite writers, favorite book or favorite song, to lie in the uni about what we do when we are not studying, and to lie at home to our parents about our friends, relationships and what we do when we go out."
"Yeah, but most kids learn to do that when they're growing up," I replied.
"Sure they do, but not with their lives depending on it, or the lives of their family members. What happened in Persia in the last century was an abrupt change of values after the revolution in 1979. Religion was the key point of this power shift, however this is only the surface of a much more complicated story. After the revolution, all expression and communication became couched in religious terms. Our personal lives became subject to scrutiny to insure that we were living in concert with the religious themes of the revolution. This did not mean that we all became ultra religious. The pressure of the investigations into our personal lives and the consequent discrimination we face when we fail that scrutiny ends up in the formation of a language in which things have dual meanings. We learned to use religious prose with multiple meanings to convey what we are trying to communicate.
"In this dual language, we live two lives and speak two tones. We are religious at school, we take part in the prayers held in the school yard, we celebrate the anniversary of the revolution. But once we go home we change our clothes, dress up, attend parties, drink and dance. In a fraction of a second we forget about school or work, like our minds just switch to another channel," she explained.
"There is a similar phenomenon in Black culture in the US," I interjected. "Du Bois called it 'double consciousness' and more recently we call it 'code switching.' Basically there is an alternative universe that we live within, in terms of how we communicate and express ourselves, depending on the context and who else is around."
"Yeah, I think all oppressed people must learn this skill, and it has certainly become well-developed in Persians in the past 30 years. We can't be proud of this ability though, which is based on pretending to be what others want you to be. This 'Other You' is your key to survival, it's our way to get accepted by the rulers as a citizen. Don't you think it's unhealthy to have to live like that?" she asked.
I thought about it for a minute.