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'Door Door': Vignettes for Valentine's

by CORRESPONDENT in Tehran

13 Feb 2011 17:00Comments

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"Delam tang shode"

Literal translation: My stomach has become tight (for you)

Used to express the feeling of missing somebody. One can refer to the stomach in several metaphorical constructions where English speakers refer to the heart.

***

"Here you go, sir," came a voice to my side, followed by two cappuccinos neatly laid before us -- rotated even, to make sure each drizzled chocolate heart was facing in the proper direction. The waiter paused with me as I studied the froth in search of the café's signature chocolate "V." I turned my head, noticing the above-average midweek crowd, before turning back to my female companion and hiding a blush. I dismissed the waiter, complimenting his effort. "I remember one of the reasons I moved to Iran," I began, having realized that it was in fact February 14. "It's pleasant to not have such calendar occasions forced upon you." Although I felt there had been a mutual attraction in the past, I had no intentions for the evening other than to catch up with an old friend. "As you couldn't make it this time last week, I simply suggested the following week," I awkwardly explained. She sat, still saying nothing. "I didn't realize it was going to be Valentine's Day." I could have commented on the weather, maybe mentioned how busy it was, but I carried on, "I have a girlfriend, by the way, she's out of town."

***

"Duff"

Literal translation: n.a. (etymology disputed: supposedly derived from Daffy Duck, or possibly Hebrew, referring to the movement of the character's rear)

Slang, meaning a beautiful girl.

***

Another day in another branch of the same chain of cafés, it struck me that it was the third time that month that I had sat there with a different girl. I wondered what the waitress must think after she'd politely not asked if I wanted the usual. "Oh, she's gotten married," I said in surprise. "How could you tell that?" quizzed my companion, confused as to why I mentioned it. It was the addition of the ring on the right finger. "You're quite observant, aren't you," she responded, possibly complimenting me. I looked down at the sparkle coming from the ring finger of my friend and wondered if maybe she and the waitress shared the same methods of avoiding unwanted attention.

***

"Door door"

Literal translation: Around and around

To cruise. Driving in unofficially designated areas, in as good a car as one can borrow (usually father's), generally with three passengers of the same sex, with the aim of finding partners -- or customers.

***

Occasionally I meet male friends in cafés, where we chop it up on politics, price increases, and other things beginning with "p." "Don't look now, but we're being checked out -- your eight o'clock." Apparently, I never wait long enough, but true enough we were. "OK, I'll be back in a bit," says my friend. He finishes writing my number on a piece of paper and follows one of the two girls out the café door. Shortly after their return, my phone lights up and a few messages later all four of us sip up and head off. "Hello, my name is...," they begin as we edge toward the exit. "We've gotta get going," declares my friend before we say our goodbyes. My phone lights up again. "God, no," says my friend, "I'm not interested."

***

"Doostmamooli"

Literal translation: Regular friend

Used during introductions at a party to stress that you are not even friends with benefits.

***

"You remember that couple that came in selling advertising space, they want you to meet their niece," said my father's business partner, a slight alteration from his usual greeting: "Why are you still not married?" Yes, I remembered. "She's rich," he continued, but stopped short of the customary follow-up that she was beautiful as well. I got to see why a few days later, having agreed to meet her and not thinking twice about the necessity of her alluring aunty coming along at her father's request. They arrived at the café 45 minutes late, but I found myself bothered only by thoughts of how two relatives could be so unalike. As we slurped on shakes, the interview got under way -- my current job position, monthly earnings, aspirations, the specific part of town I live in and how I get there and back. "So I hear you're still studying," I asked, wondering if she was capable of answering. "Yes, she's studying for a diploma." One hour can be so long some times, especially when half of it is spent explaining directions to some village four hours away. I guess if one repeats "Where?" enough they should expect this. I'm sure she was rich in love, but I failed to answer the months of her calls to me to find out.

***

"Dooset daram"

Literal translation: I have like (for you)

Used to say, "I love you." One can also use these words to express love for things beyond one's partner, for example, chocolate. To express being in love with someone, a different phrase is used.

***

"It's my father's number by the way," I warned, amused that although I still didn't have a number myself, I had just been given a third. This was my first non-parents' party and the first time I learned who the Basij are and how they alternatively choose to spend their evenings. With breakfast, lunch, and dinner arranged, I met all three ladies the following weekend. Breakfast was tasty, maybe a little light, but certainly a fresh start to the day. Lunch was a little difficult to digest and ended up causing problems with dinner. Even now, I wonder how different my life would have been if I'd have stuck with breakfast that day.

The vignettes are interspersed with extracts from the forthcoming book "The Persian Dating Glossary," by the same author. Photo by Newsha Tavakolian.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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