I am always up for meeting some new, warm, and beautiful faces in Tehran as my photo displays. And it is fascinating (for me at least) how the “American lady in Chador” brings about a look of confusion, yet interest from some of the tourist and locals alike–Iran is said to be one of the most secular liberal Islamic countries in Asia.
Over the years many Iranian women are drifting from the traditional “chadori” styles (as I sometimes wear): this may be why some consider an outsider in conservative attire peculiar; however, not much rudeness is displayed and seldom do I receive unappreciative comments made during these corporeal encounters. My day-to-day experiences also counter-claim what many short term foreigners and mislead individuals say of Iran. For instance, I have seen blogs describe Iran as a place where “all women wear black chador and have no choice in the matter”; after viewing my experiences and photos people know differently now. Moreover pressure on women in Iran seems to be placed on women who do wear chador to “take it off”, “be stealthy”, or join movements that aim to westernize Iranian women in order to appease the west–rather as the oppressive shah once did to Iranians. Never have I experienced an actual encounter where I’ve seen women asked to put on a chador in a public setting–as some people vent about. It is more often online (sometimes not) that Americans or westernized Iranians (who grew up in USA or under their influence) message me and ask questions like; “Why do I wear chador in Iran, while I do not have to?”; or they call me names like “Hezbollahi”. Hezbollahi? Is that an insult? Do I care? Not really. I’m tired of living to justify the clothes (material things) I have on my back when there are greater issues we should all place emphasis on–like Palestine. Nor do not care, too much, of online opinions and opposition as I do for actuality–being among breathing flesh–this has taught me something different; in that it gives everyone an opportunity to articulate with greater passion, genuine respect, and sentiment.
The behavioral realities of meeting someone in person is always different from their cyber behavior. It is hard to criticize a person once realizing that–in the flesh–they are, after-all, human. In this case and with this particular experience in Iran, the interactions have been warm, fun, charming and interesting despite my appearance. This is the warmth and welcoming behavior all humans deserve to experience anywhere they go.