An Iranian Engagement


Ariana Hazery, 18, is a senior in High School.  Her self-identified ethnicity is Persian.  She recently went back to Iran to visit family and made the following cultural faux pas.  I collected it from her over coffee while she was visiting USC.


I went to Iran last summer to visit my aunt and uncle.  They own a silk farm.  It’s kind of cool actually.  Anyways, uhm, the craziest thing happened!  My sister, Leila, and I were talking with our two cousins, and they’re both boys.  They’re a little older than us, but not much.  So, uhm, we’re talking with them in the living room, and its getting noisy, so we ask them if they want to come upstairs with us.  Leila and I were sharing a room on the second floor, so we figured we could go hang out in there until dinner was ready.  So we do that.  Well, when we come back, my aunt has this huge smile on her face, and she gives me this big hug, and then she goes, “We are so happy with your choice!” [imitates accent].  Uhh, what?  Excuse me?  Leila and I have no idea what’s going on.  Well, eventually we put the pieces together.  In Iranian culture, you only show your room to a boy if you are engaged to him!  So my aunt thought that we had gotten engaged to her sons!


While taken from the perspective of an outsider breaking in, this story is revealing about some of the practices regarding engagement in Iranian culture.  Also, it is not entirely uncommon for fist cousins to marry, still, so the aunt had more reason to take this act seriously.  However, it is interesting that showing the bedroom is associated with engagement, and not marriage, in this particular region.  The Iranian family lived in a tiny, farming town that specialized in producing silk, so distance from major political, religious, and cultural centers in Iran may have contributed to this more relaxed attitude towards male and female interaction.