I Do What I Want


Happy Memorial Day- this is one of the few times a year where we actually LIKE Mondays.  Just a quick order of business, if you guys email us through our “CONTACT US” page, please make sure you put an email so we can get back to you.  We never like to leave our joonies hanging.  Anyway, we thought you guys might be a little tired of hearing about our Persian parents… so what better way to change it up than with a guest post? Meet DON DRAPER (Persian Version): he has a lot to say about his upbringing and Irooni mother.  So check it out and let us know what you thinkkkk: 

“Davash nakon! Madaret marize, MIKOSHISH!” Translation: Don’t fight her, your mom’s sick, you’re going to kill her!

Me: “Mage chi dare?”  What does she have?

“Hanuz marize, mimire!” She’s still sick, she’s going to die!

 “…Saratan dare!” …She has cancer!

That was an actual fight between my aunt and I.  My mother and I had been fighting about whether I could drive out to a friend’s party one Saturday night.

But my mom didn’t have cancer.

It was a trick.

(My mom had been diagnosed with minor cancer and had the cancer removed 6 months prior).

The point: give in to your mom. Do what she wants. I’m willing to lie about your mom having a terminal illness to get you to give in.

Maman! Vhere do I go?

As long as I can remember, my strong, controlling Persian mom (let no one fool you – women are the stronger sex in Iranian families – soosool Iranian men are aplenty) was willing to go to any length to impose her will on other people. But she always did it with finesse – never directly, never rude, always suggesting, always making threats implicitly.

The message: I can’t trust you.  You can’t handle anything on your own.  The world’s too dangerous.  I can’t even let you try.  

Mothers are supposed to be the people that provide us love when nothing else does. But my mother did the opposite. Constant criticism. Doing things for me. Overpowering me nearly every time I would try to do something independent. Comparing me to others mercilessly.

One of my friends grew up in Rwanda during the genocide. My friend told me once that any life conditions are bearable as long as you have an anchor – loving parents that support you in whatever you do.

I asked her, what about people who don’t have that? What if you can’t rely on anyone but yourself?

Conversations with my mother went a little something like this: 

Look at [Cousin X], I see him dating cute girls all the time. Do you date girls too? – at age 16

Why UC Santa Barbara? You can go to Community College and live at home – at age 17

Great job on flirting with that waitress at dinner tonight. She’s cute. If only you had the balls to actually call her – at age 18

Why are you majoring in Political Science? Can’t you be a become a doctor? – at age 19

And my personal favorite..

“Mom, I got a job at [the most prestigious law firm in the US]!!”

“Oh my God, great! Is it full time with a contract?”

“No but…”

“Well why are you taking that job?” – at age 22

28+ years of constant criticism?

What’s the result of that?

Does that help a person become better?

But I was wrong

Does it evolve me into the perfect being my mom thinks I’ll become if she criticizes me hard enough?


Anything I accomplish, no matter what I do or where I go, is not good enough for her. Nothing I say is good enough. There’s always something wrong to be found and fixed.

I can never relax under my mother’s constant vigilance and guardianship to make sure I don’t fuck things up for myself.

The end result is constant defensiveness. I’m willing to snap at her at a moment’s notice.

Deep breath and…

As soon as I hear her bullshit start up again, I’ll calmly tell her to shut the fuck up and get out of my face.

And the root cause is that my mom has seen shit herself. She’s been scarred (for life) by the hardships that she was forced to endure as a kid.  She didn’t get the love she needed, which probably caused problems in her life.  But most of all, she observed behavior patters where female control was the norm [because it is in Iranian culture].

So her idea of love is to control tightly and make sure nothing bad could ever happen in my life – even if it means suffocating me and trying to limit my access to any fun.

Even if it means slowly KILLING my “self” – my personality — attempting to kill it through constantly imposing her own will on me.

So it’s shit.

I hate my mother.

There’s only one person in the world that I truly hate and it’s her. And because of Iranian culture’s emphasis on family bonds, I can’t leave her.

I can’t divorce my family and release into the wilderness like some American kids might be able to – there are cases of kids divorcing their parents. The entire Iranian community works like a goddamn huge frat– everyone knows each other and gossips about each other.  If I could divorce my family and never see them again, I’d do it right away.

The hardest times in my life are when I’m home.

I hate how she looks rooye fogor (a very irritable facial expression) every morning.

I hate how she called me every day for weeks after she found out I smoked weed in college for the first time.

I hate how she would talk about my private problems in front of my friends’ parents every time they would come pick them up from my house as a teen.

I hate how she would constantly criticize my appearance.

I hate how she would always yell when she got mad but never directly – she’d notice something wrong in her environment and yell about it, but every time she did- I knew that she was really yelling at us to do something to appease her.

I hate how she would constantly criticize my dad in front of me.

I hate that she married a weak and pliable husband so I didn’t have a role model for what a strong man looks or acts like growing up.

I hate how she would constantly criticize my social behavior and never let me be myself – if I was nice then I was too nice, if I was mean then too mean – whatever I would do she would find a way to criticize.

I hate that I never got to have a carefree childhood because of this ornery beast of a mother – and doubly so that she was smart about it: projecting an image of complete niceness, sociability, and good humor to the world.

My Persian mom is my own personal boss from hell – one I can never escape.

And yet I love my mother.

One of the things I want the most in life is for her to know that I love her and die knowing that I really appreciate what she’s done for me. Because – like most Irooni parents – she doesn’t control out of any bad feelings or malice – she does it because it’s her fucked up definition of love.

For most Irooni parents, but especially for my mom, love means telling someone else what to do. Love means taking over the other person’s free will. Love means turning the parent into the Shah and transforming the kid into a personal Iran.

But at the end of the day it’s been a blessing to have such an abusive and controlling mother. It’s been a blessing that I’ve never known anyone in my family who unconditionally, no matter what, will love me and support me in everything I do.

It’s turned me into a machine. It’s turned me into a monster. I’m ruthless. I’m cold. I know what I want and I do it. No questions asked. I don’t doubt myself. I don’t ask for permission.

Constantly being criticized, constantly being doubted, constantly being told I’m not good enough – what does that produce? It could have gone two ways:

One is the typical Iranian soosool response. Turning me into a wimpy mama’s boy who calls his mom the night before the wedding to find out if she’s the right one.

The other is the self-reliant response.

I was lucky – I grew up around people that genuinely cared about me. My high school teachers would tell me –

“Don, you’re one of the most intelligent students I have, why do you have the grade you have in my class?” [I failed 3 classes & nearly failed out of high school]

“Don, you can always come to us, we’ll pull you through what’s going on at home.”

“Don, you’re a brilliant person with a bright future, don’t sweat the present — this is like Vietnam, as soon as you leave home things will change.” [a very nerdy history teacher]

Their love coupled with my willpower made the difference in who I am today.

I’ve successfully graduated with a 4.0 from the best university in the world, wrote a BA thesis that involved traveling to 3 different countries, got a master’s degree at one of the best grad schools in my field, I’ve dated models, athletes, and social entrepreneurs, and I’ve built a more impressive media profile than any person in my field in my generation.

I guess that in the end, I’m really happy I had such a controlling Persian mother and was locked into such a hellish childhood.

A gregarious uncle told me this proverb:

“There was once a blacksmith in ancient Iran run by a father and his sons.

One day, they took a slab of steel, heated it up, and started hammering at it.

They hammered and hammered and really got into it, losing track of their surroundings.

Before they knew it, they had spent hours on this one sword.

When the metal cooled, to their surprise, the sword that came out was the strongest they’d ever made.

It was indestructible.






Keepin’ it real,

Don Draper دان دریپر

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  1. This post climaxed about 4 times. I feel as though my peers and I can relate to this in a less extreme way. A lot of Persian parents come to the United States in order to allow their children to flourish in society and become something that either they were not, or were not allowed to become, and because of this, they take it upon themselves to provide the “best possible life for us” (which usually consists of the things that were mentioned above).

  2. Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do so, you apologize for truth.

    – Benjamin Disraeli, British Prime Minister

  3. Completely agree with Payam.

    Ultimately, parents want their children to be happy (although they have weird ways of showing it), and more often than not they think what makes them happy will make their children happy. They will want their children to have what they didn’t have, and that can be love, money, power, education…etc. What they don’t realize is we as their children are not an extension of them and most parents will never realize this. I am sure when we become parents we will have our own version of this (Khodet madar/pedar beshi mifahmi! as they always say lol)

    As adults we need to understand this…accept it…know that our parents did the best they could…show them we are happy and will always love them with all their faults and insecurities…and most important of all FORGIVE them, not for their sake, but for our own.

  4. Omfg. Your mother is exactly like mine and I am going through a similar thing right now, not to mention I also happen to be a poly sci major. You are all amazing writers on this website! I have yet to read one article I didn’t enjoy and or relate too. Brb, spending the night reading all these wonderful articles (and probably commenting on them too.)

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