Growing Up With Special Needs

Every Persian parent’s dream is to have their child become a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. But what happens when you already know that there is little chance of that happening? It’s often devastating for parents to receive news that their child has some sort of special needs.

Special needs come in various forms: autism, epilepsy, down syndrome, etc. Some people’s special needs are more visible than others and many are high-functioning (those are the people many often name-call as “slow” or “weird”). There are some who even fall through the cracks; their special needs go undetected.

In any culture, parents tend to refuse to acknowledge their child’s problems in hopes of it magically disappearing. Either that, or…

marry them off when they’re a bit older

(I’ve seriously seen that happen).

Growing up, I have been surrounded by Middle Eastern families who have had a child with special needs. We knew a family whose son had something as simple as ADHD, but his parents were too afraid to put him on medication. After getting kicked out of a series of schools, he fell into a group of not-so-good-kids and became addicted to prescription pills. This addiction took him years to recover. It was only after their son had fallen into deep trouble, that his family finally intervened, then ended up sending him overseas to marry and start a family.

I also know plenty of students whose grades have dropped, simply because their parents refused to put them on medication or were “too tired” to help them with homework. This attitude is prominent among especially Middle Eastern families.

We indirectly blame people with special needs for something that is beyond their control.

girlIn Middle Eastern culture, there is this sense of “shame” if you have to take medication or see a therapist for whatever reason.

My sister was diagnosed with epilepsy as a small child; my parents were shocked. She used to have seizures and his behavior is a few years behind most girls her age. She sometimes laughs uncontrollably and says things that don’t make a lot of sense and are, sometimes, cringe-worthy.

When she tried out for the basketball team, 13 girls tried out; 12 made it. The only person not picked was the girl with special needs. We often deal with people being either discriminatory or unnecessarily over-accommodating to the point that it’s embarrassing. I was always jealous when I saw sisters sharing secrets and doing activities together; I felt that I could never connect to my sister.

The mental gap was wider than our five-year age difference.

My family didn’t play the bullshit game of “ignore it and it will go away”; they invested in extracurricular activities along with therapy in order for her to learn and grow. I decided that it was up to me what kind of relationship we wanted to have. I started attending her sports games and attempting conversation inside the home. I stood guard when possible, if I felt that she was being made fun of.

She is now in a top position for the girls’ sports team and sometimes the boys’ team. She has dreams of finishing her education and pursuing a career.

Although I do not know the feeling of having children, I know one thing should be for sure: You love and support your child, no matter how they were born.

I am still learning how to be “friends” rather than housemates with my sister. When your parents die, your siblings are what you have left. I want to be close with my sister even when I am older.





SARAH سارا

Poppin’ Bottles


Sorry, excessive? It’s one of those nights- and I think it’s enough fucking around (literally and figuratively… okay not literally). I’ve written about this before– my mom.  Her problems. Haven’t heard? Read aaall about it here.  But I’ve never really told you how it makes me feel.

Let’s recap:

The first time I had to hold my mother’s hair back was when I was 16.

The year my mother filed for divorce– because according to her, my father was a tyrant– she lost control.  And since then, it’s only spiraled from bad to worse.  The wine was replaced with vodka.  The vodka was accompanied by God knows what pills.

I still can’t find the stash.

Her drinking wasn’t a result of the divorce… it’s a result of a genetic malfunction and a lack of strength.  My grandfather… my great grandmother… now my mother… and to some extents, even me- cigarettes and energy drinks- not as innocent as I like to make it sound.

Despite my slight cigarette addiction (<– see how I did that), I’m grateful I don’t end most of my days passed out on the floor or wake up in the morning with bruises on my face because I ran into walls the night before.

When I left California, I thought I had left my mother capable.  I encouraged her to take classes at the community college, she was spending less days at home in the dark– and more time outside, living life. 

I left the West Coast feeling like my mother would be strong enough to BE the parent she’s supposed to be and to take care of my younger sibling … I left thinking that I had “corrected” her behavior.

[Read more…]


Dearest joonies, 

Thanks to your constant support through sharing our posts, commenting and sending emails- we decided it would only be fair to give you a voice too.  In addition to our monthly guest contributors, we are going to post reactions written by loyal readers to our most controversial posts.  Two nights ago, James Bond pushed the envelope when he dared to categorize US into “types.” Tonight, NAZANIN (name changed for confidentiality) tells it like it is.  Enjoy: 

Immediately after I read “James Bond’s” bullshit analysis on Persian girls and sex, I thought: what is he talking about? I enjoy sex! I have no problem talking about it! There is nothing wrong with Persian girls and sex.

But then again, he poses a very valid point to which I’d like to respond- what stops Persian girls from falling into the silver category? (see: Bond’s medal guide to female sexuality)

Because women are not allowed to be sexual beings.

Even when we are, we get labeled as whores and God forbid we become demanding in the bedroom because then we are just kinky bitches. For generations women have been given messages of being classy and “khanoom” and everyone knows no “khanoom” ever talks about sex, let alone enjoys it (I can feel my great grandmothers turning in their graves). And here is why:

Throughout history women are ‘sexualized’  in a pretty negative way. Great kings had harems of women that they used purely for sexual reasons. Even today the leaders of the world are constantly messing around having a wife, girlfriend and an escort on the side. In Iran it’s still legal to have more than one wife, and believe it or not MANY men actually DO! Furthermore, most of our grandmothers were married between the ages of 9-18, some didn’t even know what a menstrual cycle is (some still don’t bichareha) but they popped out anywhere from 2-15 kids. I am pretty sure the way it happened was the man climbed on top of her, did his thing, and got off, and she had no idea what was happening.
Women were never told that they were more than baby-making machines, or that they were worth anything, let alone, an ORGASM.
Women were never told that they were worthy and valuable human beings, capable of being something great. GOD forbid anyone ever say that because then we get called feminists.
So I am either a whore or a feminist. Grrrreat.
On top of it all we have something called “the flower” aka your virginity, which is so valuable that men pay 10-20 times more to sleep with a virgin geisha than the non virgin ones. Let me tell you a story about my life:

A few years after graduating college, I was hooked up by a family member and began dating an Irooni boy who was the ultimate dream come true for all Iranian parents: A surgeon! But I was just not feeling it. I told my family, and the attacks started: “Vat? Who do you tink you are? You tink you are so great? He is too good for you!” I was nothing, he was everything, and I began to believe it.

During one of our first dates he told me that he thought “purity” was important. “Purity? You mean virginity?” I asked and he said “Yeah…that. If a Persian girl is not pure before marriage, then there is something deeply wrong with her and family.”  He went on to say that white women can get away with it because of their “savage culture.” But an Iranian “khanoom” knows better than to let anyone but her husband put his hand into her cookie jar.  I wasn’t a total slut in college but I had my share of “sexploring…” (uh oh).

No shame in that.

Finally I told him that I wasn’t a virgin and his reaction was so intense that I felt like he was going to come to my door with the rest of the villagers and make me wear a scarlet “S” for “Slut” on my chest. I started crying and suddenly, I was APOLOGIZING to him for not being a virgin. I felt like yeah, no one else will want me now. I am tainted. I am worthless. He finished the conversation by saying that if he told his parents, they would never let us get married but he loves me so much that he is willing to look past this huge imperfection of mine.

Needless to say I eventually broke up with him, but it wasn’t easy. I dealt with so much anger and frustration from my family, especially when the news of my “impurity” got out to my parents. For months after that I prayed to God asking for His forgiveness for letting a man other than my husband touch me. I bargained– “Please let me get through this hard time and I swear I will not let another man touch me unless he is my husband.”

A lot of Iranian families who are more traditional have these views, here and all over the world. There is just something wrong with keeping these old traditions alive in an age where sexuality is explored and treasured. There is something wrong with the message we send Iranian girls that their worth is based in their virginity. Sex becomes this huge monster most women want to ignore, let alone have fun doing it. So every time that girl goes and has sex, she comes home and scrubs herself so hard in the shower that she bleeds. While we live in a world where women are given these messages and they internalize and believe them, NOTHING will change.

she may be an ugly feminist, but she has a point.

My value as a woman is not based on my virginity. My worth is not in my sexuality.

I am a strong, independent, good woman and I do not need to prove my worth because I AM ALREADY WORTHY. I can take charge of my sexuality and do what I want with it, and hell yes I will enjoy sex and be demanding of what I want from my lover. I will not allow society or tradition dictate my worth.

So James Bond, I can’t wait to see what you try to come up with next:



Nazanin نازنین
%d bloggers like this: