Hot take: Instagram notifications are universally annoying. You're positive that you've muted them, yet somehow, you're phone is still buzzing at 2 a.m. to inform you that Eunice from summer camp of '04 just posted her first IG story. No matter how many times you change your settings, those little rascals keep popping up. That's exactly what my relatives are like: It makes no difference how many times I politely decline when my family tries to set me up — they bounce back again the next day with a new series of 10-minute-long voicemails and another, equally as hairy, strapping young bachelor.
My big fat Persian family makes the FBI look like a group of finger puppets. My parents make the show True Detective feel like an episode of Blue's Clues. My extended kin are to private investigators what the entire U.S. Postal Service is to one teeny, tiny mailbox. I'm not saying my family is super nosy, but I'm also not not saying that. I only mean to suggest that I once called my mom from college and told her that I was thinking of getting a tiny tattoo on my inner wrist, and by nightfall, I was getting emails from distant cousins whom I have never met before, with subject lines like: Does Body Mutilation Lead To Sudden Death? So, make of that what you will.
My family's absurdly high level of involvement means that most aspects of my life are rarely kept private, and that applies to my love life tenfold. To be fair, I understand that my relatives' intent is not malicious. It's not only that they want what's best for me — which they do — but they also want what's best for the Persian community: The tribe of three-generation Iranian families, which immigrated from Tehran to the tri-state area during the revolution. In many of their minds, marrying a nice Persian boy means maintaining the strength of this community long after my grandparents pass. It means my children will learn Farsi and celebrate Norooz. It means bringing my own family to visit Iran someday.
I remember the first time I became hyperaware of this expectation, or rather, hope. I was a young girl, perhaps 12 or 13 years old. An older family friend was driving her cousin and I to the mall. We sat in a sleek convertible and her long, black hair blew into the wind, causing her to laugh as it tangled up in her eyes; she was beautiful. The youngest of us were in the backseat, listening in total awe as she recounted tales of her many boyfriends. "Do you think you'll marry one?" Her cousin prodded. "Nope," she responded, without missing a beat. "I'm going to marry an Iranian. I mean, don't you want your husband to be able to communicate with your family?"
That's a question that I thought about frequently while growing up. Now I'm well into my 20s — an age when strangers assume they can discuss marriage with you as openly as they do coupon codes at CVS. Let me be clear: My family is very open-minded and accepting, and has never formally pressured me to "mate" with another Iranian. In fact, my current partner is British and my immediate family might be even more in love with him than I am! The type of "setting up" I'm referring to is much more subtle and some would say, devious.
This time last year, I brought my partner to an event that had been branded as a Persian millennial brunch, an attempt for my parents' generation to sort of force their children to become friends with each other, as a means of ensuring that our community will flourish for centuries onward. My partner was the only "outsider" in attendance, and while nobody made him feel uncomfortable or unwanted, I was later encouraged by the host to consider bringing a Persian plus-one to the next meet-and-greet. I suddenly realized that this was, indeed, some form of strange mating ritual — and I had totally crashed à la National Geographic.
Regardless of this, er, uncomfortable moment, I remain a huge proponent for love knowing no bounds: falling in love when you least expect it and reveling in that experience until you're no longer in it. I continue to toe the line between honoring the culture and community from which I'm derived, and being head-over-heels in love with someone foreign to it. Of course, that doesn't mean we don't have the unexpected visitor pop by, every now and again. But for when they do, I've concocted a fool-proof, three-fold approach to politely declining to obvious setup.