I Wish I Were Blond (From: The Apple Tree Blossoms in the Fall – A Memoir)

Written By: Armineh Ohanian

(From: The Apple Tree Blossoms in The Fall) I WISH I WERE BLODN It was a steaming hot summer afternoon in Tehran. I had just graduated from the American School, and like any recent graduate, I felt restless. As I sat idly on our balcony, beads of sweat trickled down my chest and weaved their way toward my waistline. It felt like the sun was melting down, spilling its golden syrup over Tehran. Cuckoo, my ginger, fluffy cat, sprawled out in the shade of our second-floor veranda, was boiling in invisible sweat. “Thank God, I’m not you!” I said. “I can take off my clothes whenever I want.” Cuckoo rolled his eyes and glared at me as his head rested on his white-tipped paws. I sat down next to him on the floor and patted his head. My cousin, Olivia – whom I had been friends with since my early childhood – sat beside me on the porch, and cast a sarcastic glance toward me. “What…what?” I asked. She simply shook her head. Like me, Olivia seemed to be fed-up. Slumped in a green wooden chair, dressed in her yellow short-sleeved button-down shirt and long white linen skirt, she fixed her brown eyes on the narrow street behind our garden walls. I examined her olive-colored complexion and her dark hair, which hung loosely over her shoulders. Olivia was considered charming by Persian men. “An olive-skinned girl is worth millions,” is what they claimed. I personally found blond tall girls very admirable. Of course, this is not to say that I found pretty, dark-complexioned girls any less beautiful. It is just that the phrase blond and tall represented a special form of beauty to me, a novelty. Once while walking to school as a teen, I saw a tall blond Western girl. I was so mesmerized by her beauty that I could not take my eyes off of her. A young cheery-looking fellow, who happened to be passing by right then, sized me up, flashed a friendly smile, and said, “Stop staring at that girl with such envy. You are much prettier than she is.” I was shocked. How can he say such a thing? Is he blind? I asked myself. Shaking my head, I went on my way, still feeling dissatisfied with my looks, despite the man’s compliment. I never liked the way I looked. As a child, I used to stand in front of the tall mirror installed on our dining room wall and cry, saying to my mother, “I’m ugly!” and my mother would hug me lovingly and say, “No you’re not!” It was only when I turned seventeen that I stopped hating my facial features. However, I still wished that I were a bit taller and, well, blond. Now, thinking back about the way Olivia looked, I have to agree with Persian men. Not only was she attractive, but she also had a certain impish air about her. What’s more, she was mischievously fun. As soon as she would give me her special crooked smile, while arching one eyebrow, I knew for sure that she was up to concocting a prank or two! I, in turn, was always ready for a good laugh and lots of fun. We liked to imitate our older relatives and friends and giggle madly. We also loved to sit by the window in our first-floor dining room, directly facing the street, and make eyes at the handsome boys passing by. Sometimes we would whisper naughty remarks at them. Other times we would crack our bubble gum with a deafening smack, startling the poor boys out of their reveries. We would roar with laughter, humiliating our victims. Oh, how we liked those handsome boys! I would often ask myself, “How can I marry a single man when I like them all?” Indeed, that was how we were most of the time. We laughed, joked, teased one another, and frolicked like playful kittens. Olivia’s younger sister, Adrineh, was one year older than I. Gohar, the third sister, was my age, and had curly, brown hair, which I had envied ever since I could remember. I found both girls to be as funny as Olivia. The same was true with their brother, Samvel, who was three years my junior and the youngest in his family. Samvel grew up to be a dark, handsome six-foot tall fellow who died of cancer at the early age of twenty-nine. Aunt Shooshan, their mother, was stricken with dementia not long after that devastating loss.