One of my roommates at The Fletcher School, a few years back, was an Afghan. He was an ethnic Hazara and grew up displaced from his homeland, spending twenty years in Iran. He, my other roommate, a tall Swiss Army Officer, and I would routinely sit down and talk in our humble but cozy suite at Blakeley Hall, on the Tufts Campus. Some of us would drink tea. Others would partake in cold Swedish snus, straight out of the Haier mini-fridge. One evening, my Swiss roommate intimated that he might propose to his girlfriend. “Awesome!” we said.
Our Afghan roommate, found this an opportunity to open up a little bit, and he proceeded to tell us about his marriage. He was, at the time, the only married man amongst the three of us. He was clearly bitter about some of his experiences, being a refugee, and now with every Skype call back home there was probably a small gulp down his throat as he was told the days news in Afghanistan, as the ratio of bad news to good news was usually much higher. He told us about how the concept of intermarriage, inter-ethnicity is extremely taboo, especially between Hazaras and Pashtuns. He told us about how he was thinking of running for office in Afghanistan, and how no Pashtun would ever vote for him, but if Hazara tribal leaders affirmed him he could expect 90% plus of the Hazara votes. He told us about how he was planning to start a family.
He told us about his wedding. He said: “well, so, we were in X valley in Afghanistan, and there were many people in attendance, and anyhow, I was pretty tired from planning it…” “Wait, dear Afghan roommate, yeah right, you mean you were tired from helping your fiancé plan it, right? I said. “Oh, no, I planned the wedding. In Afghanistan and Iran, of course the men plan the weddings,” he said.
The point of the Afghani interlude is to reflect on our whole enterprise, of contrasting these opposing forces. Really, they are on a spectrum, like masculinity and femininity these concepts are jumbled up even in the more alpha or omega characters, its only in comic books that they appear in entire, pure form. The men planning weddings in Afghanistan and Iran is just an example that the same spectrum also warps around a curve, and actually completes itself in a circle, sort of how anarchists and fascists are so far apart that they horseshoe close to each other, also close enough to kiss.
In other words, the manly men in Iran are so controlling, so dominating over the women, in their macho social structure, that they end up planning the weddings too. They are the ones picking out the processional music, deliberating over outfits, or puzzling over particular shades of Lapis Lazuli for the table arrangements- people will ultimately find their own equilibrium of Masculinity vs. Femininity.