I was a bit confused at the amount of niceness which passport control officers and border guards aimed at us, and especially the princess, as we trekked across the globe to Iran. After all, we have done this hike before, and I am more accustomed to surly guards yapping “And where is the children’s father today? Is he aware they are travelling?” But this time round, from our very first stop at Halifax International, it was coos of delight, mainly addressing the princess: ”Oooo, I love your hair! Such beautiful braids! And where are you going? Iran? Oh my God! What lovely braids!”
Her hair was woven into dozens of beautiful little braids with bright turquoise blue and yellow yarn, a pretty sight for sure. I joked to the princess in Halifax “You must have magic braids- they make everyone nicer to us!”
Was it London? Or in Frankfurt? Anyway, another western city, another guard, again in that tone of excessive niceness, commented on the lovely braids and our final destination, and as she handed over the passports, I caught sight of the princess’s passport photo, her beaming face framed by a heavy voluminous red scarf which hid every strand of hair, folded carefully around her head and neck and shoulders. Suddenly the startled niceness made more sense.
A sight which never fails to arouse a painful mixture of pity, annoyance and amusement: the Iranian women congregating around the airport gates before boarding the plane, the last flight to Iran. The final few hours of hair-freedom. We are wearing curious mixture of clothes: clothes which can metamorphoses at any moment into the covers required by the government of Iran from female passengers. The airline announcement reminds us of this requirement, ending with the ominous warning, “It is in your own interest to do so.” Our faces express disgust, resignation, unhappiness, frustration. Anger.