When I was three, I hit a guest who had stepped into my room to say her noon prayers over the head with a broom.
This act can be interpreted on several levels.
First, it shows my rebellion against the much-vaunted Iranian traditions of “mehman-navazi” (literally, caressing guests), which requires a host to slit the throat of their first-born child while performing three somersaults in front of each guest, as a mark of respect and honour. This, I had decided by the early age of three, is a needless and troublesome tradition, and the rules definitely need re-writing.
Second, it can be interpreted as showing early hostility to unreasonable religious practices- the guest was actually bending over in the first throes of her noon-prayer when the assault took place.
Third, which I actually think is the most valid interpretation, it shows my intense desire for private, personal space, and my ferocity in defending that space.
All my life, all I had ever longed for was my own space, free of Others. Years before I heard of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, I was carefully locking the door of my bedroom each morning before leaving for school, putting the key in the button-downed front pocket of my dungarees, and unlocking it only in the afternoon. When guests came, I would flee to my room and close the door, refusing to come out until I was sure every last one of them had left. I had a few treasured intimates, who were allowed in the sanctuary, for short periods of time, but otherwise, it was just me and my room.
I haven’t changed that much, I believe. And the move to Halifax (”where? How far is that from Toronto?” – I must have explained a thousand times to my bewildered compatriots over the holidays) is typical of that desire for a space with few intruders.
There is so much literature about immigrants needing to find their own ”community”, and every time I hear those phrases, I feel like sticking my fingers down my throat. Give me good schools, good libraries, a couple of malls and supermarkets, a handful people I can see every so often without feeling the whole of my life is under critical scrutiny, a decent job, some good restaurants and cafes. That’s all I need.
Keep the community for yourselves. Thank you, Halifax.