The year was 1963. I was still living in Abadan, Iran, when a new family moved into a house across the street from us. All the neighborhood kids knew the man of the house was nothing but trouble because he was just plain mean.
For example, while playing soccer, if our ball accidentally went over the fence, and landed in his yard, he didn’t give it back to us. He’d cuss us out —something completely unheard of in our community—for having a good time, and laughing out loud, but we couldn’t do anything about it. Within that society, kids didn’t question an elder. This went on until the man had to face my easygoing dad.
Mr. Golcheen, our new neighbor, had a dog that was just as mean as her master. One day the dog got out of the gated front yard and bit one of my brothers. After he came home crying, my mom approached Mr. Golcheen and very politely said, “Sir, you shouldn’t let your dog get out of your front yard.” To which, he very sarcastically replied, “Madam, you shouldn’t let your boy get out of your front yard.”
The poor soul wasn’t aware that my dad, who’d just gotten home from work, was standing across the street listening to the whole conversation. Having his wife insulted, and demanding his honor restored, my dad charged the man. That was the only time I remember my dad that angry. Fortunately for the man, other neighbors stopped my dad and allowed Mr. Golcheen to cowardly duck into his house. A few weeks later he moved out of the neighborhood.
The year’s 2002. This is my daughter’s senior year at Birmingham High, and her best friend has talked her into working with her at this dive of a pizzeria in a shady part of the city we live in. I’m not very happy with my daughter working in such a place, but Megan’s excitement overrides her dad’s disagreement. After all, like my dad, I’m also an easygoing father, whom, as much as possible, never says, “No.”
After working there for a few months, one night Megan comes home crying. The owner of the place, who has a very foul mouth, had cussed her out in front of customers, and she doesn’t want to work there any more. Many Americans may be quite delighted to hear their daughter isn’t going to be working for a place they disapproved to begin with, but not with me. I was raised in a shame-based culture and taught to defend my family’s honor, which is very important to me.
I call my good friend, Dennis. He’s of Swedish decent, and is built like an eighteen-wheeler, burly and strong. I tell him what I’m about to do and ask him to go with me. He readily accepts my request. No sooner than I call, and tell him my game plan, he’s at my front door. We get in his truck, and head for the pizzeria.
I’ve met the restaurant owner before. He’s a scrawny-looking guy who was born in Lebanon but raised in America. As soon as I enter the place, he recognizes me and has a feeling of why I’m here. I ask him to meet us outside. We go out and I sit at a table with my back against the wall across from him. Dennis stands right behind him, just as we’ve planned.
“Are you going to beat me up?” he asks nervously, hoping I get his joke.
“Of course not!” I reply. I’ve no intention of beating anyone up. I just want to teach this spoiled brat a lesson and restore my daughter’s honor.
“You know what “Aaibe” is, correct?” I use the word for shame in Arabic.
“You know how important our honor is in that part of the world. You’ve brought ‘Aaibe’ on my family by dishonoring my daughter, and that needs to be rectified.”
“You’re correct, sir. I’m sorry for using bad language around your daughter.”
“You should never use bad language around my daughter period, but even more important, you will never direct it at her.”
“I’m very sorry. Please tell her if she comes back, I’ll never do it again.”
“That’s never going to happen. She’s not coming back to this place, EVER,” I smirk.
My family honor is restored, and I’m satisfied. But, even more important, Megan knows that her dad stood up for her, and that she can always depend on me to be her covering and protection.
As we’re walking away, I thank Dennis for going with me and he says,
“Thank you for bringing me along. I learned how my daughter should be treated.”
A few weeks later, I hear that our Lebanese friend is fined heavily for allowing an underage employee to sell liquor to an undercover police officer.
Recently, after posting my last 3-4 blogs, I got two interesting, yet opposite comments.
An anonymous follower gave me a great compliment, albeit, a left-handed one, saying:
“so ive read all of your blogs, never commented, a lot of the times because i felt you were just whiny. i really like the quality of your last 3 or 4 posts, and just thought i should give you a little bit of encouragement. keep going sir.”
The second comment from a friend said, “What happened? You’ve lost your fire.”
My friends were both right and wrong. I haven’t lost my fire, and, no, I wasn’t whiny. Originally, I started blogging after being unjustly fired from my job, which deeply dishonored me. I was cornered and shamed. My blogs were my way of trying to restore my honor. However, once the new leadership in charge of the old missions organization took me to lunch to apologize in person for what the old regime had done to me, I felt no reason to continue writing about the same issues. My honor was restored, and just like my dad, once again, I’m easygoing.
The above stick drawing and the note is from Megan. She sent it to me just the other day after I got her car fixed. By the way, she’s 24.