Posted Arta Wildeboer, JD, Contributing Author
Because I’ve never made a bad decision or mistake in my life, I have decided to pen an advice column.
I’m anxious regarding what to talk about when I attend Persian family parties. What is acceptable conversation fodder to avoid social awkwardness?
Keep it light and keep it brief. Perhaps perplexingly, no one cares about your problems and everyone cares too much at the same time—neither is good. One must remember, a party is not the venue to splay open your soul to an unsuspecting aunt or to keep your mom’s dad’s sister’s son-in-law’s wife’s brother from getting to the bathroom with your sob stories.
People are there to do a few things at these gatherings, including, but not limited to, in no particular order: play backgammon, re-gift the same bottle of Chivas Regal that has been going around the family since 1986, wonder aloud why kids wear shalvar’eh goshad, eat tahdiq, and ask any relative in high school if he/she is going to go to Harvard or UCLA.
No one is expecting you to say “bad” when they ask how you are doing. Just say you’re doing well and move on. Which brings me to another point: If you are at any time dealing with someone over 60 disregard these rules and simply ask them how they are doing 300 times, then ask them if they have seen your mother, and get the heck out of there before you smell like Brut aftershave for the rest of your life.
For your convenience, I have complied a list of acceptable topics one can discuss at a party: Jokes about Armenians, jokes about Muslims, jokes about the opposite sex, jokes about Elat Market, jokes about how fat your cousin got, the Lakers, Downtown LA, living anywhere other than Beverly Hills, being a doctor, being a lawyer, or simply make a joke about how if you don’t get married within 5 years everyone will start talking behind your back.
For extra credit, if you end up getting cornered by a past-his-prime uncle, mention your multiple American girlfriends as often as possible, even if you’re 11, and they are a complete fantasy. Lindsay, Katie, and Vickie are example of names every Persian boy should memorize to aid in convincing your 20 years-married cousin that the gene pool is indeed thriving in your guise.
This is literally all these people want to hear and there does not have to be a shred of truth coming out of your mouth, nor should you feel bad for it. You know you’re lying, they know you’re lying; EVERYONE knows you’re lying. It’s ok, no one cares, they would rather hear a good story about some mystery blondes, or at least an allusion to one, rather than hear about how you can’t find a job, still live at home and couldn’t get into USC etc.
In fact, if you are ever in a jam and need to instantly impress/throw off any male relative, do what I do and simply say the word “Amsterdam.” After that, the less you say the better. No story you could hope to conjure up will compare to anything their imaginations will dream up and telling them anything will only serve to diminish the power of what you have just invoked.
“If you can remember any part of your trip other than the airport you probably wasted your time there.” That sentence has turned me into a living legend in my family. Of course, not everyone is so blessed to have engaged in their own European escapades and to those of you longing for a place to call your own to be the backdrop of your own lies, I have two words for you: Las Vegas.
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August 8, 2012 | 4:04 pm
Posted by Nicole Behnam
Rarely have I spent a day out of the house without coming across a smoker. The surgeon general’s warning on the cigarette cartons mean nothing to them. The electronic billboards that count smoking deaths per year are overlooked. It doesn’t scare them when they are informed that every cigarette they smoke takes approximately 12 minutes from their lives. People have become complacent as a result of our culture’s ignorance and defiance.
In 1960, philosopher Ayn Rand delivered a lecture at Yale University about the “modern world.” She said, “What you are seeing today is the neurotic anxiety of an entire culture. People do not want to find any answers to avert their danger: all they want, all they are looking for, is only some excuse to yell: ‘I couldn’t help it!’”
I believe this explains the mindset of a smoker today, who, when asked why he doesn’t quit, replies with “it’s too hard” or “I’m already addicted.” Granted, that’s probably true, but instead of asking himself “what is required of me to quit?” he asks, “can I do it?” and then becomes crippled by his own uncertainty. Observe the unsuccessful quitter, whose every success only augments his anxiety and whose every failure confirms his belief that he will never be able to quit. It’s his mentality, not his inability to quit that keeps him addicted.
But the real question is, why do people—especially adults—start smoking when they are fully aware of the many detrimental health effects of smoking and of the difficulty quitters experience?
One of the most common reasons among teenage girls today is that they want to lose weight. This is understandable because the illnesses that smoking can potentially cause, like cancer or lung diseases, do propel weight loss, but who really wants to lose weight that way?
Others smoke because they think smoking is relaxing, because their friends smoke, or just because it gives them something to do. Smoking isn’t relaxing. In fact, it makes the heart beat considerably faster. Hanging around friends that smoke is a detriment in and of itself. The best way to deal with smoking friends is to ask them not to smoke in your presence. Also, having nothing to do is no reason to damage your lungs either. Try reading.
On May 31, 2007, NPR interviewed Lloyd Johnston, a social psychologist at the University of Michigan with 32 years of experience, who said “the decline in teen smoking seems to be about over.”
Cigarette ads targeting teenagers illustrate smokers as cool and hip, sophisticated and elegant, or attractive and sexy. Luckily, the government has passed laws limiting where and how tobacco companies are allowed to advertise in order to prevent young kids from smoking.
I decided to ask the smokers themselves—teens and adults—how they started smoking. They replied with various answers from “The first time, I just wanted to try it” to “all my friends smoked so I felt out of place being the only one without a cigarette.”
One girl replied with “I’m only a social smoker and I usually only smoke when I’m drunk.”
These excuses weren’t good enough. No excuse is good enough. The best way to avoid social traps or unwarranted cravings is to come up with reasons for why smoking is unacceptable and stick to them. The internet provides many resourceful websites that can help you choose which negative effects of smoking stick out to you the most.
From experience, I have found that coming up with responses to uncomfortable social situations with friends who smoke is very helpful. For example, you could reply with “smoking makes me cough” or “I have to stay in shape and I can’t breathe too well when I smoke.” Anyone who doesn’t accept your replies isn’t your friend.
We all know people who smoke, whether they are friends or family members or co-workers. This doesn’t mean that they are “bad people” or “immoral people” either. Smoking has nothing to do with morality, but it has everything to do with health. Let them know what you think or even try to help them quit. If they resist, let it go.
For smokers and non-smokers, just remember that staying smoke-free will give you more of everything you really want: more money in your wallet, more energy, better performance, healthier physique, good skin, and ultimately, more life.