When my friend first mentioned the word Magbit to me, I knew she was thinking of getting married. For us Persian Jewish girls, Magbit (pronounced Magbeet) comes to mind when you're all partied out, ready to settle down and attend the 11-year-old organization's elaborate singles events.
"So, um, do you remember when you said that your cousin took you to some event where there were older guys, and it was some sort of marriage thing, Magbit or something?" she stammered.
After a half an hour of debating with her on why we should maintain our party lives just a little bit longer, I finally relented. I mean, it could mean the end of brainstorming ways to attract men and mulling over just what my crush of the week meant by "you're in my way." When we presented the idea to our other friends, they acted as if we'd just said we want to buy chadors and move back to Iran.
"So you guys know you have to wear the right gear, right?" sneered our incredulous friend. Suddenly we realized there is a sort of "gear" attached to attending for-marriage events.
It was no longer the leather jacket that was fit for a night out in Westwood, but a pashmina draped over our shoulders. No more platform shoes that were OK for a friend's keg party, but pumps, pointy ones at that.
We'd have to do a little shopping -- no more Forever 21 or Rampage, but more like Ann Taylor and the misses' department at Macy's. This getting married thing was getting to be too much already, and we hadn't even started yet.
With these thoughts in mind, I attended my first Magbit event. I didn't know what to expect.
Pretty soon, I began to forget where I was and started to enjoy it. I soon realized I was missing out. Not because marriage opportunities were passing me by, but because being involved with Magbit meant more than finding a husband. It meant getting immersed in issues concerning my own culture and learning about others.
Many others told me that this event was different from other singles functions in that it was a learning -- and valuable -- cultural experience, rather than just a venue for singles 18 to 35 to mingle. According to Doran Adhami, the organization's president, Magbit aims to reach beyond the Iranian Jewish community and embrace Jewish youth from all groups. "We're hoping our future events will be filled with non-Persian as well as Persian Jews," Adhami said.
"[Magbit] is a forum for young people to come and express concerns about society in a friendly atmosphere," Vice President Neda Perry-Nikkhoo said. Concerns are many for us Persian Jews in our 20s and 30s, especially when it comes to dating and marriage.
Originally, the nonprofit group was founded for the purpose of offering interest-free loans to college students in the United States and Israel. Many students are potential doctors, lawyers and engineers who just need a little monetary help to succeed, Perry-Nikkhoo said. All proceeds from events go toward the loans, which are repaid within five years by 98 percent of the students.
This past New Year's Eve, my friends and I neglected to make plans ahead of time and were left with little choices for ringing in the new year. It was either joining the khastegar (for marriage) environment a little earlier than we'd anticipated or going to Hollywood and Highland and watching a bunch of drugged-out ravers.
So the three of us headed for the Magbit party at the former location of the Grammy's. Lo and behold, it turned out better than expected. The food was scrumptious; the Persian and Euro dance music kept us on the dance floor. The countdown to 2002, with champagne and just plain warmth and cheer, was one to remember.
The funny thing is, we ran into a bunch of our friends who had also decided to make this New Year's Eve a Magbit one. And as we were still huddled after the countdown, a quick glance around the room proved that the open-toed shoes, leather jackets and Forever 21 getups had not become extinct after all.
For more information on Magbit, call (310) 273-2233.