My brothers

During my years in college, I had a nickname “Ly and the Persians”. Very simple: almost all of my friends are Persian. You know one, you know all of them, one friend of a friend, one after another and you end up knowing the whole persian community in the city. Most of them left Iran very young, around the age of 11 or 12. They attended high school then college in Europe, yet, what I like about them is they still possess a subtle mix of oriental and occidental values. In friendship, they are very present and spontaneous. I like the way we had spent time together without having to plan it weeks or months ahead. When we were younger, one cooked and all the others came by and we had dinner together almost every evening. We hung out every single day, at the cafeteria, sometimes we skipped lectures and played cards somewhere in the hall.

There were four of them and me. Just like the fingers of the hand. They were like my brothers. My mother used to say that they were my “references”, the male figures of my life as my parents divorced when I was five, and I had never seen my father ever since. I think somehow they all act as if they were really my blood brothers. I don’t know when we started this “family pact” thing. Probably at first because of my mom. I remember once before a long trip to Vietnam, my mother cooked a huge dinner and invited all of them. She asked them to take care of me while she was away. She did not designate anyone in particular. That was when they started to play the role of my brothers. It was not always easy for me. Because when I went out for a date, they asked who the guy was. Nicely but still, they took their role quite seriously.

Ali: The incarnation of natural elegance and a subtle “I don’t care” attitude. Imagine you can throw a plastic trash bag on him and let him wear it and he is still elegant. Even the way he holds a cigarette is elegant. Maybe because he is so easygoing that after a while his body and gestures are completely personified by this attitude. He is the only guy who could wear white clothes from head to toes in winter time and would not look ridiculous. Ali doesn’t follow fashion. He invents fashion.

“The King of the Cool”, I call him. He is the coolest I think. I could do any foolish thing, he would always say: “You are gonna be fine”. You can never be dramatic with him because in just one second he can unravel all of your stories and demystify all of your heroes (men I used to fall in love with). Things are light when you meet him. He is the one who will always be there for you. Sure thing.

Afshin: “the whining kid”, the one we used to make fun of most of the times. Af. and I we once promised to each other we would be the “back up” plan if we did not get married by the age of 30 (now he is married, thanks God, I am kidding!). We used to have some getaway weekends all together. What we did: we just went to visit my mother and stayed there the whole weekend. We watched movies together, ate Vietnamese food until we were completely stuffed. I remember the one time we had laughed out loud for at least half an hour, that was when Afshin showed up in a one-piece pajama (the one only babies can wear !!!) before bedtime. It was the funniest and the most unforgettable memory of our times together. He now works with my mother in some movie projects. I had a chance to make a trip with him last year to promote one of her films. We went to Asia and I think I had spent the whole 11 hours inflight laughing with tears in my eyes. Exceptional trip. Happiness in the purest state.

Bahram: He is quite a character. We were living in the 80s and the 90s together but his look during the whole time was 70s. I never understand why he chose to have this outfit. In college, he was so different. It seemed like he never fit in, always a bit out of time and out of space, but this “disadvantage” finally gave him a kind of outdated charm. He had the haircut of Michael Jackson in Jackson Five, his colorful shirts were tight with huge large collars, his large trousers. He danced and sang like Prince. He had such a special of humor. We had a special relationship too, maybe not only a friendly one sometimes. If I went out for a date, he could be mad at me for a few days. I remember  an episode with him. Once he was angry with me for a week, I could not stand it anymore so I called him and asked for an explanation. We went to have coffee and cake at a tea-room. A tiny tea-room with five tables, all decorated with very kitsch plastic flowers and all pink, the kind of tea-room only reserved for old ladies or grandmas. We sat down and I started to yell at him: “Why are you mad at me? You did not even say hello to me at school for a week now ? What happened? Was it because of this guy I have met? What’s wrong with you? Are you in love with me? Aren’t you? “. I shouted. Silence in the room. All the grandmas stared at me, this silly girl. I was really loud. Bahram looked at me and made “shhhhh….sssshhhh….low your voice..” Then after five minutes, he yelled back with all his lungs open: “Who do you think you are? In love with you ? Are you kidding me? Who can fall in love with such a hysteric??” Then we both realized how ridiculous we were and burst into loud laughs. Bahram got married a few years ago. We lost contact when he had the second kid.

Navid: And then there IS Navid (drums and trumpets, please !!!). The quiet, the gloomy, the alpha male Navid. He has the aura, the charm, the charisma AND the body of Apollon. He is the kind of guy whom you ask to put on clothes when you are with him at the pool, because otherwise nobody could concentrate on the conversations. When you are with him, even if there is an earthquake or a tsunami, you can still feel safe. He never talks a lot but he has a way to communicate to you, a very particular way which can heal you immediately when you are in deep sorrows. Maybe because he is a doctor and doctors always know how to comfort people or to encourage patients with very few words. He exudes serenity and calmness. He never shows off, not once. He says nothing about him, his career or achievements. You google him and you see he won prizes of surgery all over the world, he had published prestigious medical articles. Recently I just had a drink with one of our common friends, also a surgeon. This friend told me he could not do surgery on noses because it was the most difficult thing to do. You need to have practiced on at least 300 noses, alone, without your chief’s assistance in order to be a nose surgeon. Then he added: “Navid, he can, he did, I think, 500 noses by himself when he studied in the US.” Nobody knows that.

My mother has a deep secret. She has always thought that I should have married Navid. I told my psychiatrist about my mother’s desire. He looked at me and asked: “And you? What do you think? Do you think you should have married Navid ? “. Full stop. End of the conversation. But two years ago, one night I dreamt that I indeed got married with him. The next morning, I texted him: “Hey we got married in my dream last night”. He answered: “I am very honored”.

These are my brothers. I wish you could have met them and known them. I have loved them equally, differently but equally. They completed me. Like my mother used to say: “I don’t know which one is my favorite”. Me either. I don’t know which one is my favorite. The four of them, probably.

PS: This morning – text message from Afshin: ” It’s clear. Your favorite is Navid”. From Navid: “I am flattered to be on your blog…hum..I hope ;-). From Ali: “…..enormous………….”


I live in a small and rich country where we can still afford to refuse a job when it is not in the city where we live and study. It is a luxury to be able to say no because you don’t want to commute one hour for your job. In my country people don’t move around a lot. They live an easy life, have a nice job, and are able to afford a comfortable standard of living. Things have changed a little bit lately but it is still a very comfortable country. When I was in the US, I met a lot of young American who had been living far from home usually right after high school. American people don’t see a problem in moving to another city for college or for work. We don’t have this mentality  in Europe in general, let alone in my country. Of course there are always exceptions.

Tonight at a dinner, I met a French young man. I don’t know why I was particularly touched by his story and background. He is 25 years old. He came from a very small town in the North of France, the kind of town with no charm and no particular interests for tourists and for the rest of the world. It is hard to say things like that, he said. But it is the truth according to him. His hometown is an industrial town where the inhabitants either work in the construction or are truck drivers. The kind of town in the middle of nowhere, not by the seaside, no mountains around. Nothing. No one wants to stop by and have a look at his town, he said twice. Young people grow up and as soon as they finish high school, they get out of there, trying to get a job in Paris if lucky or in the closest bigger town nearby (not especially better either). He told me the story of his town as if he was a history or geography teacher, giving me a private lesson. He added that groups of young people used to date one among another, girls want to get married by the age of 22 in average. Shortage of potential young guys. No particular nice perspective for the future. France doesn’t seem to be a dream country for him.

Unlike the other young kids, he did not only dream about new horizons, he left his hometown at the age of 18. He had lived here and there in France, got a Bachelor in literature and a computer degree. Then went to Berlin and stayed there for two years. His parents are teachers and he is the only child. When he told his story, he talked with a monotonous voice, as if it was nothing particular. His parents do not want to help him financially, he is completely on his own since he reached 18. He arrived a month ago in my city, the third most expensive one in the world. He was trying to look for a job.

The story is at first sight nothing extraordinary, not sadder than other ones, not very joyful either. But I don’t know why, I just perceived a sad struggle in him. Something more profound is hidden in his voice. Not a desperation but a kind of loneliness emanating from him. And it strangely stroke me.

I left the dinner and thought about how lonely we could be at the end of the day. He seems to carry it not only at the end of the day but all the day long, maybe during years already. And now in this new city. On my way back, in the bus, I could not stop thinking about loneliness, young, old, small city, big city, it is just something so universal and we cannot avoid it. “We will all die one day and alone”. A cliché but still true.

This encounter definitely made me sad. This young person embodies loneliness and the weight of uncertainty, so deeply and so heavily.


The other day I was with a group of friends of my age (above 35). They started to ask me why I have seen them less and less lately and instead I prefer meeting young friends, less than 28 years old. I perceived a slight tone of mockery in their voices. “Don’t you think they don’t have much experiences to share? Don’t you think that conversations could be limited?”.

I felt a strong need to stand up for my young friends. I love young people. I work with young people. I am surrounded with young people. And I truly disagree with my friends.

We live now in a difficult period where unemployment rate gets higher each year. The world is not as sweet as in the 60s, I think. When we could leave the door unlock and nothing could happen. Or in the 70s, the whole hippy and peace period, when love was spread out everywhere. Nowadays young people get out of college and they are not sure to be able to find a decent job. I don’t say that they are more or less optimistic than older people. I think there are no major differences because of the age. It is not about the perception of life. I think we all perceive life and its difficulties in a similar way, young or old. No one is dupe. The difference is how young people deal with life once they see all the flaws and difficulties.

We, old people, are tired, our luggage we have carried through years gets heavier and heavier. Young people travel with a light suitcase. Few experiences. It is not about innocence or purity either because believe me, they are not. It is just the way they embrace life and how they get ready. There is a touch of adventurousness which amazes me each time.

It is their future that I like. I think I like being with them, accompanying them to see how they will turn out, what they would become one day. I think I like being this kind of observer. And I never underestimate the knowledge of kids nowadays. I always learn something new from them.

I like the way they tell me their hopes, their love stories, the way they live or experience sex. They can worry, they can be sad but never in the same way as people of my age. The possibilities of a better life are still with them. They don’t feel the need to stay in couple out of convenience. They don’t feel the need to cheat in couple, they just walk away when they fall out of love.

When I am with them, I see the world with their eyes. Things cannot be that dramatic because there are still so many years to live and many surprises to come. With my friends, we are like in a tunnel. We know that we had lived this or that. We get stuck with each other. We see each other’s situations and we don’t envy that. We are sad creatures talking about the same thing when we are together. I don’t deny them. I don’ want to be young forever either. It is just a feeling: with my young friends, I am a feather. Because my experiences never scare them away and they never judge any of my behaviors. With my friends, I am like a stone.

That was my clumsy way to explain and defend my young friends. I hope I did not hurt the older ones’ feelings. But they need to know. And maybe I am wrong and it is not an issue of age, but rather a question of personality. Maybe young people can be old and old people can stay young in their spirit. I cannot generalize and this is just a thought.

I share this because it is a beautiful sunny day and I will be heading to the lake to meet my young friends now.

Happy afternoon to all !