Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Shadia: No pajamas on this red carpet

I regard Oscar Sunday with the same importance as a national or even a religious holiday (sue me).

Instead of a get-together over a good meal with family and friends, a visit to the mosque to pray and offer thanks to God, my routine is much simpler: I talk to no one.

I forget about all the troubles in the world. I try to squeeze in my daily prayer during the commercial breaks. I start gluing myself to the television at about noon or before, and I stay in my pajamas.

For me, Oscar Sunday is not about the awards, it's about the fashion, the glamour and the beauty.

So it's natural for me to gravitate toward the glamour, the beauty and the lavishness on the red carpet.

I've been this way since I was a little girl, and sometimes fought my mom when she refused to buy me high heels (what's wrong with a 10-year-old wearing heels?).

So when Mariam Khosravani, founder of the Iranian American Women Foundation in Orange County, invited me to attend a red-carpet-like Oscar-viewing party that was held to support the movie "A Separation" at a restaurant in Irvine, and in hopes of it getting the award, I right away told her thanks, but no thanks (I said it in nicer words).

There's no way I could attend, I thought. That would break my ritual of talking to no one, gluing myself to the television and staying in my pajamas.

But then, as Oscar Sunday got closer and after writing a story about the event, I decided, why not?

It would be good to watch it with a group of beautiful Middle Eastern women, and I would get to do one of my favorite things: dress up. I hesitantly told Mariam over the phone that I would attend. She was very happy to hear that I changed my mind.

I sat in my pajamas in front of the TV until I could no longer and had to get ready. Hoping not to miss any of the big arrivals, I made a few runs to the television as I got ready.

I went with my mom, and when we got there, there was a red carpet, a small one, and photographers (paparazzi) taking pictures outside of the restaurant.

I posed for a picture with my mom and, after saying hello to Mariam and a few other women, I put my glasses on and stood in front of a TV at the restaurant, trying to listen and watch.

The presentation for the foreign language film category was early on in the show. When "A Separation" got the Oscar, jubilation took over the entire restaurant. People were proud. I was proud.

This was a big moment for the Middle East.

Mariam took my hand and ran across the room with me. We watched together as the writer and producer of the film, Asghar Farhadi, accepted the Oscar for his country for the first time in history.

His speech was emotional and underscored the struggle his people have been facing for many years.

"At this time, many Iranians all over the world are watching us and I imagine them to be very happy," he said during the acceptance speech. "They are happy not just because of an important award or a film or filmmaker, but because at the time when talk of war, intimidation and aggression is exchanged between politicians, the name of their country, Iran, is spoken here through her glorious culture, a rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics.

"I proudly offer this award to the people of my country, a people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment."

It was a proud and historic moment, one that proved that the art of storytelling and the emotions and struggles all human beings experience are ever more powerful than politics.

I'm glad I witnessed this moment with a group of Iranian women. I'm glad I celebrated with them.

But I did record the red carpet coverage and the show (thank God for DVR), and I'll be gluing myself to the TV, sitting in my pajamas, talking to no one this weekend as I watch.

MONA SHADIA is a reporter for the Huntington Beach Independent. An Egyptian American, she was born and raised in Cairo and now lives in Orange County. Her column includes various questions and issues facing Muslims in America. Follow her on Twitter @MonaShadia.

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