Magazine article New York Times Upfront

An American in Tehran: A 19-Year-Old from the Midwest Who Spends Summers with His Family in Iran Talks about How Iranian Teens Bend the Rules to Have Fun

Magazine article New York Times Upfront

An American in Tehran: A 19-Year-Old from the Midwest Who Spends Summers with His Family in Iran Talks about How Iranian Teens Bend the Rules to Have Fun

Article excerpt

The writer, a college sophomore in the United States, is not using his name out of concern for the safety of his family.

Since I was born, my family has traveled to Iran every other summer to visit relatives. My parents were born there and, like many people of their generation, left just before the 1979 revolution. I was born and raised in the U.S.

Even though I speak Farsi, kids in Iran see me as American. But that doesn't mean they're hostile toward me. Far from it. Kids are often eager to compare notes about our different lifestyles and marvel at things we take for granted, like coed schools.

Despite many cultural differences, kids in affluent northern Tehran, which is where my relatives live, spend their time much the same way I do in America. Most days, I meet with friends for a game of soccer (only guys play). Afterward, everyone hits the corner grocery for juice and non-alcoholic beer (alcohol is illegal). We talk about girls and soccer and music. The Internet and MTV satellite broadcasts (also illegal but ubiquitous) allow kids in Iran to keep up with popular American music and trends.

Some days we make our way to Jordan Avenue. At 5 p.m. on a weekday, the scene there is chaos. Jordan Avenue, one of the city's largest streets, is lined with high schools and colleges, making it a favorite after-school hangout for teens in Tehran.

'DATING ON THE RUN'

Iran's religious government forbids most public interactions between boys and girls before marriage, and the religious police are out to make sure there is little public contact. …

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