To the frat-bro at a bar in Greater Boston:

You were drunk and won’t remember our conversation, so I’ll summarize:

ME: Massachusetts.

YOU: (starting to clarify)

ME: No, I know that’s not what you meant. But what you asked is, “Where are you from?”

YOU: Then what kind of name is Homa?

ME: American.

You got angry because I was enjoying the beer you bought me (thank you) and being difficult and not answering your simple, straightforward question.

But I am American, and therefore my name is also American. No—I wasn’t naturalized (not that it matters). Like you, I am a native born citizen of this country. Unlike you, my ancestors didn’t come here on the Mayflower and were therefore not involved in the genocidal atrocities that ensued.

Speaking of which, I have been known to pretend I’m Jewish to head off these sorts of conversations. I hope it’s okay to hide behind and amongst a historically persecuted people. For what it’s worth, I pay back the favor. To wit: I spent a whole year in Germany yelling at neo-Nazis. One time they chased me out of the liquor store where I was doing the yelling, and my then-boyfriend (who was German although not a neo-Nazi) yelled at me for provoking them! Even though the real provocateurs were the neo-Nazis for brandishing their Swastikas because, hello, the Holocaust! Anyways, I broke up with that dude for a multitude of reasons, among them his inability to understand how much it sucks to be singled out for being different.

ME: That was unnecessary. If you’re going to call me names, try something more original than ‘bitch’.

- - -

To the Taxi Driver who drove me home when I used to live in DC:

You were driving me home, which meant you knew my home address, so I had to adopt a kind of dance whereby I respected my boundaries without pissing you off so much that you came back at night to cleave me with the decorative sword you had tucked in the passenger seat.

You had an aggressive air about you and a sword in your car, and both scared me so I was uncharacteristically docile.

ME: Massachusetts

YOU: And your parents?

ME: [Remembering the sword] My parents are from Iran.

YOU: Aha-I knew it! Why are you not wearing a burka?

ME: [Sword!] I forgot it at home.

YOU: I have a son for you!

ME: [Sword! sword! sword!] That’s nice.

We got to my driveway and I thought I was safe until you turned and leered at me. Then by way of goodbye added:

YOU: Next time I pick you up, I want to see you in a burka.

I hope you realize that I intended to slam your cab door.

- - -

To the Starbucks Guy in West Hollywood:

I could smell you before I saw you. You were positively caked in leather. There is such a thing as too much animal carcass.

ME: America.

YOU: What about your parents?

ME: American.

YOU: Your parents are American? No.

ME: They are now.

YOU: [Laughing] What does that mean?

ME: It means we’re all American. You got a problem with that?

That was uncomfortable. I pretended to shop at Target to ensure you weren’t following me.

- - -

To My Uber Driver on Wilshire:

You caught me off guard. First, you’re old as shit and you’re driving for Uber, which means you have a smart phone and can do more than send ALL CAPS TEXT MESSAGES like my parents. You say something and I’m not sure who you’re talking to because you’re not speaking English. Then I catch your gaze in the rearview mirror and I realize you’re talking to me. In Arabic.

ME: Pardon?

YOU: [More Arabic]

ME: I’m sorry sir, I don’t speak Arabic.

YOU: But you’re an Arab!

Even the Brave-New-World intrusiveness of Uber can’t protect a girl from a racial come-on. I gave you five-stars because I read somewhere Uber drivers know what you rate them and didn’t want you, old sir, to have both my address and my one-star rating on your mind simultaneously. Sound familiar?

- - -

To Others:

Upon spotting your next vixen of ambiguous origin, try a fresh approach. Don’t go for the ethnic angle. I know you’re curious and that it’s easy to focus on the obvious, but what you’re really saying is that you’re unoriginal and/or a watered down neo-Nazi.

YOU: What? This is hard!

ME: So is being a non-white woman in America. NOTE: I recognize I am in a position of privilege relative to women (and men) in many other places.

YOU: Whatever. What should I say, then?

ME: Something original that expresses interest in the girl—her tastes and opinions, etc. but without touching on race.

YOU: Give me an example.

ME: How about: “What kind of ice cream do you like?” If she smiles and continues the conversation, you have a good shot at making love and many multi-ethnic babies together.

You’re Welcome,
Homa Mojtabai