It was early August and I was in northern California visiting a friend and catching up with some friends from college. It was a sunny Saturday morning and we decided to head out to a French restaurant for lunch.
There was me, a bunch of old friends and a young Iranian couple who I met there for the first time. The guy was wearing a beard and the girl was wearing a headscarf. On the way to the restaurant I was told that that day was the young lady's birthday and people were thinking of a way of surprising her on her birthday. We had lunch, talked and talked and talked and had a very good time at a sunny Californian Saturday noon. So far so good.
After paying the bill, we stepped out of the restaurant and continued talking on the sidewalk and as the young couple was leaving in a different car and to a different destination, people were wrapping up the conversations to say goodbye to them. I thought to myself: "Hey! They're about to leave and nobody said anything about the birthday. Someone has to do something; at least say something. Tomorrow will be too late to say happy birthday to her." I whispered to a friend about the birthday and he shrugged off. So I decided to take action and in a friendly tone I said "Happy birthday!"
The girl looked down, staring at her shoes and there was a long and awkward moment of silence. After a while her husband said "Thank you!" The girl didn't say a word.
I was bothered. I didn't expect that. I didn't think an educated girl, although wearing a headscarf and apparently being religious, would stare at her shoes not to look me in the eye, and her soon to be a doctor husband would intervene to talk "for" her, to represent her.
Once again, one incident lent itself to substantiate a sad stereotype. Well I guess that's how stereotypes are formed; that's why the word exists in the dictionary. But still, I am entitled to my hopes and wishes. I wish life proved all stereotypes to be wrong and made-up. I wish it was different.