Hello! Please welcome my latest guest author, May Arya, who immigrated from Iran to the United States over 25 years ago. In addition to this article, I have read some of her creative writing pieces, and I think she is a terrific storyteller.
– Kevin J. Hotter
It was March, 1985. I had just arrived in Los Angeles after celebrating my 20th birthday, having lived my teen years through a violent revolution in Iran and an even more violent war with Iraq. In contrast, everything in Los Angeles was peaceful, fun, colorful and ….intimidating. I was afraid because I did not understand English, had not a clue what people were saying. I just nodded, smiled, and moved along.
However, I had superb knowledge of English grammar. By superb, I mean I knew the difference between “your” and “you’re,” which to my surprise, many did not. That knowledge made me feel good. The false sense of intelligence was comforting and kept me going.
Three weeks after my arrival in LA, I was invited to a movie. My first movie in the US!! A historical event! It was going to be just as fun and action packed as all the American movies I saw in Iran minus the dubbed Farsi, of course. This made me nervous. Then, I thought to myself, “No problem. It will be ok. I won’t know what they’re saying, but I will just follow all the action; dancing, shootings, car chases, love scenes, fist fights. I’ll get something.” I was certain of it.
Then, I learned the movie was called The Breakfast Club. I was thrown off by the title, because “club” meant a night club and “breakfast” is a morning thing. I was confused, but I thought that could only mean one thing; this film is filled with mystery. How exciting! Well …. It turned out to be a mystery all right.
First of all, the movie started in the morning. No night clubs yet. Fine. The characters were introduced; grumpy teens who were not old enough to get into a club and not happy enough to want to go to a club. Still, fine. They sit in this library and don’t interact at all. Finally, after spending much precious time in silence, they start to say things, which would have been fine, if I understood what they were saying.
They kept talking and talking. The audience kept laughing and laughing. I was sitting there bored out of my mind, numb in my body, and when I was feeling something, it was fury. I wanted to be part of this experience with the audience but could not join in. I wanted to follow the action, but there was none. This could not possibly be the historical event I had dreamt of since I was a little kid, but it was.
After eternity, there’s finally dancing! Thank you, God! Things are picking up, I thought. Maybe a Footloose moment is coming, I hoped. Maybe they will move the dancing to a club, I prayed. “NOT so fast!” said Life. One minute of dancing in the library and the grumpy teens go back to their never-ending chit-chat. When were they going to get to the night club part? “Never” was the devastating answer.
I was left traumatized, scarred, disappointed and too scared to return to the movies ever again. The song said, “Don’t you forget about me.” Are you kidding me? I wish I could forget about you, but the nightmares and flashbacks would not let me.
Fast forward to that summer; when I got my first job at a video store. Guess which movie on the shelf stared me right in the eye, as I walked in for the first time? That’s right: The Breakfast Club. The sight of that lavender VHS box and those five teenagers brought a cold sweat to my shaking body. A flashback moment, just as real and scary as my war flashbacks.
Determined, I said to the lavender box, “No more! I have to face you, face my trauma, and that’s that!” I paused. Nothing happened. I paused some more and then realized I had to follow those encouraging thoughts with action. That was the rough part, but it had to be done. For the next few months, understanding The Breakfast Club became my life purpose. I watched that video over and over again.
At my job, I might add, because only rich people could afford to own a VCR. I was not rich. Yet, I did not care if my life mission would cost me my job. With every line that I understood, I celebrated a tiny victory until my victory was no longer tiny. Finally, the day came that I understood that entire freaking movie. This monumental accomplishment was well worth the video store owner’s threats of all kinds.
The Breakfast Club journey taught me to recognize that I am bigger than my fears. It reminded me that persistence could lead to victory. It taught me quite a lot of slangs which I eventually learned to use in the appropriate context. Most importantly, it taught me to appreciate the hell out of John Hughes.
The Breakfast Club turned out to be my absolute favorite movie of all time until 1997 when it was bumped to number two. What is my number one favorite movie now, you ask? You’ll have to wait until my next post.