When I first met Davoud five years ago, he smiled little and laughed not at all. He was quite religious. He spoke disparagingly of women who were pushing the limits of Islamic dress and expressed unhesitating support for his government. Since then he finished college with a degree in economics and did his two years of military service.
Eight months ago Davoud moved to Tehran from his small hometown. The traffic in Tehran still makes him so nervous that I had to help him cross the street. We took a long walk the other evening, Davoud with his perfect posture, me slouching alongside. Now he drinks a little alcohol and he’s become somewhat critical of his government. Over dinner he announced that he has a girlfriend. “I think you never would have believed I have a girlfriend,” he told me. To prove it he called her on his cell phone and asked her to speak with me. I could hear her say “Chera!?” (“Why!?”). Afterward he explained that he chose her after assessing several girlfriend candidates using a spreadsheet and a rating system. She scored the most points. “What about what your heart tells you?” I asked him. “Oh yes,” he said,”I awarded points for that, too.”