The Big White Elephant
Reza shares the emotions behind the Shabbat dinner and his reconciliation with his dad.
Bravotv.com: Can you talk a little bit about your relationship with your mom?
Reza: My mom is really an amazing woman. She has always been very progressive for who she is and where she's from, so I've been truly blessed to have someone with such an open mind and open heart as my mother. Whereas she could have really been very prehistoric and archaic in her thinking and her mindset, I've been really blessed. And we are very much alike -- we are both emotional and we both are sentimental. We had been talking a few days before, and I asked her to bring over some of these old photos that I hadn't seen in a million years. And one thing led to another and we were going through these photos, and it was like an account of my family, my parents, and when I came along and then a floodgate opened and I just lost it.
Bravotv.com: And your parents haven’t talked since they got divorced?
Reza: You could probably count the number of times they've talked on one hand and never for more than a couple of minutes at a time, and under extreme circumstances.
Bravotv.com: So going in to the trip to New York, how nervous were you?
Reza: I was incredibly nervous just because a year had gone by, I hadn't spoken to my dad. A lot of my close family and friends were really pushing me to confront him and deal with issues that I had, and for some reason, it hadn't marinated long enough in my brain. I needed more time to process it. I wasn't able to talk about it. And it came to a head and I decided to reach out. Actually he called me for my birthday and I decided, "You know what? It's now or never."
But what made it even worse? And made me even more nervous? He literally was like at the end of the conversation, "Listen, I don't mean to freak you out, but I just want to let you know that your grandmother is going to be here. She's living here now, so she's going to be at this dinner." That threw me into a whole new level of nervous, anticipation, anxiety, just every kind of emotion you could think of -- because now not only am I dealing with my dad and the year that we haven't spoken, but now I have her that I now have to deal with.
Bravotv.com: Is that why you decided to bring MJ with you to have a buffer?
Reza: Totally. It's kind of like going to club. It's good to have a wingman -- sometimes you need them sometimes you don't -- but it's just nice knowing that they're there just in case. It was just nice knowing that I have this friend who knows my history that I go back 20 years with, that I wouldn't need to explain anything to. She can just see it and experience it and take it all in the same way I would because she knows so much about it.
Bravotv.com: So we see you come in and you pull your father aside before dinner. Why did you decide to do it then?
Reza: I was sweating like a whore in church. You couldn't see it, but if I had taken my jacket off I'm sure I would have been soaking wet. I couldn't take it any more. I literally felt like I was going to self-combust. I was like "I need to do this now so I can enjoy the rest of the night and eat dinner." Like I'm at this Shabbat dinner that my cousin was kind enough to throw in my honor and literally I wasn't feeling 100 percent pleasant. I had the weight of the world on my shoulders, and I just thought I need to get this taken care of before we get any further along into the night.
Bravotv.com: Were you surprised by the way your dad reacted when you started talking?
Reza: Totally. I mean my dad has a very passionate and very opinionated and fiery personality, and I didn't know what I thought would happen, but I didn't think that the first thing out of his mouth would be that he ruined my life. That kind of lowered my walls down a little bit and let me know that this man gets it. He knows that this wasn't me trying to attack him, but more me trying to work on some stuff. Not only on my on stuff, but our stuff.
Bravotv.com: Were you surprised that he put a lot of it onto your grandmother?
Reza: Yes because in the past he's always given her a get out of jail free card. Always. He's always made excuses for her and let her off the hook. She's never, in his mind, been accountable. There was no reason for her to be accountable because it never had anything to do with her. I mean that was like the big white elephant in the room. All of a sudden everyone was looking at it, everyone acknowledged the fact that it was there and it was like, "Oh my god you see it too?" It was incredible.
Bravotv.com: From there, was that all you needed to move forward and develop a relationship with him? Or is it something that you guys are still working on?
Reza: I mean honestly I just came back from New York, and I was at my cousin's house again for dinner last night and it was as if we had never gone a year without speaking. You could cut that year of our lives out like a cancer and throw it away and act like it never existed. That's how I feel with my dad now.
Bravotv.com: That's great. Is your advice to people who are having that sort of an issue with their family to just push through it and really try?
Reza: Yes, but I also preface it with saying it took me a year of marinating on it and coming to a place. I was walking into that meeting prepared for anything and, regardless of what I got back, I was going to leave there and drop the monkey that was on my shoulders off at the doorstep that night. I was not going to go home with any of that stuff. I was just super lucky that he was completely open and receptive to everything that I had to say and then took it a step further by opening up himself. I hit the trifecta with that, like I walked in knowing that I was going to dump it there, I opened up to him, he opened up to me, and we had resolution. I scored. It took me a year to get to that point. It wasn't like I had this thought like things are bad, I need to address this. I'm not going to try and act like I'm this great person because I addressed all the issues I had. It took me a year to get to that place, to be able to go there and know that I would be OK with whatever outcome.
But my advice is, absolutely. No matter what you think you're doing, actions that others take in your family, profound actions, like the s--t that went down in my family, they affect you later on in life. No matter how good you sweep it under the rug, that s--t is still under that rug.
Bravotv.com: It looks like we kind of, in the finale, we see a little bit of that going on with MJ and her mom. Can you give us a preview of what their conversation is like?
Reza: Obviously I don't want to spoil anything for the audience, and I want MJ to be able tell it from her perspective, but the difference is MJ doesn't cry. She's got thicker skin and her rug is like a heavy pile shag. When she sweeps things under it, you really forget that they're there. My rug is like a thin tapestry. When you sweep too much under it, you can feel it when you're walking on it. Hers is so thick and she does a good job with almost pretending like it doesn't even exist. So for her to get to that place, I was really proud of her.
But the problem is, she is really good at masking it over and her mom is really great at deflecting, so I don't necessarily know or want to tell you what the outcome was, but I'm just really proud of my girl for getting to the place that she was able to acknowledge that "Wait a minute, there's stuff here that needs to be said."
Want to know what Asa thought of the episode? Read her take here.