Looking in the mirror that day, the change seemed drastic. Almost a foot of hair, gone. I felt like I had gone from metal to ’92 grunge with just a few snips of my mom’s scissors. Yeah, that’s right – I’m 37 and my mother cuts my hair. It’s a rare occasion, perhaps once every year or two. She’s the only one I trust to do the simplest, most even cut. My fear is that a hairdresser or barber would get scissor-happy at the sight of 15 inches of straight hair on a guy. But this cut was particularly drastic – probably the shortest my hair has been since I was about 17. Typically, I’ll request a healthy length around my shoulder blades, but today was different: I had somebody to impress.
That “somebody”, Cecille, had impressed upon me that my abnormally long hair would really stand out in Thailand. It would attract attention, potentially unwanted. Here in New Paltz, New York, no one really gives me a second look; but I’ve had long hair throughout my life, so I’m well aware of the negative attention that it can garner. Basically, I couldn’t care less; it’s something that I had accepted a long time ago. However I wasn’t sure how that kind of negative attention would translate for a “stranger in a strange land”, as I felt I was about to be. Of course, Bangkok is a metropolitan, international city, full of foreign tourists and western ex-pats. But to me, it was different of course; I’d never been East of France before. So the idea of attracting attention that wasn’t familiar to me, of being a foreigner AND a freak somehow, wasn’t appealing. Even more importantly, the idea of Cecille feeling awkward around me was even less appealing. So there goes most of my hair, and I look unfamiliar to myself.
So I tie my hair back, and then I look just the same as before. No one will even notice. And, I was right about that – since I’ve been back from Thailand about 6 weeks ago, not one of my friends or coworkers noticed my missing foot of hair.
I was restless that night; staying at my parent’s place, because they’d drive me to the airport in the morning. Tomorrow was a big day…my mind was on overdrive. First, what would the trip be like? I’ve never travelled so far and for so long. But mainly, it was my reason for going that kept my mind racing; Cecille. What would meeting her truly be like? Would our chemistry translate to spending actual time together? What would become of us, and what adventures were in store for the next two weeks? Yet even as my mind raced with these questions, there also a sense of calm, resolute empowerment; whatever this turned into, my choices over the next days and weeks amounted to me taking control of my own destiny with my eyes wide open, and in a way I had never attempted before. Come what may, I was ready…and it felt amazing.
After a somewhat restful sleep, and a nice breakfast with my parents, I’m upstairs and in a skype call with Cecille. We’re both really excited, knowing that what we’ve been anticipating is just hours away. I would be a liar if I said that it was easy to get to this point; after all, we were both carrying a lot of hopes and even fears into what we were about to do. ..and there is really no way to predict such results. But we had grown to care for each other over these past months, and both very curious about what the next step could be – so this was enough to keep us happily excited, and very very ready despite how nervous we sometimes felt. Case in point, I show Cecille my new lack of hair. Well, not the reaction I was hoping for. She told me she felt like crying, I had cut too much off. “But I did it for you,” I told her. “I didn’t want you to feel awkward around me – I want you to LIKE being around me!” Her response was to tell me that I had ruined her fantasy about being with a rock star.
I did spend some time attempting to convince her that my hair grows quickly, and that if things go well with us, she’ll see it in all its long rock star glory again eventually. I was at this until my Dad started yelling up the stairway that it was time for us to go if I didn’t want to miss my flight.
Soon after, we left to drive to the airport. My parents were excited for me; I know that they liked to see me so happy and excited to embark on such an adventure. They knew I hadn’t done anything new or fulfilling for myself in a couple of years. A spontaneous voyage to the other side of the world, to be a tourist in an exotic land and spend time with a woman I was getting close to was a positive thing for me and they were certainly more supportive and excited than nervous or worried. But, they are parents, so being nervous and worried was an inevitable part of it. However, aside from the usual “be aware, keep your wits about you” kind of stuff, I didn’t get any lectures – save for my father’s one piece of sage advice: “Don’t get her pregnant.” Ha.
The security procedures at JFK weren’t as bad as I had expected, after reading numerous accounts of TSA’s strictness and even misconduct in news stories online. Finally, I get to my gate and find a place to charge my phone. I also check out the plane through the window: an aging 747. I looked at the hulking thing, imagining its immense weight getting off the ground and carrying me over Canada, the Arctic, and the eventually Siberia and into China. My thoughts were interrupted by a flurry of activity around the gate counter for our flight. What was going on?
As I approached, I noticed a sign, which seemed to be a hastily-typed page affixed to a small sign stand. It hadn’t been there just a few minutes before. Basically, it stated that our plane would need to stop in Anchorage, Alaska due to some “technical issue” and that thus our flight would land in China at least 3 hours late. Shit!!!, I thought, as I snapped a pic of the sign with my phone. I then went to the counter and explained that I have a connecting flight to Bangkok after Beijing. The harried attendant explained to me that I would miss the connecting flight and would need to wait until the next day in China for the next one.
What a mess! I hastily sent the pic to Cecille, but I knew she wouldn’t see it until she woke up some hours later. After a few minutes I just tried to relax and accept it: this was beyond my control, and I will make it there eventually. Nothing will stop me.
Nothing will stop me. -That’s really how it felt to me. I had set the wheels in motion as soon as I felt welcomed by Cecille, and since they began to roll they haven’t stopped. I had to get to the other side of the world to see what would become of this; I wouldn’t be deterred by inconvenience or even fear, and the last thing I would allow myself to do would be to carry around such a big “what if?” with me for the rest of my life. I was going to meet this beautiful and intriguing girl that made me smile (and sometimes drove me crazy) no matter what!