Bewitched by a beard

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There are three things that would cause me to involuntarily follow a man down five city blocks: his scent, his shoes, or his beard. If he had all three, I’d likely follow him all the way home. Rawr.

The guy I went out with last weekend had a great beard and that was just a small part of his allure.

Recovering expat. Dance enthusiast. Polyglot. Snow fanatic. Maker of lists for all occasions. Sound like anyone you know? Yeah, I had the same thought: he sounds a little like me.

Both in our texts and in person, I enjoyed his stories of his time abroad. He’s spent four years living in Asia. More importantly, he wants to go back to live there one day. To someone hoping to find her way back there herself eventually, that’s worth roughly a gagillion million brownie points.

He regaled me with stories of sleeping on cots under the stars in the desert in India, trekking across arid Northwest China for 15 hours on horseback, setting off fireworks with his host family for chunjie, and sharing the road with elephants in his hometown in India. We argued about the best place in China to get dumplings—and agreed to disagree—and when I told him my most favorite Chinese dish he told me about the Uyghur restaurant in Virginia and a place in NY where I could get it. Back and forth we went for hours sharing our best “I remember this one time” stories, a favorite pastime of mine.

At one point, in the middle of recounting an arduous journey through a remote part of China, he perfectly expressed about the experience a sentiment I’d struggled to put into words, “miserable but amazing,” a phrase befitting large swaths of my own time overseas.

Empathy is one of those must-have traits for me. I’ve always hoped my partner would be able to empathize with what it’s like to be a minority if they weren’t one themselves. I realized through talking with this guy that my expat-ness is probably as much a part of my identity that I long to be understood as my black-ness is. And this guy got it. Even better, he’d lived it.

So how many ways to a girl’s heart can one guy cover? Potentially all of them. Except one. And a huge one.

I went to the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, I attended a gala with the President of Indonesia in Bali, I rode on the back of a motorbike down flooded streets of Hanoi, I’ve woken up surrounded by gorgeous karst mountains on the waters of Halong Bay, I rode elephants in Thailand, I took what I’m sure must have been the most rickety bus of rickety buses to visit rural villages in Laos, I’ve gone ziplining across a lake at the Great Wall of China, I’ve taken a boat to Japan, I went skiing up near Russia once, climbed over a ‘no entry’ sign on the emergency exit of my hostel to watch the panoramic fireworks display on Chinese New Year, I moved to two countries without ever having been before, I pedaled through sandstorms and rode camels in the Gobi Desert. But even with all that, walking with God has been my life’s greatest adventure. And this adventure is one that must be shared.

I had a great time on Saturday with this guy. He laughed at my jokes and I laughed at his. We had things to talk about. But when when the topic of religion came up and he answered without mention of his faith being either personal or growing, I knew that, in spite of his beard—and everything else—Saturday was as far as we’d get.

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