Getting back into dating after a long, unhealthy relationship is hard, especially when the lover in question wasn’t human but an addictive substance. I grew up with strict missionary parents who brought me up in a variety of non-Western countries, and then I spent my twenties rebelling against their values by being a drunk. Now in my thirties with a few years of sobriety under my belt, I was giving online dating a try. As a never-married extremely petite redhead, the responses I got were generally only so-so. Setting age limits didn’t seem to help, either. I wasn’t looking for a new grandfather, after all.
That was why I was so excited when I heard from Perry. I am brutally honest in my profile about my past, the fact that I’m 4’11 and roughly 100lbs, and that I am a bit of a movie snob. I prefer geeks, and Perry fit the bill there, plus he was roughly my age but didn’t mind my tiny stature or my sketchy past.
“Hi Cathy! Let’s meet up and talk about movies,” one of his messages said. This sounded good to me. He was in my city, which was another plus.
On the other hand, he didn’t have any clear photos of himself on his profile. His pictures were either blurry or group shots with a lot of other people so that it was impossible to tell which one was him. I didn’t mind if he wasn’t handsome, because beauty is only skin-deep. I knew that as long as someone was at least baseline presentable and had a good personality, I could come to find him attractive over time.
We set a date, time, and place to meet up. I had always been disappointed before whenever I met my online paramours in real life, but I hoped this time was different. I loved the funny, warm, intelligent personality that I could sense from Perry’s messages, and hoped that he had charisma to match.
“Hey, I don’t know what you look like, so I’m not sure if I’ll be able to find you.” This was a perfectly reasonable, legitimate reason to ask for a photo.
“Oh, people say I look a bit like the actor Ewan McGregor,” came the response, again sans photo. Wow, this was too good to be true. Perry was claiming to resemble my favorite actor. If he looked anything like his character Mark Renton from Trainspotting, I was sure to find him gorgeous. Clear blue eyes, lean body, cleft chin, skinny jeans, bomber jacket, an inconspicuous stud in one ear, and a red buzzcut sounded like my dream boyfriend.
When I showed up at the hipster coffee spot at the designated date and time, I looked around but didn’t see anyone who looked like that. Nobody embodied 1990s heroin chic, even ironically, at least none of the men did.
That was when I spotted him. A man in the corner had a full red beard and shoulder-length mullet-thing, like old-fashioned holy cards depicting Jesus as a blue-eyed blond European. This was Perry channeling Obi-Wan Kenobi channeling Jesus. Not what I had in mind, although I wouldn’t have minded if he looked more like a very young Obi-Wan Kenobi when he was still a padawan, since this would entail a no.8 buzzcut; the dreadful accompanying rattail on his right side could be snipped off easily if need be.
“Obi-Wan? I mean, Perry?” I approached the man anyway. He was still the same person who sent me all those witty messages, after all.
“Yes. You must be Cathy. I love how you called me Obi-Wan.”
“I sort of thought you would still be a padawan and not a full-fledged Jedi.” I tried to make a joke out of the surprised expression that must be on my face. I’ve never been good at poker-face, after all.
“Yeah, I can see that. I’m glad you know some Star Wars. So many women don’t.”
“Actually, I don’t know all that much Star Wars. I was more into Trainspotting, if you know what I mean. That’s the role I associate most with Ewan McGregor.”
“I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never seen that movie. I know it’s iconic, it’s just that I wasn’t quite old enough to see it when it first came out, and by the time I was, everyone had moved on.”
“Maybe we can watch it together.” This would make a good second date. So far so good. I’m getting the hang of dating actual people instead of being madly in love with that intoxicating liquid in a glass bottle.
I continued to message Perry and get to know him online before our second date. The more I corresponded with him, the more convinced I became that we were compatible intellects. Even though he was obviously incredibly intelligent, he was not a stuck-up stuffed shirt but a real person who was fun.
After the end credits rolled on Trainspotting, I glanced over at Perry next to me at the community movie theater that had shown it as a throwback classic film. He seemed rather shell-shocked by it all. He had probably never lived through any kind of addiction like I had. “That’s the same actor? He’s so different.”
“That’s because he’s a good actor. He’s never actually taken heroin in real life.”
“No, I don’t mean that. He looks so good, even as a junkie. I can see why you liked him in this movie.”
“He’s always sexy and dynamic, but this is one of my favorite performances and movie looks.” I stopped short of saying that his buzzcut was what initially made me notice him. I had seen him in other, more recent films first, but it wasn’t until I saw this one that I really fell under the spell of his charms as a fangirl.
“The effortlessly cool clothes of course, that actually show off his skinny body as if it’s something to be proud of, the worn-out sneakers he wears even with his suit, but his hair. I had no idea he looked so good with so little of it.”
Perry also had blue eyes that sometimes looked green or grey depending on the light and a slim frame that he did his best to hide. It was impossible to see whether or not he had a cleft chin, but there was every indication that he was actually fairly attractive under that beard and all that hair.
“You do look a bit like him. I think his look from this movie could work on you, too.” I didn’t want to be too blatant about it.
After we parted ways and went home that day, Perry sent me a selfie. He had shaved off his beard. I knew it, he was much more handsome without it. I’m not a fan of facial hair in general, but on men with beautiful, perfect-featured faces I find bushy beards downright criminal.
Of course now that he was clean-shaven with a scraggly, sun-bleached mullet, he didn’t look like Obi-Wan Kenobi anymore, either. His red hair had clearly been exposed to a lot of sun in order for the length of it to look that blond.
The next time I saw him, he said he had a surprise for me at five. I thought at first that he had made a restaurant reservation, but five o’clock on a Saturday was too early for dinner. We met up in front of the coffee shop where we first met, then he led me to the venue. When he came to a stop in front of a barbershop, I was amazed. He was actually willing to do this.
“Hello, I’m Perry. I made an appointment for five today. This is my girlfriend, Cathy. We’re both film buffs and big fans of Trainspotting. That’s why I’m here today for my junkie buzzcut.”
The young barberette looked puzzled until a grey-haired male barber pointed to the poster on the wall. She was probably not even born yet when the movie was released. “Oh, that was from a movie! Now it makes sense.”
The girl made me feel old on the one hand, but then, it’s never too late for someone to encounter a classic. I saw the film long after its release myself, since I was still in the demographic most affected by a PG-13 or R rating for movies back in 1996. Right, I wasn’t really that old, I just look and feel old because of all the stupid things I did in my misspent youth.
“That’s an easy cut.” She began to study the film poster more seriously.
“Not if you want it to be fashionable and flattering. Pay attention, Claudia.”
“Of course, Dad.” By now Perry was already in the barberette’s chair, caped, as she lifted up his long hair to wrap a tissue around the back of his neck. He was grinning, which was a huge relief, since he was obviously doing this to please me.
“That’s a no.2 buzz all over, I believe. It looks better tapered a bit around the ears and at the neck, though. Either way, you’re looking at a major change. Are you sure you want to buzz all that long hair off?” The older barber didn’t have any customers so he took an interest in the proceedings as well.
“Yes, it’s all coming off today. This is the shortest haircut I’ve ever had.” Perry seemed genuinely excited, which was a good sign.
“OK, here goes.” Claudia gathered Perry’s hair at the nape and snipped off the length at his neck. “Head down.” With his hair now chin-length, it was easier for her to attack his nape with the clippers. I stood behind her, watching the proceedings. She pushed the clippers up through his still-long hair at the back of his head, leaving behind stubble about a quarter of an inch long. At that length the hair was clearly red, since it had not yet been sun-bleached.
In minutes she had shorn the back. Now she gently tipped his head to the left and began buzzing the right side. The clippers encroached on the hair around his ear, getting closer and closer. Now I could see the little stud. Amazing, Perry already had a piercing in the correct spot.
“Other side.” This time Perry tipped his head to the right of his own accord. From his face in the mirror I could see that he was enjoying this. What a relief that he didn’t resent it.
Finally, the top. Claudia put down the clippers and snipped off the long top hair at the base of the ponytail she had made at the very top of his head. Picking up the clippers again, she began mowing straight forward from the back of his head. When Perry finally saw the front, he smiled. Apparently he was satisfied with how short a no.2 buzzcut was.
After she had gone over his entire head a few times with the clippers, she changed the guard and tapered a bit around his ears and towards his neck. Then she blasted his head with the hairdryer to get rid of the little cut hairs that littered Perry’s face and neck.
“There, all done. You do look like the man in the poster. I always thought he was handsome, so it’s nice to find out that he’s a movie star. Hey, I have good taste.”
Claudia took the opportunity to congratulate herself, as her father rolled his eyes, but I didn’t care. Perry’s open, friendly, and of course attractive face was now very visible without all that hair overshadowing it. His blue eyes took center stage and his incredible bone structure was now obvious. What a good-looking man he turned out to be!
“Choose a buzzcut. Choose a handsome boyfriend,” I teased as I stroked his barely-there stubble. He’ll turn heads for sure wherever we go.
We are still together, and Perry still has a no.2 buzzcut. Neither of us would have things any other way.