Way back in the year 2000, I had a boyfriend who talked often of the magic of Morocco. Long after his kisses faded from my lips and he was no longer a part of my life, his stories of that far off land remained in my head. I often fantasized about the place and as luck would have it, the following year I found a photographer’s trip that was going there for two weeks. I quickly signed up, sent my check in and then became preoccupied with something else until a few days before I was to leave. I remember going over to the Barnes & Noble on 19th Street and Sixth Avenue. The travel section was near the front of the store and I curled up on the floor and began to read and plan my trip. That’s when I became aware of warnings that single, white, western women weren’t really safe in Morocco. They are considered low society and it’s not uncommon to be harassed. I read this in more than one book and as I jumped from one page to the next I started to panic. I kept muttering, “What have I gotten myself into?” I cursed the memory of that ex-boyfriend, “It’s his fault.” By the time I had gotten home with an armload of travel books, I was in full frantic mode and called my Dad.
“I don’t know if I should be going to Morocco. They don’t like women there!”
“Mae, what are you talking about?”
My parents have traveled the world and it is my father who is the driving force for these adventures. He could tell by my voice I was emotionally out on a limb and ever so calmly talked me down. “Mae, I have always wanted to go to Morocco and wish I were you right now. I’m sure your guides know where to take you. Just find the courage and you will have an incredible time.” By the time I hung up, I was emotionally on stronger footing and it was then that I came up with the most brilliant solution. I went to the corner of 16th and 6th Avenue. There was a corner jewelry store that had a huge red sign in the window that said WE BUY AND SELL GOLD JEWLERY. This was not a place with a genteel air to buy future heirlooms. It was a place to strike a deal and I knew they had what I needed.
“I need one gold wedding band,” I told the clerk behind the counter. He looked at me quizzically and then handed me a tray. I couldn’t change being white, single or western but I could at least look like I was married. Once I left with my new ring, I stood on the corner of 6th Avenue and 14th Street and said out loud as I put it on, “With this ring I thee wed Courage.” Would you believe I actually felt it? People passed by rushing to someplace else and like the Cowardly Lion I suddenly felt a determination I hadn’t had before. I was ready for my trip.
I left for Morocco two days later and the society was different. There was a hint of danger in the air and I took care to respect the culture that is there. I hiked in the Atlas Mountains and camped in the Sahara desert. It was an adventure of a lifetime and I would do it all over again.
It wasn’t long after that trip that I sat with Vita at lunch and told her the story. There was a long pause once I finished and she crinkled her nose, “That was the dumbest story I have ever heard. Please do me a favor and don’t tell anyone about the ring ever again.” I rolled my eyes, laughed and said, “OK.” I don’t always have my feet planted firmly in reality and maybe this was just silliness on my part. Vita is my bellwether for sanity. Yet, I haven’t kept my word on that one – after all, I’ve just told you