toothpaste, travel mugs, and wedding bells

The only questions I remember were about toothpaste and our kitchen. After we got married, my application for permanent residency in South Africa was expedited. Having a South African husband put me into the fast-track category. But before I'd be granted permanent residency, the government wanted to make sure I wasn't faking our relationship just to stay in the country. They wanted proof that we were really married.

It was like a scene from a movie.

Niel and I were interviewed separately by government officials. They asked us questions that would supposedly help them determine whether or not Niel and I had known each other as long as we said we had.

I was seated across from a large man behind a desk. I was nervous, fidgeting; I felt like I was on The Newlywed Game Show. Things went smoothly until the kind sir asked, "What is your favorite toothpaste?" I started to sweat. Do I answer with what I'd really say or with what I think Niel might say? I mumbled something about my favorite being an American brand that isn't in South Africa. "Just answer the question," he snapped. "Crest...?" I said, with a question mark at the end. He nodded and moved on.


I was asked to describe what our kitchen looked like. I'm way more detail-oriented than Niel is, so I wasn't sure how Niel might have answered that question. I gave vague, general details first---the guy's face remained expressionless---and then I started to give more specifics. When I told him that the top of our cabinets were lined with Starbucks travel mugs, he interrupted me and told me that would be enough. I smiled, and wished I could high-five Niel right then and there.

Needless to say, I received my permanent residency a few months later.

And if we were quizzed with the same questions today, I guarantee we'd both still get them right.