The Not-so-Newlywed Game

Dan and I celebrated our 20th anniversary at the end of June and spent five full days in San Francisco and Napa the following week. It was our first time away together for that many days since before we had kids.

At the airport waiting to board our flight to San Fran on Monday night, I noticed all of the staff suddenly disappear – not a great sign 30 minutes before takeoff. Eventually, someone announced the pilot broke a tooth and would not be flying; luckily, they found another pilot, who was on his way. An hour later, we boarded the plane, only to hear an announcement that the co-pilot had flown past his maximum allotted time and needed to make a phone call to Mom to get permission to keep flying.

“What is he, 12?” I asked Dan sarcastically. (I figured ‘Mom’ referred to whomever was in charge of granting permission to pilots, but it was still irritating.)

After another 15 minutes, a new announcement – the co-pilot had received permission (thanks, Mom!); however, the ground crew needed to change shifts. Of course they did. Several hours after our originally scheduled flight, we finally took off.

All of this reminded me of our crazy vacation experiences over the past 20 years, especially those when we were newlyweds.

For our one-year anniversary, we planned a trip to Cancun at the end of June. It was my first week off since I’d started working at PwC eight months prior to that (back in the days when new hires only received two weeks of vacation time a year), so I was really excited to have that time. The day before we were planning to leave, Dan woke up with 102-degree fever and an awful sore throat – it was strep. We never made it to Cancun and my grandparents, who shared the same anniversary date as ours, took me out to lunch to celebrate both anniversaries, while Dan slept and shivered under the covers on a warm June day. I spent a few days at the pool alone and by mid-week, Dan was better and we decided to go to Atlantic City for a few nights. Only, the weather suddenly took a dip – it was in the 60s and rainy the entire time, our hotel elevator did not work and we were on an upper floor, and I developed hives from something I ate.

We decided to give it another go in December and take a cruise with our friends, Lori and Ray. It had been years since I went somewhere warm in the winter and excitedly told my co-workers I’d see them in a week with a nice tan. Here’s how that week played out:

Days 1 and 2

We left Fort Lauderdale around 5pm and sailed all night, arriving at Key West in the morning. Highs were in the low 70s – very cool and breezy as we took a glass bottom boat tour – and we needed jackets most of the day.

Day 3

We spent it at sea. It was cool, but partly sunny. We could sit outside most of the day, although it was not exactly tanning weather.

Day 4

We arrived at Cozumel. The sky looked ominous as we boarded the party boat for a fun day. Winds were blowing and the cruise ship made the decision to leave early before the storm hit. The party boat returned to shore and we jumped into a taxi that drove a bit erratically down narrow dirt roads. We were grateful for Dan’s fluent Spanish, which got us back to the ship. With our excursion cut short and the rain coming down, bingo games and the bars were the places to be.

Day 5

We were supposed to be in the Cayman Islands but completely bypassed this stop due to the storm. Once again, we spent the day playing bingo and hanging out in the bars. It was around this time Ray coined the trip “The Cruise to Nowhere.”

The cruise director and team, wanting to ensure everyone had a good time on board the ship despite the weather, strongly advertised that evening’s activities. The evening would begin with the Not-so-Newlywed Game in the big theater, followed by a toga party. The four of us decided this meant we should wear our costumes to the game show and spent so much time trying to create togas out of sheets that we arrived at the theater later than we normally would have. As we entered, we were instructed to take a raffle ticket and put half of it in one of three bowls based on the number of years we had been married.

We looked around but couldn’t find any seats. The usher said, “There are some right up front – I’ll take you.” And, during our long walk down the aisle to the first row, we realized we were the ONLY four people wearing togas.

“Why isn’t anyone else wearing a costume?” I mumbled to Lori.

“This is so embarrassing,” she said as people looked at us curiously. “Maybe we should change.”

But the show was starting so we tried to make ourselves small in our seats. Perhaps people wouldn’t notice us if we scrunched down low. The cruise director (I don’t remember his name – let’s call him Milo) welcomed the impressive size crowd and said he was going to pick a ticket from each bowl, so three couples would be competing.

None of us was really paying attention as we were trying to catch the eye of the server bringing drinks around. Milo called out the newlywed number. We ignored him and debated individual drinks vs a bottle of wine. No one responded to Milo so he called it again. I looked down at my ticket. “OMG that’s us!” I shouted.

Dan just looked shell shocked, like how that could possibly have happened with the thousand or so people in the room.

“We’re definitely getting the bottle,” Ray said to the server who had finally reached our table. “This is going to be good!” Lori was cheering and had her camera ready. Dear G-d.

Dan and I slowly got up as people around us clapped and walked onto the stage in front of the crowd in. our. togas!!!

Meanwhile, Milo had called the other two tickets and those couples joined us.

“Let’s find out who our contestants are,” Milo said in his booming voice. “First, our newlywed couple. Thank you for wearing your togas!” The audience roared as I willed the toga to magically disappear and be replaced with a cute outfit.

We introduced ourselves and he asked Dan how long we had been married. “Um… a little over a year?” Dan said hesitantly.

Milo put the mic in my face. “Let’s see if Jodi’s more confident about their marriage length.” The crowd laughed.

”A year and a half,” I said.

“It’s a year and a half Dan,” Milo said. “Remember that.” The audience roared again. Lori snapped some more pictures. I started to relax. Slightly.

The other couples introduced themselves – one had been married 12 years and lived somewhere in the Midwest and seemed quiet. The boisterous ‘old married couple’ was from New York and celebrating their 20th anniversary. They had their whole family in the audience.

The women were told to leave so Milo could ask the men some questions. One of the cruise staff took us behind the stage and got us much needed drinks. We then came back and had to try to match our husbands’ answers. I matched one out of three in that round.

Then we switched and I realized the strategy was answering Milo with what I thought Dan would say rather than what I really thought. With every question we matched, I became more and more confident. Things like – your husband’s most annoying habit, the last person your spouse dated before you, your husband’s favorite condiment, and other more personal questions not appropriate for this blog. People cheered when we matched – the audience really seemed to like us. The 12-year couple was interesting – they had some strange voyeuristic tendencies that weren’t very appropriate for the children in the audience. And the 20 year couple was a hoot but couldn’t remember much. In the end, we won the game – togas and all. (I unfortunately have no recollection of the actual toga party afterwards!)

Day 6

Winning the game was only the beginning. Because the game show was pretty much the highlight of the cruise, everyone knew us. Those people who did not attend the live show, got to watch it in their state rooms as the cruise ship ran it over and over on TV. Everywhere we went, we heard comments like – “Oh, you’re the newlywed couple!” “We loved you and were glad you won!” “The togas were hilarious!” Or – little kids pointing to us and saying “Mommy, aren’t they the ones who…” And even the ship captain  –“I loved your answer to…”

We arrived in Ocho Rios, Jamaica to some sun and went on a hike through Duns River Falls. We were still the celebrity couple and everyone wanted to talk to us. I found myself conscious of how I was acting in public and focused on constantly smiling to maintain our reputation as the cute newlyweds. Imagine if this had happened today – we’d probably have people wanting to take selfies with us. I can just see the posts: Hanging with the newlywed couple – the winners of the Not-so-Newlywed game. #theyworetogastoagameshow

Day 7

We spent the last day at sea with cool and rainy weather. There was not much to do except watch ourselves on the ship’s TV (and dissecting our performance had become one of our favorite activities at this point. Me – “Oh here’s the part where you say…”; Dan – “Oh I love the look you give me here…”), as well as go to the bars and play bingo. No surprise, it was the largest jackpot in the ship’s history – around 10k!

Day 8

We arrived back in Fort Lauderdale and our celebrity status lasted into the airport as we passed people from the ship on their way to various flights. However, when we landed back in Philly, it was a strange feeling – nobody at the airport knew us, recognized us, or wanted to talk to us. Oh well – it was fun while it lasted and a little refreshing to have anonymity again. And of course I returned to work without any hint of a tan.

Now that we have been married for 20 years and are officially in the ‘old married couple’ category, at least according to the cruise ship, we have many vacations to look back on. Some were washouts, some had sick children, and one had a husband on crutches. However, more often than not, they were sunny, illness free and much more private than the Cruise to Nowhere!