Couples Therapy at the Israeli Border
Despite the various stamps in my passport, border crossings and visa consulates always make me nervous. I sweat, I hum, I fidget, I bite my nails, I furrow my brow and my eyes dart from side to side like I’m at the French Open. Brokedown Palace is playing on a reel in my head even though I’m not carrying drugs (or firearms, wildlife, vegetables, gold, bacterial cultures, Cuban cigars, livestock or ceramic tableware).
Maybe it’s the fear of rejection, an awe of authority figures or too many episodes of Locked Up Abroad but I act like someone with a pound of cocaine in her rectum. I even get nervous at border control coming back to the United States but as Mike and I discovered during a recent interview at the airport in Tel Aviv, our guys have nothing on Israeli border guards.
Guard: Are you married?
Me: Heck, no. Not yet. No.
Guard: What is your relationship?
Mike: We’re boyfriend and girlfriend.
Guard: How long have you been dating?
Me: Um, a year. Man, has it been that long?
Guard: You don’t know how long you have been together?
Me: No, sorry, I just hadn’t realized how long we’d been together.
Guard: You’re not sure?
Mike: We are. It’s been a year.
Guard: Do you live together?
Mike: You mean back home? No.
Abby: But we lived together for six months in Bangkok.
Guard: Is this your first time traveling together?
Guard: And you came to Israel?
Me: Um, yes.
Guard: Have you met her family?
Me: Wow, segue.
Guard: These questions are for your protection.
Mike: Yes, I’ve met her family.
Guard: Have you met his parents?
Me: Yes, once.
Guard: Only one time?
Me: Yes. Is that bad?
Me: Why only once? Uh, we were taking things slow. Also they live in Woodbridge.
Guard: Did you live together in the United States?
Me: Didn’t we just settle that?
Mike: No, we don’t.
Guard: How far apart do you live from another?
Mike: You mean, back home?
Mike: We don’t have apartments back home now but our parents live about 30 miles apart.
Guard: That is far.
Mike: Sorry, is that a question?
Me: Well, our parents live far apart. We used to live on a couple miles from each other but we don’t have those places anymore.
Guard: How often did you see each other a week?
Together: Hmmm…what do you think? About three times? Yeah, three, maybe four times a week.
Guard: So not so often.
Mike: Well, that’s actually pretty good.
Me: We were both busy….
Guard: Where will you live when you go home?
Mike: We don’t know.
Me: We have to figure that out.
Guard: Will you live together?
Me (nervous laughter): That’s unclear.
Guard: You don’t know?
Me: I mean, we’ve talked about it. It’s a big step.
Mike: We don’t know.
Guard: How long are you traveling?
Me: It’s open-ended but probably until June.
Mike: About six months total.
Guard: You have no jobs.
Mike (pause): Sorry, is that one of the questions?
Me: No, we don’t. We quit our jobs to travel.
Guard: How are you able to afford this trip?
Mike: Terrorism. Just kidding. We saved money.
Me (hysterical laughter): He’s joking. We saved up.
Guard: Wait here.
Me: I feel judged.
Mike: We’re either going to prison or getting a marriage license.
The Takeaway: I’m painfully awkward in these situations but, yeah, don’t do this. Oh, and be prepared for any and all questions at border crossings.