I know these things are supposed to be very low-key, very "getting to know you", but as the evening approached I was stricken with nerves. I couldn't shake the feeling that we were auditioning to be married. I was half-convinced that the guy would come out, take one look at us, and tell us – a la Project Runway – that we'd been eliminated from the running.
"Are you fucking kidding me?" he would shout. "I'm not marrying you! You're obviously way too immature to be taking a step of this magnitude." (I also had an alternate version in which he replaced that last sentence with, "Kat, your fiance is obviously GAY", and barring that, another one where he just came out and slapped us both in the mouth.)
We were supposed to meet Mr. Officiant at his Upper West Side office before going out for dinner. I was gunning for Mexican food – I have never in my life been so desperate for a margarita – while simultaneously worrying about its possible repercussions. (sample thoughts: Is it cool to drink tequila and eat chimichanga with your wedding officiant? What if I accidentally get drunk? My God, what if I fart? Nobody likes a farter!) The office was eerily quiet, with an utterly empty waiting room and an incessant humming from one of those machines that create a low-frequency noise to mask any conversation that might be audible outside of a closed door. At exactly 7:00, we walked in and hovered uncertainly in the middle of the room.
"Um," I said.
"So…" said Brad. "Should we sit down?"
There were three options: a run-of-the-mill beige sofa, a blue armchair that looked as though it had been rescued from a landfill back in 1970, and a deep red leather chair with dark wood accents and a high back and an overall, undeniable resemblance to a throne.
It was beyond fabulous.
We both eyed it.
"I guess we should sit on the couch," I said, still looking longingly at the Throne.
"I guess so," said Brad. I looked at him suspiciously. I was convinced that he, too, was covertly lusting after the Throne. We sank reluctantly on the couch and I reached for his hand, keenly aware of the seductive gleam of the red leather only a few feet away.
"This is probably a good idea," I said. "I mean, it might freak out our officiant if he came out and saw us sitting in separate chairs."
"Agreed," said Brad.
Fifteen minutes passed.
"Does he know we're here?" said Brad.
"He buzzed us in," I replied, straining to hear any sound over the hum of the noise-masking machine. Brad sighed and looked around the room. I snuck another longing glance at the Throne.
Another ten minutes passed before Brad said, "Should you call him?"
"I don't have his number."
He got to his feet and started pacing. "This is ridiculous."
I also leapt to my feet. "He'll come out! We just have to relax!" I had a panicked vision of Mr. Officiant coming out to discover that we were not only not sitting together, but bickering in his reception area, a scene which would surely result in instant disqualification from our marriage audition as well as serious embarrassment. I looked guiltily at the closed doors that ringed the room, not even knowing which one was his.
Brad sighed, patted my shoulder reassuringly and said, "Alright. Well, let's get comfortable."
And we did. At 7:30 -- half an hour after we'd first walked in the door -- Brad was on his feet and happily perusing an Amish cookbook that he'd grabbed from a nearby shelf , while I sat resplendent on the Throne with one leg crossed jauntily over the other, pretending to smoke a pipe.
Mr. Officiant, who strolled out of his office several minutes later and who turned out to be NOT a judgmental puritan but a big, bearish guy with an Indiana Jones-style hat, did not even seem to notice.
The moral of this story, of course, is that a successful relationship is one in which you do not attempt to deny the burning desire of your heart for the sake of appearances. At least when it comes to chairs.