BARRIGADA HEIGHTS, GUAM — Visiting with your future in-laws on their home turf is a daunting task for any man.
Traveling roughly 3,000 miles to this tiny U.S. territory of Guam to visit with your future in-laws is another thing entirely.
Not only was I set to face stifling humidity, brown tree snakes and the scrutiny of scores of childhood friends, but I needed to see her father, who had no idea his baby girl was coming home with a ring on her finger.
An added bonus: Her mother is a devout Catholic who attends church daily, and I am a cynical, Episcopal crime reporter who doesn't believe in ritual-based, organized religion.
Oh yeah, and my fiancee's older brother is a doctor and a semi-professional body builder.
On paper I was looking screwed from the start.
The only thing I had going for me was that I had met and spent significant time with her parents before my Micronesian pilgrimage, and by all accounts they like me. I had partied hard and hoisted pints with her old man and spent hours talking with her mother.
But based on my track record with authority figures, I was prepared for that opinion to shift in the time it takes for me to say something insolent or inflammatory.
If they could tolerate a wine-soaked Christmas Eve with my family, then I shouldn't have any trouble navigating their Guamanian life, right?
That said, I prepared myself for the obligatory interrogation by her high school friends, the comparisons to boyfriends past, and the inevitable question about whether we will wed on Guam or in Honolulu.
Thankfully, Guam is an interesting island made up of a mix of American trappings and indigenous culture.
With baby-blue coastal waters, green hillsides and the mini-Waikiki that is the village of Tumon, there is much to see and do on Guam, meaning less time for me on the hot seat.
A big, little island that is home to the affable Chamorro people, I fell in love with the pace of the place and with the local fare that I consumed constantly to the detriment of my arteries.
Chamorro food can best be described as a spicy melding of meat and sweet-tasting vegetables. Any place where fried chicken, red rice and fish is sold for every meal without sales tax is somewhere I will be visiting frequently.
In the end, I had psyched myself out for nothing.
Her mom is a sweetheart who doesn't really care about my lack of religious faith. Her dad was so busy with work that I hardly saw him, and when I did, we partied.
He took the news that his daughter was engaged really well. Turns out he and his wife got hitched three months after they met, and her brother married his wife after six months, meaning by their count, I was taking things slow.