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Dating Advice: How to Survive Meeting the Parents

So you’ve met a new partner, and everything is going great. Then, one day, he or she says casually, “I’m going to drive up to visit my parents this weekend and I thought you might like to come along.” Instant panic. Meeting your lover’s parents for the first time is about as much fun as getting a colonoscopy, only the preparation is worse and you don’t get good drugs to help you through the moment of truth.

Worries immediately start flooding your brain. What if they hate me? What if I make a fool of myself? What if we get into a big fight? What if his whole family’s like something out of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre? What if they hate me?

First, calm down. Remember that forewarned is forearmed, so corner your lover and ask him or her about their parents. Are there any big differences you should be aware of? For instance, if your loved one’s dad is a dyed-in-the-wool Republican and you’ve been volunteering to help Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid, politics probably shouldn’t be at the top of your “to talk about” list. Ask your lover about his or her parents’ religious belief, interests, hobbies, favorite music, favorite television shows, etc. Your goal is to find something you and his parents have in common.

When the big day arrives, put a little extra effort into your appearance. No, you don’t have to wear a tux, but your six-year old favorite t-shirt that still sports stains from your barbecue and beer days probably isn’t the best choice either. This also probably isn’t the best weekend to dye your hair green or to get your lip and eyebrow pierced. You want to look neat, calm benign…normal. Like someone the parents can trust with their little girl or little boy.

Bringing a small gift is always a nice idea, but again, pump your lover for information before you select the present. You don’t want to show up at a Vegan household armed with a half dozen thick slabs of steak, nor do you want to bring a plant that will poison Mom’s pet cat.

During the actual meeting, follow your lover’s parents’ cues. If they hug, you hug. If they shake hands, you shake hands. Tell them politely how nice it is to meet them and how fond you are of their son or daughter.

Keep conversation light. If you sense you’re wandering into dangerous territory, back off immediately and change the subject. In general, avoid potentially inflammatory topics like politics, religion, and sex (especially sex between you and their child). During the first visit, you’ll probably be doing a lot of nodding, smiling, and adding fairly neutral statements like, “Oh, how nice!” and “Tell me more.”

If things aren’t going well, grit your teeth, keep being polite, and catch your lover alone ASAP to ask what he or she thinks the problem might be. Often parents take a dislike, not to you personally, but to the idea that their child is old enough to seriously date anyone. If this is the case, they’ll probably calm down as the weeks go by and you turn out to be a nice, ordinary person rather than a serial killer.

If, on the other hand, the parents have taken a dislike to you based on an issue like ethnicity, race, religion, etc., you’ll probably need to ask your partner to run interference on your behalf, which he or she should be glad to do.

If you’ve screwed up, the only thing to do is apologize and throw yourself on his/her parents’ mercy. They’ll appreciate the gesture and probably be willing to forgive and forget since you are, after all, dating their kid.

When the visit is over, however well or badly things might have gone, make a polite departure, assuring his or her parents that you were delighted to have this chance to meet them and you look forward to seeing them again. It is permissible to add, “…on a cold day in hell,” under your breath as long as you are sure the parents cannot hear you.


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