Saturday, December 12, 2009

Meeting the Parents

“They made me eat fish eyeballs,” Zach Adams tells me while remembering the time he met his then girlfriend’s family for the first time. “They told me it was part of initiation into the family. Apparently it was all a big joke and she couldn’t believe they did that to me.”
It’s amazing the things we’ll do for the opposite sex. We’ll sing love songs, watch movies we’d never otherwise waste time on, look foolish in public, and even gasp, meet their parents. The thought of doing something so ridiculous may be staring you down this holiday season. Upcoming breaks from school may leave you discussing, “So, where are we going to spend our time over break?” If the answer to that question is your boyfriend or girlfriend’s house, keep reading. If you are not dating anyone, live it up and enjoy the fact that this experience will not be in your near future.
Upon recent interviews with several knowledgeable students at Union college, here follows an incomplete, but humorous list of do’s and don’ts for meeting the parents.
First, find out what you’re getting yourself into. Before even walking in the door, ask your significant other, or SO, what to expect and what you should and should not do.
“The first time you meet them, assume Mr. and Mrs. until told otherwise,” advises Beth Cook. Do not call them by their first name. The first name basis ranks as sacred ground for the select few who earn it after a few more holidays together.
The next critical move involves not assuming where you’ll be sleeping. It will probably be the farthest corner of the house away from your SO’s bedroom. You may sleep on the couch. You may sleep on the floor. Deal with it.
You know how at home you might just walk to the shower in your towel? Don’t do that here. No, no, when you are showering, changing your clothes, using the restroom, doing anything mildly private, prepare ahead of time. Take everything you need to the bathroom with you to avoid getting caught streaking down the hallway, a poor way to start any relationship.
Meal times are an excellent way to get involved and be helpful. Cori Piel recommends, “Get involved. Help out in the kitchen or with tasks around the house.” Show the family that you are willing to get in there and get involved with being a part of the family. No, don’t freak out. Being helpful doesn’t mean you’re stuck in the family, just welcomed.
One person at a café table told me, “Just be yourself.” Across the table, a protest came, “That’s the worst advice. Don’t be yourself.” While the verdict is still out, this first trip may not be the ideal time to discuss your political party, your views on abortion, or stance on gay rights. This doesn’t mean you have to pretend you’re something you’re not. It does mean, however, keep your mouth shut. They are totally judging whether you are good enough for their son or daughter. Leave these topics for winter break, at least.
“Have a good sense of humor,” Roddy Bollinger tells me. “When I went to meet Stephanie’s family, I was playing around on the diving board at the pool and my swim trunks ripped wide open in front of her mom and her sister.” You will make mistakes. You will say silly things. You will feel awkward. Laugh it off and move on.
By this point you may be questioning whether your SO is worth it. Better now than half-way through a long and torturous Thanksgiving though right?
Other helpful tips for meeting the parents came from insightful sources, such as Taleah Valles, who said, “If you can, bring a desert item to share, but make sure they are not allergic to it first!”
Kati Britton advises, “Don’t show too much skin.”
“Wait awhile to comment about how hot her mom is until plenty of time has passed,” recommends Zach Adams.
And lastly, according to Justin Beinlich, “If her dad has guns, run.”
This may be a bit obvious, but: be nice, smile, ask friendly questions. Get to know these people that have raised your SO. They are probably—mostly—harmless. They may be curious about you. They may just pretend like you’re another member of the family. Either way, they probably have enough embarrassing stories about your SO to last until New Year’s. Take some deep breaths give thanks, and hopefully you’ll only have to do this once.

(The Clocktower, November 2009)