Meeting the Parents: Dos and Don’ts for the Collegiate Significant Other

Image by Sarah Cox

Over this all-too-short holiday break, I reached a milestone in my current relationship: meeting the parents. This meeting was not only dinner; it was the whole nine yards of the awkward family intro experience and included travel time, a weekend stay, and meeting the WHOLE family all at one time. For many of us this situation can be a social nightmare. The train ride there consisted of a mild panic attack as my time was spent obsessing over the all-important first impression. Despite the anxiety and obsessive nail-biting, the meet and greet turned out OK and so, I have taken it upon myself to share some advice based on my experience and showcase some meeting-the-family stories heard around campus.

One big thing everyone should to do when meeting the Parents is to arrive early. This can be a great de-stress tactic in any situation. At a restaurant you can sit, calm down and get accustomed to your surroundings while you wait for the dreaded guests of honor. In my case, however, the meeting took place at the house and on Christmas day. Talk about pressure. Amtrak made the situation all the more awkward because the train schedule didn’t allow boyfriend and me to arrive until around 7pm. In an effort to be nice, his mother pushed back dinner for us. However, this also set the stage for an arrival into a house full of very hungry strangers (a.k.a. rabid wolves). The atmosphere of near starvation didn’t bode well for me as introductions were either rushed or skipped entirely in favor of attacking the dinner table like Regina George in the cafeteria scene in “Mean Girls.” Moral of the story: being introduced as the “reason for your hunger,” does not typically bode well. Take note.

During the anxiety-filled introductions, one move that turned out well was the idea of bringing gifts. Bringing something to the gathering (holiday or not), whether it be a small gift or something for dessert, shows generosity and effort. It sends the message that you care about what your significant other’s family thinks of you. HOWEVER, the act of bringing something to the meet and greet is not without its risks. Choose wisely, Grasshoppers. Although it may seem like an obvious choice, NEVER BRING BOOZE. Come to think of it, when meeting the parents, try to avoid alcohol all together.  You may say or do something that you will regret. Christine Turkington (SMG ’10) experienced this very problem when meeting the flesh and blood of a former flame. As with many social occasions, booze was involved in this meet and greet, and let’s just say that the mother of the flame got a little sauced. Christine explains, “His mom got drunk and dropped the remote into the piano. She then decided that I should fish it out as I had the littlest hands.” Take this as a lesson ladies and gents. Don’t bring/indulge in the booze during a first meeting; you may just wind up elbow deep in a baby grand.

For those of you who are planning on introducing your significant other to your own parents, I offer this uncomplicated yet mind-blowingly significant piece of advice: PREPARE, PREPARE, PREPARE. Seriously, any and all weird things your parents might do to scare off the person you are with needs to be thought of and planned for. For example, anyone who is meeting my parents for the first time needs to be warned about the dogs. My mother, as wonderful as she may be, has a soft spot for her two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels that is comparable to the size of Kim Kardashian’s hindquarters. This results in the dogs being allowed on the furniture, including (at times) the dining room table. Sometimes they sit quietly and other times they make a beeline for your dumplings. Even those coming over for any amount of time that will involve so much as a potato chip needs to be warned. Non-animal lovers should simply stay away.

When boys go over to meet the parents of Jeanz Holt (CAS ’11) they may not want to comment on the interior decoration. When asked if she had any meeting-the-parents stories, Jeanz told the tale of an ex who, in an effort to keep the conversation flowing, asked about a, “decorative thing” on the mantle. This friendly effort to be social turned into something that could be ripped from the pages of a Ben Stiller script, minus the cat pee. Jeanz explains, “Turns out the decorative thing is my Dad’s old opium pipe from his wild youth, and my Dad spent the next 20 minutes giving us a tutorial on how to smoke opium. My boyfriend was stunned.” Many people would find this situation entertaining and Sherlock Holmes would be proud, but one can easily understand how it that could be startling during a first meeting with the parents, as it makes the boundaries of conversation less than elementary. One might go into a situation like this reminding his or herself not to mention that-crazy-thing-I-did-last-night and by the end of the night be questioning if this would be entertaining dessert conversation.

My golden rule for meeting the parents is this: keep it PG. If the night takes a PG-13 turn then go with it; it could be fun. Just be careful not to venture into R rated territory. Nobody wants to witness that.

About Sarah Cox

Sarah Cox (CAS '11) writes "Socially Yours," a social manners column, for the Quad. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and is now living full time in Boston. She is studying Art History and hopes to stay on for her masters. One of her goals in life is to one day own a penguin. She would also like to stop dropping the F bomb so much -- class it up a little bit.

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