The Perils of Meeting the Parents
My mother, wise as she is, recently clued me in that relationships are about give and take. Here I was thinking that being spoilt with love, care and affection, was enough to cleverly avoid the inevitable: meeting the parents.
In the past, meeting with parents was an easy, if not relatively pain free task, laughing with the mums, charming the dads – it was a doddle. The key was simple, never stop smiling, and laugh at everything, even when that something isn’t funny. But at some point – and this is probably when I learned to inadvertently avoid the notion altogether – I became fearful of meeting with another mother.
As I know it, it’s the scariest step in any relationship and the one step that must be taken. It sets the tone for the rest of your relationship – if they like you great, you’ll be welcomed to an array of dinner parties, where I can only assume there’ll be lots of food. But if you aren’t accepted into the inner circle… trouble.
If we’re going by parent logic, once you’ve surpassed the age of 21 you’re pretty much bound to marry the person you’re in a relationship with. Which, naturally, gives mothers and fathers free rein to speak on wedding rings, owning a home together, and – I shudder at the thought – babies.
The anxiety of it all often kicks in about 10 minutes before arrival. Lumbered with the questions buzzing around in your all of a sudden empty head: Will they like me? What if they don’t like me? Where will I sleep if I’m requested to stay over? WTF did I study again? Oh god, how many more family members? HOW OLD AM I?!
Remember that scene in Meet the Parents where Greg – the young man hoping to wed Jack and Dina’s daughter – is asked to say grace, despite being Jewish? The pressure to be accepted by Pamela’s parents forced Greg to pretend he knew something he had little to no knowledge of. All of Greg’s mistakes are what myself – and I imagine a few other individuals – fear when meeting mum and dad in the flesh. The PRESSURE!!
I’ve a few tips for those embarking on this tremendous rite of passage, because if you’ve made it to this step, you’re probably the one.
You may think that telling your partner’s parents that he’s a kind and gentle lover is a good idea, but as displayed in Phoebe Buffay’s first meeting with Mike’s parents… not quite. Instead, ask intriguing questions. Feign an interest in your partner’s childhood. Ask what they do and feign an interest in that, too. Perhaps even bring a small gift!
Laugh at everything:
Naturally I nervously laugh at everything in awkward situations, but when meeting the parents it often works in my favour. Laugh at every not-so-funny-but-they’re-old-so-I’ll-force-a-giggle joke, they’ll either think you suffer from nervous laughter, are on drugs, or that you think they’re absolutely hilarious.
Sure, you may hate your job and express this on every social medium available, but don’t tell them that! Act as together as possible, even if you’re dying inside. Talk about your ambitions without dimming out your current (somewhat stable) financial situation. You have a job, you pay for dates.. sometimes. Own that!
Engage with the ‘others’:
It’s likely that when meeting mum and dad, you’re forced to meet with sisters, brothers, (and if you’re as unlucky as myself) cousins and aunties too. You’re almost like a monkey on display, dance! Feign interest in them, compliment them. Remember they hold as much validity in the final score as mum and dad do.
Say no to PDA:
It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyways: do NOT kiss your spouse in front of the parentals on the first meet… or EVER! It isn’t cute, and is likely to remind them that you’re a millisecond from pregnancy. #ParentLogic
And if ever you’re stumped on how to approach meeting with the parents, use the film Meet the Parents as a catalyst of what NOT to do.