Meeting parents is always difficult in a relationship, regardless of the ethnic backgrounds of the people in the coupling. There’s the requisite fumbling for the right thing to say, the awkward pauses in conversation and the implicit knowledge that you are having sex with someone’s offspring. Everyone knows that sex happens in relationships, and god bless parents for being so capable of just pretending like it doesn’t happen.
Memo to parents: it happens.
Sorry… thanks for understanding.
That said, interracial couples have it a bit harder, due to the potential cultural differences. It’s not always a struggle, but it often is. Weird foods, unfamiliar customs and the like can drive a wedge between a person and their lover’s parents pretty quickly, which is why I have compiled a highly scientific list of five ways to avoid making an unforced error when meeting parents.
1. Pretend You Like Everything
If your boyfriend is Indian and you think Saag Paneer tastes gross, suck it up. You’re a grown adult, for Christ’s sake. If you need inspiration, just think back to the great heroine of the cinema, Nomi Malone of the film, Showgirls. She ate dog food on her way to the top of the Las Vegas entertainment industry. Dog food. You can eat Saag Paneer. Also, let me point out that Saag Paneer is delicious.
2. Avoid Dancing
Pretty much every culture has a unique form of dancing. Jews, Russians, Hindus, Persians and Scientologists all have traditions of musical expression that you will be bad at if you attempt them. The shambolic combination of arm gestures and leg thrusts that you are likely to muster will only make your lover’s parents think that you’re an epileptic, incontinent, or both. If you are an epileptic or happen to be incontinent, that’s even more reason to avoid any rhythmic movements. Feel free to “take a knee” at the next Quinceanera you attend. You’ll be doing the hosts a favor.
3. Admit There Are Things You Don’t Know
Chances are, you are not an expert on the culture of your significant other. You’ve never celebrated Kwanzaa, you don’t know what year it is in the Chinese calendar, and the only Irish food you are aware of is whiskey. If you accept that you aren’t a wellspring of knowledge about another culture, you open yourself up to learning those things from your potential mother-in-law and father-in-law. If you think you’re a goddamn expert about being a Sikh, then you’ll probably say something stupid and get asked nicely to leave.
4. Make Eye Contact
This is not just a rule for interracial dating. This is a rule for life. If you are meeting someone’s parents, appear engaged. Look at them. Don’t act as though you are uncomfortable, even if you are. If this is your first interracial relationship, you are probably on edge about meeting parents, but don’t let them know it. Just don’t stare. If you get caught staring, the parents might think you’re a potential serial killer. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Stay tuned for my new column on how to date a serial killer.)
5. Do Not Mention Race In Conversation
That should be obvious, but there are plenty of people who don’t heed this common-sense advice. At least wait until you’ve gotten to know the parents first before you mention the elephant in the room. The elephant in question is large and fraught with danger. Even Barack Obama has a hard time talking about matters of racial identity. That guy is the President of the United States, and also a pretty smooth talker. If he tried to sell me a timeshare in Florida that was surrounded by a moat filled with mutated crocodiles, I’d say yes, and yet he has a hard time articulating when it comes to racial divisions. As such, I suggest you stick to the following topics of conversations:
- Pretty much any other sport, other than badminton. No one likes badminton.
- The weather
- Mowing lawns
- Collecting grass after mowing lawns
- Dry cleaning
- The best places to get dry cleaning done
- What’s for breakfast?
- What’s for lunch?
- What’s for dinner?
- Lasik eye surgery
- The validity of the Moon Landing
- The stock market