If you’re meeting your serious boyfriend’s parents this holiday season, you have every reason to freak out. What? A lot of people are going to lie to you and tell you that it’s not that big of a deal, but it IS! First impressions are very important and while I wouldn’t tell you to put a lot of stock in what most people think about you, you do want to leave your significant other’s families thinking that you’re a fantastic human being who’s got a lot of great things going on. You wanna come off as someone who was “raised right” and not the lactchkey kid of two alcoholics that you really are.
If you’re heading home to meet the folks and having a major meltdown, look no further. Here’s a list of ten tips to survive the experience and maybe even come out on top:
1) Be yourself
This all-purpose advice is crucial in a situation like this. Any parent meeting their son or daughter’s new love interest is going to be sniffing around for any weirdness, and putting on airs of any kind always reads as “off”. It’s best that you are your normal, slightly quirky self.
2) …but keep your filter on
There’s absolutely no reason for your boyfriend’s new parents to know that you drank too much at dinner last night and threw up in the hotel this morning. You don’t need to mention your dad’s bankruptcies or your mom’s love of coke in the early 80s. These are things that come out best over time. When explaining who the hell you are and where you came from, it’s best to give the Cliffs Notes. Keep it light. And explain away your wicked hangover by saying that you got a bad piece of tuna at sushi last night.
3) Drink in moderation
My boyfriend’s parents don’t drink, so I don’t drink around them. Easy enough. But if you do crack open a couple of bottles of wine at the dinner table, cut yourself off at two glasses, even if everybody else is drinking more. Trust me—the mix of adrenaline and general desperation will make that booze hit you hard and you DON’T want to be the girl who got oddly sloppy at dinner and wouldn’t stop babbling.
4) Bring a small gift
This isn’t about spending money, it’s about acknowledging the host/showing that you know better than to show up to someone’s house empty handed. You can never go wrong with a pretty plant or scented candle—mom’s love that shit and they’re both seasonally appropriate gifts. A lovely bottle of wine and a nice card are almost always appreciated. Maybe your boyfriend has told you about some sort of family favorite or tradition that you can add on to. Stay away from gift cards, homemade baked goods (unless you’re truly impressive in the kitchen they’ll probably be politely nibbled on and thrown away as soon as you leave) and anything jokey that could make the situation weird.
5) Ask questions
The easiest way to keep a conversation going is to keep it off yourself. Make sure you ask plenty of polite questions—where mom and dad work, how they met, what your boyfriend was like as a kid, how they made the cranberry stuffing—whatever. People love to talk about themselves and they love to talk about their kids even more.
6) …but again, filter.
Remember that YOU DON’T KNOW THESE PEOPLE! Don’t ask anything that you wouldn’t ask like, your history professor that’s a cool guy and sometimes gets beers with students after class but is still your history professor.
7) Indulge them
If it even remotely seems like they want to watch home videos or look at old photos, give it to them. Let your boyfriend’s mom guide you through her massive Christmas village and your boyfriend’s dad guide you around his garage. And be enthusiastic about it!
8) Offer to help
When you arrive to the home, offer to lend a hand in the kitchen, take out the trash without being asked (if that seems like something that would be appreciated), after dinner, clear the table and help with the dishes. Definitely don’t bring out your cleaning caddy and Windex the storm door, but lending a hand around the house shows you are considerate and were raised to be helpful and can-do.
9) Say thank you
Whenever the opportunity presents itself, say thank you. Thank his parents for the meal, thank them for raising a good guy, thank them for the Christmas gift they get you in person AND send a card. These kinds of manners are not lost on parents, especially because so few people are as diligent as they should be when it comes to showing gratitude.
10) Bring a movie
I can’t tell you how many awkward situations I’ve avoided in parental meeting situations by simply choosing a movie to watch with my boyfriend beforehand and bringing it with us to watch after dinner. Bring a feel-good documentary like King of Kong or a Christopher Guest comedy. Something with a little bit for everyone that will keep you all laughing and give you something to talk about. Plus most parents can barely make it through a movie—his dad will fall asleep, they’ll need to go to bed once the movie is over, you two can duck out on a good note. Movies are the fucking best.