I knew my boyfriend had told his parents we were dating when he invited me over for Christmas dinner. See, we had been friends for a very long time, and I knew his family well, so in actuality we’d been together for a while before he told them about it. I had been to his house a few times after we got together, but before he had told his family, and his mom made it pretty clear she had no idea we were together when she repeatedly asked me if I thought he was getting over his last breakup okay. Awkward.
He asked me through text, and it went kind of like this:
Him: Do you want to come over for Christmas dinner?
Me: Sure, what time.
Him: Early. 3 or 4.
Me: Okay, well my family normally eats at 8, do you want to come over to my house after?
Him: No I want to hang out with my brothers.
Uhm, okay. Anyway. Suddenly, I was bizarrely nervous to go over and hang out with his family, who I had known for a good 10 years. I knew they would be looking at me differently. I worried about what to wear. I worried I would say something stupid. I worried his mom would Google my name and read all of the things I write on the Interwebz and not like me anymore.
Meeting the family is rough. Here are a few tips to make it a bit easier.
Smile. When I was 12, I brought home my first boyfriend. My dad disliked him because, around my parents, he was very quiet and solemn and would just kind of sit there like a big awkward boy-shaped rock. As a result, my dad thought he was dumb, and “shlubby” and despite the fact this boy was very smart (like, future valedictorian smart), and actually very outgoing, my dad didn’t like him. The fact that my dad also (rightfully) suspected our relationship consisted of hours spent making out in the basement probably didn’t help much. But the point is, smile, and be friendly.
Ask questions. Everybody likes to talk about themselves. Okay, maybe not everybody, but most people. When meeting new people, embrace vanity and use it to your advantage.
Bring something. Flowers, wine, pie, whatever. Bring something, anything, so you come off as thoughtful. If you bring a wine at least you can be assured there’s going to be alcohol. If you’re vegan and you’re going to a food-focused holiday, which, in America is every holiday, be sure to bring something you can eat too so you don’t have to be that girl who just picked at the boiled green beans.
Be helpful. Helping in the kitchen can offer a quiet moment between you and whomever is meal-prepping, which is a nice way to warm up to someone. Set the table, do the dishes, walk the dog, whatever you can do to score some points and give yourself a task to make things feel a bit less awkward.
Don’t hang all over your Sig O. In college I had a boyfriend who liked to maul me in front of company. He literally no idea of what constituted appropriate PDA. My family never met him because it was short-lived, but my friends didn’t like him because of it. Once, after physically removing his hand from the back of my pants and sending him off to his own apartment, my room-mate’s MOM who was down for a visit made some comment like “Hm, you don’t really seem to like that boy too much, do you?” I did like him, but you couldn’t tell from the way I was always shoveling him off me. Sometimes when we feel uncomfortable we hang on our other for support. Try not to do that, and if you have to, do it under the confines of a dinner table.
Try to enjoy yourself. Meeting family for the first time can be stressful because you know they’re judging the shit out of you. It’s inevitable. What’s worst is if you don’t actually like them. A friend once had some story about how she met her boyfriend’s parents for the first time at a Thanksgiving dinner where his entire family—from 17-year-old cousin to 70-year-old grand father—passed around a joint before mealtime. Now to me that sounds like the best Thanksgiving ever, but she wasn’t into that vibe, and it freaked her freak. May she fly far like a little sober butterfly. Try and have some fun, lest they label you as boring and shlubby like my poor darling 7th grade sweetheart.