The holidays are a stressful time of year. Finding the right gifts, making enough time to see all of the special people in your life, and battling the bulge can be traumatic enough without having the added worry of meeting your significant other’s family for the first time. It is enough to put most people over the edge.
If you’re in the “Meet the Parents” predicament, I believe that it is important to be honest and genuine. Complimenting their mother’s outfit, decorating or cooking is acceptable and encouraged, but keep in mind that there is a limit (and less is more). My old man always used to liken artificial people he wasn’t fond of to ‘Eddy Haskell’, a character from Leave it to Beaver whose insincerity could be seen a mile away.
Other than a job interview or funeral, it may never be more important to dress for the occasion than meeting the parents for the first time. “If his family tends to be formal, ditch the skinny-jeans-plus-graphic-tee combo and rock a knee-skimming dress or skirt with a non-cleavage-baring top,” says relationship expert Karen Sherman, PhD in an issue of Cosmo. “And if you're not sure what their style is, play it safe by going conservative.” To this day, my mother still likes to remind me of a girl I dated in high school who showed up for dinner wearing a backless shirt. What my ill-fated girlfriend likely thought of as sexy was seen by my wholesome dear mother as trashy and inappropriate.
I am frequently shocked at how often simple manners are overlooked these days. Poor manners are glaringly obvious and say a great deal about who you are and how you were brought up. My sister’s ex-husband actually had the audacity to wear a baseball cap at the Christmas dinner table and answer his telephone during my dad’s toast.
Be attentive, be pleasant and turn your phone off.
Recognize the difference between showing warmth and public displays of affection. A peck on the cheek or a caress is fine, but nobody needs to see you sucking face at the dinner table so knock it off.
Being prepared will help prevent you from putting your foot in your mouth. Ask your significant other details about their family members ahead of time. What do they like, what are their hobbies, and what topic should you stay away from? Also do your best to avoid hot button subjects like religion and politics. If someone else brings them up, answer diplomatically or bite your tongue. Nothing can be gained by taking a family member to task.
Regardless of how boisterous things may get at other people’s family functions, it is important to keep your composure and don’t drink too much. Having you as a guest in anyone’s home should be a pleasure not a chore, so be helpful. Offering to wash dishes will not only put you in their good graces, it will also help you bond with family members one on one.
Gifts like flowers or wine are rarely a bad idea but check with your other half to ensure it’s appropriate. Finally, following up with a card is a welcome gesture that will show you have class.