Miss Manners

Things are getting serious between you and your significant other. You’ve slept together, shared a plate of fries while discussing past heartbreaks, and maybe even broke out the “L” word. Now it’s time to meet the people that broke out the “L” word long before you came around: the parents. If your boo is a Mamma’s Boy or Daddy’s Princess, he/she probably cares that you gain his/her parents’ approval, whether it be a subtle pat on the back or an an enthusiastic two thumbs up. Here’s a few tips on how to convince them that you’re worth their baby’s sweet lovin’.

Address them as Mr. and Mrs: This may seem old-fashioned, but unless the parents ask you to call them by their first names right away, approach with caution. There’s nothing more mortifying for significant others than when upon entering their home, you fist bump their mom and say “How’s it hanging, Donna?” It’s a good idea to pretend like you’re going into a job interview: with a firm handshake, eye contact and a friendly smile. Even if you grew up with really relaxed parents, your boo may have been raised in a more proper household, so at a first meeting, stick with the traditional titles. Ask your boyfriend/girlfriend beforehand how their parentals prefer to be addressed. Also, keep in mind that some divorced women keep their ex-husband’s name, use their maiden name, or use the name of a new husband (if she has one). 

Answer all questions gracefully: The third degree is standard. Expect to be asked literally anything — and answer honestly. “Have you ever been arrested?” “Are your parents still together?” While your sassy self may be thinking, “It’s actually none of your damn business,” you have to breathe deeply and respond carefully. If you’re uncomfortable with the question, just answer it without a lot of explanation, so they know to move the conversation along. Example: “No, my parents are no longer together, but I love them both very much.” It’s short and sweet. Believe it or not, the ‘rents probably don’t want to embarrass you; they’re just trying to make conversation. When you’re chatting over dinner, keep it light like you would in any other polite company. Talk about school, new movies that are out, maybe even some funny family stories. As always, matters of politics, religion, or sex should be left out.

If the parents are mad haters: Don’t suck up to them. They can see that crap from a mile away, and it won’t win you any points. But just because you aren’t laughing maniacally at every joke the dad makes, doesn’t mean you can’t kill ‘em with kindness. At the end of the day, there’s not much you can do to win someone over if they’re not willing to give you a chance. The best you can do is follow steps 1-4 as listed and make it through the night. If you really want to go the extra mile, call the house within 48 hours to say how much you appreciated them welcoming you into their home and how nice it was to meet them. 

Pitch in: If you’re over for dinner, lunch, wine and cheese hour, or anything that involves the parent hosts setting out some plates, you must pitch in when the evening is over. Offer to help wash the dishes and put them away, take out the trash, or whatever else needs to be done. It shows that you’re thoughtful and mature; which majorly impresses parents. Don’t ask if they need help. That signifies: “I mean, I don’t want to, but I want to stay in your good graces because I love your son/daughter.” Good deeds don’t need to be announced. Pick up the dish rag and get to drying. If they insist that they don’t need any help, don’t fight them on it —  just be gracious in thanking them for the lovely meal and company. Just like any other time entering a stranger’s home, it’s always good to bring a little something for them to remember you by: homemade cookies, a delicious-smelling candle, or a lovely bouquet of peonies are all great options. Something like a bottle of wine is better suited for a second meeting, after you’ve observed their drinking habits, or lack thereof. If they serve wine, pay attention to whether it’s a Merlot or Sauvignon Blanc and keep it in mind for next time.  

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Expect to sleep in different rooms: If you’re staying the night, don’t assume that you’ll be cuddling next to your significant other. That’s something that parents acknowledge might be happening, but probably don’t want to even hint at it happening in their precious baby’s childhood room where they once slept in a bassinet. If you have an overnight bag or light luggage, ask if there is a guest room where you can drop off your things and freshen up before dinner. That way they realize that you are compliant with this unspoken rule and respect their household. No sneaking into your boo’s room in the middle of the night. If you get caught, that could end up awkward at the breakfast table the next morning. It’s not worth it, and come on, people, 24 hours without fornicating shouldn’t be unbearable.