Meeting the parents; an inevitable occasion in every new relationship, usually riddled with sweaty palms, self-awareness and bad jokes on both sides of the table. The build-up to the meeting incurs a particular kind of discomfort; a blend of reluctance, hope, and provisional embarrassment.
But the chances are that your nerves are unnecessary. The simple truth is that most parents want their children to be happy if you are the source of this, you can only go wrong to a certain extent. There are, though, a few things you can do to limit any potential damage.
Pre-meeting mirror check
Within the first minute of meeting someone, they will already have formed an opinion of you. Daunting. It’s pretty self-explanatory, really opt for the less offensive items in your wardrobe and avoid black eyes or last night’s smeared make up. Appearances, at least at first, matter.
Beware of the classic American highschool hickey, purple and red, shoved in the face of a confused parents, wondering just what you got up to last night with their beautiful, innocent child. The last thing you want is your partner’s parents imagining the two of you in the bedroom…
A pre-dinner mirror check, then, as well as a during dinner one, may save you a bit of embarrassment and get rid of that piece of brocolli stuck in your teeth.
Flatter, Flatter… stop there
The better you make them feel about themselves the better they feel about you. But nobody likes a sycophant. Laughing at dad jokes is a must, but stop at ten seconds or you sound sarcastic. Throw in a décor compliment, but keep it simple something along the lines of ‘I love these scatter cushions Mrs Jones’ is a real winner with those anywhere near middle-aged or middle-class.
Judge for yourself…
Remember that you won’t be the only one trying to impress. Parents of university aged offspring are cloying more than ever on to their precious son or daughter and everything that comes with them. More often than not, they want you to like them.
Now is also your chance to look out for warning signs. Is his recent hair loss really a temporary stress related phase or does his dad’s bald head say otherwise? Maybe she will laugh just a bit too whole heartedly at her grandma’s racist jokes, or perhaps he’ll display the kind of filial affection which can only signpost him as a chronic mummy’s boy.
Try, though, not to worry too much. Even the most seamless of people struggle to give the perfect first impression; we’ve all heard the anecdote of Marilyn Monroe’s first encounter with Arthur Miller’s mother. Marilyn excuses herself to use the bathroom, and, ever self‐conscious, turns the tap on full to cover the sound of her peeing. Later Arthur asks his mother what he thought of Marilyn. ‘Very nice girl’, she replies, ‘but she pees like a horse.’
So even if the dreaded event results in a few embarrassments, at least you’re in good company.