Her: “You know, Honey, I’m really happy we’re together. I love that you like to spend a rainy Sunday reading a book instead of watching hours of football. I love that you don’t mind shopping with me. I love that you totally agree with me that Daughtry’s the best rock singer ever.”
You: “Um, I never said that. You think Daughtry can sing. I think he’s a rip-off. I’m waiting for Bowie to come back to town, but anyway…”
Her: “So, listen, I’ve been thinking – since we’ve been seeing each other for three whole months and we’re so compatible and doing so well and all, I thought it’d be nice to have you meet my parents.”
Her: “My folks are really great and they’ve been asking me to bring you by for dinner.”
Her: “Honey? Baby?! Dar-ling?!?! Can you hear me? Did you fall a-sleep? Good God, You’ve passed out!!! You need a washcloth!!! You need oxygen!!! You need a doctor – stat!!!”
Look, you dig her. You share the same interests. She makes you laugh. She thinks you’re funny, even when you do that Chris Farley In-A-Van-Down-By-The-River schtick for the three hundredth time. She looks killer in her jeans, wears the hell out of strapless dress and is puts a downright hurt on a pair of leather boots. Your friends think she’s hot and cool. You’ve been having some serious thoughts about her… like a future. And, my man, part of that future includes her parents.
Now before you recall Ben Stiller and get your boxers in a bunch thinking how you’d handle her Dad if he’s anything like Robert DeNiro, Be Better Guys is going to use our experience to help you get through this, how shall we say, massive moment of potential discomfort.
There is But One, and Only One, Mission.
Get Mom to love you and Dad to accept you. Keep this in mind at all times and remember, you’re the one who’s with their beloved daughter day in and day out now that she’s all grow’ed up. Ultimately, they want to like you as much you want to like them; it’s in their best interest to like you (unless you lead a biker gang and run a fight club out of a warehouse in East Oakland). Mom and Dad want to get to know the guy their daughter loves… and sleeps with. Everyone’s feeling each other out here, kind of like when you deep-sea dive with a school of tiger sharks, they’re as curious about you as you are about them. It’s your job to make sure they know you don’t bite.
Know Some History.
If you’ve been with your girl for more than 3 and ½ hours, you probably know if her parents have been together for a while, are re-married (and are now on the 4th go ‘round), have other kids (like her brother who was the inspiration for the weird dude in black from “The Wedding Crashers”), and maybe even what they do for a living (Dad, a retired Army Major General, Mom, a corporate CEO – tough couple). It’s OK to ask your woman in advance if Mom’s serious and stoic or Dad’s funny and likes a good party (like party Dads Hugh Hefner, David Hasselhoff and Nick Nolte). Better to get the “situational awareness” before going in than asking Dad what his favorite Scotch is, only to find out he’s a recovering alcoholic who’s been on the wagon for 13 years. Who’s your girl closer to, Mom or Dad? If you don’t know the basics, have your girl brush you up so you don’t go in unprepared and come out like a complete boob .
Get to Know Mom.
Mom could be your biggest ally. Period. In most homes, Mom runs the show, no matter how much Dad thinks he’s in control. She’s the one who will lobby for you if you get on Dad’s bad side. Plus she’ll be the one who calls you to invite you for future dinners and family stuff. Politically, go straight for Mom. She’s “El Jefe.”
- Compliment the “First Lady.” Don’t go overboard with the “You look way more lovely in person than in those pictures we have all over our apartment!” or “Emeril Lagasse has nothing on your cooking, Mrs. Cunningham!” But just eat the dinner, all of it, even if it belongs served in a plastic dish next to Spot’s dogbowl.
- Clear the table after you eat. Huge points for helping out. Don’t juggle seven plates at a time like you’re working at Maggiano’s. Just step forward and be helpful.
- Offer to do the dishes, as well. Mom will demand that you go spend time with Dad, but you’ll score even more points just for asking. If Mom accepts your offer, do yourself a favor and do a good job on the cleaning.
- Small talk with Mom — Mom’s family, where’s she from, how long Mom and Dad have been in the house, any vacations planned, how long they’ve owned the crappy Shitzu that keeps nipping at your pants leg.
Get to Know Dad.
Ever heard the phrase “Daddy’s Little Girl”? That’s who you’re sleeping with every night, Pumpkin. You are replacing Dad as the man in your girl’s world. Understand how important this is to Dad and show him what a Better Guy you really are.
- You have a unique opportunity. This is a chance for you to either be the son Dad never had or the better son – better than Brother Derek, who dropped out of school to smoke weed and live in a van in Woodstock, New York, waiting for Phish to reunite. Be cool, be low-key, be charming, don’t fawn all over the man, and be in the moment. And remember, just like with a job interview, don’t ever, ever be cocky. He’ll throw you out on your ass before he’ll let you ever see his daughter again.
- Address him as Sir or Mr. “insert-last-name-here” until he tells you otherwise. Always. It’s a sign of respect and will win you points.
- Topics in play – hobbies, sports, his job, your job, his family, your family, the house he lives in, your education, cars, where you grew up, where he grew up, and generic topics in the news.
- Topics out of bounds – religion, politics, your debt, and stories of excessive drinking, smoking, or speeding. And if you ever bring up what you did to his daughter last night that involved that new thong you bought her, ice cubes and candle wax, you’ll find out quickly how fast you have to fly to outrun his shotgun!
What To Bring.
You know never to arrive empty-handed, however the best thing to bring is flowers. Present them to Mom. Assuming it’s appropriate (reference “Know Some History” above), it’s also nice to bring a bottle of wine. Doesn’t have to be cellar material, just something that could be uncorked with dinner.
The Right Way to Exit.
Shake hands firmly and confidently with both Mom and Dad and thank them profusely for their warmth and generosity for inviting you into their home. Mean it. Look ‘em dead in the eye when you do. If they offer to hug it out instead, you just got the seal of approval. If they kiss you, you just won the lottery (especially if it’s Dad who plants one on you). You can now go home and “celebrate” with their daughter — job well done.
Send a thank-you note.
Send it out the very next day. On nice stationery and not some cheesy Hallmark “Thanks!” card. Make it brief, and say what a pleasure it was to meet them, how much you appreciated their hospitality, and how you’d love to take Dad up on his offer to hit the fairway at Daddy’s club next weekend.
Mom and Dad want the best for their girl. It’s a tough world out there and they want to know that their little girl’s in safe, responsible, respectable hands. You have to nail that initial first impression, show good manners, and muster up some genuine interest in these people. You may actually like them… at least enough to survive the potential annual nine-hour Thanksgiving extravaganza in your future.