So you’ve finally done it– you’ve met someone who makes you happy. Someone who doesn’t make you want to barf when you look at them. Someone who doesn’t care that you drool during your sleep, or sometimes like to re-enact dance sequences from Billy Elliot while wearing a Forever Lazy and speaking in a fake cockney accent. A wise lady (my friend Ashley) once said, “love is finding someone who thinks everything about you that’s annoying is cute.” Congratulations, you’ve found that person! Now you just have to make his or her parents think you are cute, too. Shit.
Chances are, if you’re gettin’ serious with someone, they’ll eventually want to show you off to their parental units. If you’re like me and really want everyone to think you’re a diamond, this can be nerve-wracking. And if you’re a broke-ass, this can be extra nerve-wracking– some parents want their kids to be with someone who is stable and doesn’t like, sell rare Magic:The Gathering cards on e-Bay to pay the rent on their loft that they share with eight other people. But don’t shut down your makeshift fantasy card game business just yet– you don’t have to turn into a Suit to convince your BF/GF’s family that you have more to offer than a collector’s edition Black Lotus. With just a few conscious moves, you can charm the family elders into thinking that you’re the sparkly diamond that you know you are (and not the dirty lump of coal you might seem to be from afar).
Before you meet your significant other’s family, you should definitely do your homework. Find out the ‘rents interests and personality types, and make mental bullet points about potential conversation topics that can be whipped out to save you during awkward, quiet moments (your “Meet the Parents Black Lotus” cards, if you will). For example, any suitors meeting my dad should know that he loves his at-home Korean karaoke machine, and the easiest way to win him over would probably be to sing a duet of Sean Paul’s “Get Busy” with him. This might sound completely humiliating, but all I’m saying is that if you really love me, you will get up and “shake that thing” with Daddy Laven.
After you’ve studied up on the parents, you should try to make yourself look at least semi-presentable. Again, I’m not saying that you need to turn yourself into an accountant on Casual Friday or anything, just don’t smell like B.O. or wear that belly-bearing t-shirt that shows off the butterfly tramp stamp you got when you were 17. Really, this is all relative– my homeboy’s mom is a chilled-out hippie, so when meeting her I had to make sure not to look too put together, lest I be mistaken for an uptight square. Thankfully, I sport too many leotards-as-everyday-wear, and care far too much about my horoscope for that. Nonetheless, I did make sure to wash my hair and not wear anything see-through (two offenses which I am guilty of committing, repeatedly)– I think it’s safe to say that greasy bangs and slut wear should universally be left out of parental rendezvous.
Most importantly, you gotta turn up the charm volume full blast when you meet the people who produced your Honey Bunches of Hotness. In the (revised) words of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, “I wanna see [charm] comin’ outcha pores!!!” This is crucial, as it will distract from the fact that you are but a poor Magic card dealer with no foreseeable future, who has worn the same jeans for the past 12 days. Ask a lot of questions! Keep the conversation light! Give a compliment or two! Bat your eyelashes, and make those parents feel like they are the only salt-and-peppered Baby Boomers in the room (as long as they don’t think you’re flirting with them… don’t take the charming too far!). You might not have the most stable career, but chances are you are good at something– highlight your talents, whether they be gluten free cookie-baking, making snappy jokes about Republican Presidential candidates, or being a ventriloquist (actually, on second thought, don’t whip out your ventriloquist’s dummy when meeting the parents– those things are terrifying). Let your positive qualities shine through, and show them that you are a totally awesome person, despite your lack of a 401(k).
Meeting the parents is always awkward, but you can get through it with just a little advanced preparation. Start by covering up your lower back tattoo, and end by dazzling them with your wit and conversation (not ventriloquism) skills. Before you know it, they’ll be givin’ a little wink-wink-nudge-nudge to your BF/GF, saying things like, “I like this one,” or “you better not screw this up by acting like an insane person with daddy issues and a fragile ego” (wait, that one mostly applies to me). When you win over the parents, everyone is happy– they won’t even mind when they find out you used EBT to pay for those gluten free cookie ingredients.
Photo credit: Mankind Unplugged