It’s a moment every couple simultaneously dreads and looks forward to: Meeting the Family. For a million reasons, it’s a nerve-wracking and intimidating event, full of implications and Law-and-Order-style questioning from at least one side of the table. And the standard of play is even higher when it happens over the holidays.
But bringing a guy home for the holidays doesn’t have to be the fiasco it is in movies or in your head. All you really need is a fat helping of understanding toward all parties involved, and good humor never hurts either. Because your parents aren’t really trying to sledgehammer the poor guy into the ground the second he’s walked in the door. But they’re not going to fawn over someone who can’t muster a few please and thank you’s either. No matter how nauseatingly sweet this guy is to you, he better make an effort or no one’s going to be very merry.
But really, if you’ve made it to this stage of your relationship, it’s safe to say that both of you want to steer clear of any Meet the Parents- type plot turns. Here are some simple ways you can stay safe – and together at the end of all this holiday bizness.
Lay down the foundation: You know your family. He doesn’t. So fill him in on the specifics beforehand and give him something to work with. This doesn’t mean only the obvious stuff: occupations, hobbies, your mom’s favorite wine. Make sure that whatever your family’s tics are, he knows what to expect. Are they going to pretend-grill him for the first fifteen minutes or stare in awkward silence? Will your whole family be greeting him or just your folks? Who’s just gone through a bad divorce or was laid off from a job? Does your uncle have a crazy glass eye that makes direct eye contact impossible? Now’s not the time to spare anything. The more details you’re too worried to spill upfront, the more you’ll end up scrambling later.
Take most of the reins, at first: By the time you make your entrance, all the mushy details you’ve told your mom or sister over the phone have probably passed through the room for your entire bloodline to hear. But this doesn’t mean you can just waltz right in to everyone applauding and flashing perfect “10”‘s like you’re a couple of Dancing With the Stars pros. It’s your job to facilitate introductions and maybe entire conversations with relatives while he gets a feel for things. This means keeping an eye on him when you’re talking to someone else, and also steering him away from the great aunt who gets heated after her third White Russian and is already on her second.
Beware of thin ice: No matter how much you’ve prepped him, or helped him navigate the room, nothing can totally prevent the inevitable awkward moment from happening. Hopefully it will be the sort that can just be laughed off, but if it’s something more serious – an unknowing comment gets turned around, your guy gets stuck in the crossfire of your cousin and his wife you’d never met before – be prepared with a diffusion strategy. Usually the best plan is to step out, get some air together, make out (whatever it takes to release the tension!) and re-enter the party after a bit. Trying to be a valiant hero by picking up your dude’s battle shield won’t actually save anyone, Xena Holiday Princess.
Be yourselves: This seems obvious, but if you’re serious about this guy, then you’ll want everyone in the room to one day stand up at your wedding/domestic partnership ceremony and share awesome, hilarious, and stupidly heart-warming stories about the first time they met your future life partner. So give them some great material! Just don’t be the couple that annoys everyone, and you know exactly what that means. There’s already one turkey in the oven; there’s no need for two more.
But watch the hands! It’s not like we’re seventeen anymore, but sometimes there’s nothing to stop two crazy hearts who are in love and also a little intoxicated. You’ve probably made plans for sleeping arrangements before arriving, but if you’re staying with your family then you’ve got to be respectful. That doesn’t mean you can’t have your own private gift-giving party, but if you’re going to hook up, at least keep it quiet. So mind the squeaking doors and bedframes. And yes, remove all the evidence, too. No one wants to find any candy cane wrappers or your peppermint thong lying around. That shiz needs to stay under the tree.