Any non-gendered advice on meeting the parents for the first time?

Guest post by Didn't Get the Dating Manual
Hi welcome mat by Etsy seller NickelDesignsShop
Hi welcome mat by Etsy seller NickelDesignsShop
I’ve been dating this dude for a while, and it’s been going great. Recently he asked if I wanted to meet his mother. I said yes — and I’m excited! But I’m also nervous.

This is my first real relationship. The last time I met a date’s mother for the first time, it was only because neither of us were old enough to drive yet. 10+ years later and the game has changed. So even though I’m in my late 20s, I’ve never really done the whole “meet the parents” thing before.

Most of the advice I can find online is pretty sexist:
* dress conservatively
* hide your body
* offer to help in the kitchen to show that you can run a house!

I’m talking to my dude about it as well, so I’ll have his input as well. But I ask you, Homies, is there anything I should know that isn’t super gender stereotyped? -Didn’t Get the Dating Manual

After 10 years of being in a relationship, I recently had to have the “meet your new partner’s parents” moment recently. So I guess I can offer up a little bit of advice…

You’ve already done the most crucial step — ask your partner for their advice. No one knows your partner’s parents better than their own child! I’ve had boyfriends tell me, “You’re fine. You can do anything you normally do, except cuss.” I’ve had boyfriends say, “You’re a shiksa. You’re pretty much screwed.” (Honestly, it was harder for me to try not to cuss than to not be Jewish!)

The next crucial step: the stereotypical advice of “just be yourself.” But mostly, I guess, I mean, share something of yourself with them.

Then there’s the best advice my dad gave me about being social: Ask them questions about themselves. Almost everyone loves talking about themselves. And that way you have a chance of finding out things you have in common to talk about and bond over!

If all else fails, just talk about how awesome their kid is. The one thing you (hopefully) all have in common is a mutual love of your partner. Parents usually love hearing about what an awesome job they did with their kids to make them so damn lovable.

Your turn, Homies. Any non-gendered advice for meeting the parents for the first time?

Comments on Any non-gendered advice on meeting the parents for the first time?

  1. Whenever I meet new people for the first time – joining a club, a new job etc. I just be respectful and polite. Yes those things mean different things to different people but that’s why the first advice (ask for your partners help) is important. If they’re from a culture you’re not familiar with ask about or Google customs and taboos for them. Even if it’s just to distract you from worrying about it.
    I’d say offer to help with the dishes (you’re gender shouldn’t come into play here) because it’s a nice thing to do, it’s a way of saying thanks for the meal.
    My only other advice is to be aware of your weaknesses. I was a very shy introvert when I would hang out an exs parents house and his mum thought I was rude because I would never say ‘hello’. I did but very quietly and not with eye contact. I was just trying to be as unobtrusive as possible but I offended her. It can be hard but it’s easier than trying to sort it later on.

  2. I would say, for anyone:

    * Dress neatly, and use good grooming.
    * Be friendly and polite. Do watch your language (even if they don’t, at least for a while), but don’t keep your mouth shut. Be interested in them and ask questions, and answer their questions politely.
    * If they are hosting you, offer to help with things like setting the table, carrying things, doing dishes, meal prep, etc., regardless of your gender: being helpful is not gender-specific.
    * If you are hosting them, make sure your place is clean and that you’ve taken care to find out what sorts of things they can’t or won’t eat and drink. Make them as comfortable as you can.
    * If they are hosting you, make sure you thank them when you say goodbye.
    * If you are hosting them, make sure you thank them for coming and tell them what a pleasure it was to have them there.

  3. In addition to the points above, I also always bring something with me if they’re hosting. Depending on their tastes/interests, that something might be a bottle of decent wine, fancy local coffee, really nice chocolate, or a nice bouquet/potted plant. Your partner will be helpful in guiding, but a good gift for the host has never failed me in a charm offensive.

    • Although, know your audience. Some people (like my in-laws) legitimately prefer their standard boxed wine or cheap beer over something fancy. They tend to get offended if you bring something nicer since they think that means what they have isn’t good enough! They are very set in their ways, though. Hopefully your partner can indicate if their parents are “tried and true” or “adventurous” or “enjoy nice things without guilt” types.

      • Yeah, I would say that this is definitely somewhere that you should get pointers from your partner. Once you come up with an idea, maybe check with your partner to find out if it is a good one or a no-go/potential offense.

    • Definitely know your audience on this one. I grew up in a family where all the adults were recovering alcoholics, and once in a while a well-meaning dinner guest would show up with an awkward bottle of wine.

  4. Remember that it is their space (if you’re going to their home), so if you are a naturally large personality and you suspect that they may not be, tone it down a little until you get to know them better. And unless they’re emotionally stunted goons, they are going to want to like you, because their son does. Pitching in with the clean up after dinner is usually appreciated I reckon. And don’t turn up empty handed – I don’t think you’d be judged harshly for it, just think it’s one of those social conventions where everyone brings something to the table; cake, wine, flowers. And if you’re super nervous, bank three funny parent friendly anecdotes you can talk about if it all gets a bit quiet. And if you are that way inclined, I always beaming smiles pretty disarming as an ice breaker.

  5. One thing that may also help is to remember that they’re probably a little nervous about meeting you as well. They know if their kid is setting up a meeting that you must be pretty important, so there’s bound to be nerves all around. Be kind, courteous, and helpful whenever possible.

  6. My advice comes from the movie Blast from the Past (and it’s given by a guy, if gender stuff concerns you).
    “Good manners are just a way of showing other people we have respect for them. His short and simple definition of a lady or a gentleman is someone who always tries to make sure the people around him or her are as comfortable as possible.”

    How you do that depends on you and on them. If cussing makes them comfortable, then cuss. If helping in the kitchen makes them comfortable, then help in the kitchen. Take your cues from them, and pick your battles. You want to show them who you really are, but who you really are is multi-faceted. Show them the facets that will make them comfortable rather than bringing out all the facets they’ll hate as a way to test whether or not they can really accept you.

  7. When I met my husband’s family for the first time, I offended his mom by trying to “help” and wash the dishes. She interpreted this as if I was telling her that her home was dirty and needed cleaning. I learned to stop helping at my mother-in-law’s pretty quick.
    But now, when meeting my husband’s maternal grandparents for the first time, I just joined in as if I was part of the family. They were endeared by how interested in I was in eating with the family and joining in discussions.

  8. I’m under the impression that “offer to help in the kitchen” means “offer to help because it looks polite & acknowledges that your hosts made a nice meal for you”, not that it proves you’d be a good housewife

    • Yes, the boyfriends that make the best impressions are the ones that clear the table (or set it!). Even if they just scrape the plates and stack them in the sink (because, as pointed out above, some people find someone else actually “cleaning” their home offputting).

  9. My boyfriend’s mother is a modern hippie. She runs a business telling people their horoscopes (with a lot more detail than the newspaper ones), along with lots of other unscientific stuff. I fell in love with my boyfriend partly because of his scientific mind and his ability to see through the bull, so when I was going to meet his mother, I felt like I wouldn’t have anything in common with her. When I did meet her, she and I started talking about gardening. I have a huge tomato garden and several pots of herbs around my place (I live on a school compound on a reservation, so they let us do pretty much anything to our yards so long as they’re hygienic), and we sort of bonded over that. So, I second the advice of, don’t just be yourself, but share something of yourself with her, and you and she will get along fine.

  10. My objection to “offer to help in the kitchen to show that you can run a house!” is not the advice that offering to pitch in is gendered advice per se, but rather that much of the advice I’ve come across has often framed this as something that women specifically should do not to be polite to your hosts (which I’m all for– it’s something I do when visiting relatives, friends, etc.) but rather that you should offer to help out specifically because it will serve as a demonstration that you have the skills required to be a good traditional (house)wife. This was explicitly stated in the advice (not everywhere, but I came across it more than once). And that I’m not here for. Just wanted to clarify that.

    Thanks for the advice everyone! Will definitely take incorporate some of it!

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