When going home for the holidays is a major dating milestone
- Last Updated: 11:00 PM, November 17, 2012
- Posted: 10:27 PM, November 17, 2012
On any given night in New York City, Anna Leah Jacobson might be belly dancing or editing a film, such as the documentary short she shot about bohemian dancing. But the delicate footwork involved in meeting her boyfriend’s parents proved a new challenge.
She learned this the hard way last Thanksgiving, when she traveled with her boyfriend of three months to Brookline, Mass., to meet the family for the first time. Jacobson, 26, was between gigs at the time, but was still thrown whenher boyfriend’s dad, a former Russian diplomat, barked: “When will you decide to begin a real career?”
The meal was just another entry into that long-standing American tradition: the awkward holiday where you meet your significant other’s, shall we say, colorful family for the first time. In-law interactions are fodder for Ben Stiller’s entire career these days. Yet it is possible to prepare for this sticky situation thanks to a slew of etiquette experts and their handy survival tips.
Bring a gift
Holiday etiquette 101: Beware of Trojans bearing no gifts.
Patricia Rossi, author of the book “Everyday Etiquette: How To Navigate 101 Common and Uncommon Social Situations,” says your first way into the family’s heart is to come with a token, which serves as an opening volley in the game of good will. You should ask your partner first, though, so you don’t accidentally, say, bring a bottle of wine to someone who just got out of AA. “You [also] don’t want to be too extravagant,” she says.
Make an effort
“One of the biggest pitfalls is that neither side really puts in much effort,” says Deanna Brann, an in-laws expert and author of the book “Reluctantly Related.” Reach out, particularly to the mother, Brann says, and you may just have a chance at a long-term place at the table.
But remember, this isn’t Twitter — so no over-sharing.
“It’s not the time to be getting into your Jerry Springer background,” Rossi says. “You don’t want to overwhelm people when you meet them.”
Go with it
Rossi says when you’re a guest in someone’s home, be prepared to go along with whatever the family tradition is, be it cleaning up after a meal, singing holiday songs or a family-wide flag-football game.
“You want to jump in to be a sport about it,” she says. “You want to jump into the family’s plan.”
Should you and your partner share a bedroom on Turkey Day?
“Whoever’s parent you’re going to, that person needs to be the one that brings it up,” Brann says. “You got to abide by [the rules in] whoever’s home you’re in.”
Give advance warning
Give your partner the family briefing ahead of time and they’ll probably have a laugh about it. “They need to know what to expect, so they don’t get [stuck with] uncle Larry Walker, the close talker, who will tell you the same story over and over again,” Rossi says.
If they do? Save them with a drink. But not seven. Unless, of course, that is the family tradition.