10 Things Not To Do At Your First Holiday Dinner With His Folks

Whether you’ve been dating for weeks or years, the first holiday meal you spend at his family’s house is unnerving. Hopefully, you’ve met his family before this big day, though maybe you haven’t. Regardless, the premiere Thanksgiving at his parents’ house is an entirely new adventure –who knows what you’re walking into? Each family has its own set of rituals, customs, and holiday expectations, not to mention unique ways of communicating, joking — and making stuffing. Here are 10 tips to help you minimize any potential awkwardness so that you won’t feel like the odd (wo)man out, and can instead focus on the marathon eating. And if you’re a liberal vegetarian and his parents are meat-worshiping Tea Partiers, maybe read this list twice.

  1. Don’t dress like a hot mama. If your fashion style is to regularly wear a mini-skirt, thigh-high boots, and a cleavage-enhancing bustier, try toning it down for this event, so that his parents can focus on getting to know you, not your body. I’m not saying you should wear a sweater set and pearls, but go easy on the sex appeal, if for no other reason then you don’t really his dad to check you out, do you?
  2. Have no more than two drinks — and no martinis at all.I know, for most of us at least one drink is required to lubricate away the anxiety of a dinner with strangers and to give us the liquid courage to be chatty. This is a-OK, but just keep it to one or two drinks. Because believe me – I speak from experience here — you are far less likely to commit any of the below embarrassments if you stay sober(ish). (I’m still embarrassed about the Thanksgiving at his house when I had two Cosmopolitans before dinner and announced that I was wasted.)
  3. Don’t forget to compliment the cook. Even if the turkey is dry and the gravy comes from a jar, throw out a few compliments on how delicious everything is. Even if it’s more gag-alicious than delicious, someone spent a lot of time putting the meal together. Not only does this make you a gracious guest, compliments will do wonders to endear you to the cook in the family (who is most likely his mom).
  4. Don’t get lovey-dovey with your dude at the table. This means no hair-fluffing, face-caressing, excessive back-rubbing, or footsies under the table. No matter how touchy-feely you are in your own time, remember that any kind of PDA in front of his parents will likely creep him (and them) out. (This is easier done if you aren’t drunk. See why I recommended #2?)
  5. Remember the “no-no” list of topics and steer clear of it. If your boyfriend is as awesome as you think he is, he will have already debriefed you on some key family info, such as if there will be any alcoholics, Scientologists, devout Christians, closeted gays, Rush Limbaugh fanatics, feuding siblings or relatives with mental disorders at the dinner table. This will help you to avoid awkward conversations or moments, which leads me to …
  6. Don’t get into political discussions. Hey, maybe his parents are really cool, non-judgmental, and open to healthy political debate. Or, they could be staunch Socialists or conservative right wingers with a chip on their shoulder. Cracking a joke about Sarah Palin being as qualified for office as you or offering up your commentary on the state of the military in the U.S. could get awkward fast. On the flip side, should his dad start ripping on President Obama and it makes your blood boil, just bite your lip and focus on the stuffing. Stuffing makes everything better.
  7. Don’t act bored. This means join the conversation and be vocal. If his parents are at all sensitive to the fact that you probably feel like the odd man out, they will ask you questions about yourself, your family, your career, your background. And be prepared to ask them about themselves, too. In return, listen to his family members when they speak. My husband’s dad restores vintage cars as a hobby, and it takes all of my concentration to focus on what he’s saying to me when he talks about cars and car parts — I just hear “castings, turbine, engine, wah, wah, wah” — but I try to understand so I can learn more about him and have more to talk to him about. Getting to know his family means listening to them, even when it’s not exciting stuff they’re talking about.
  8. Beware of TMI. Make sure not to bring up anything too personal from your relationship with your B.F. Like any mentions of him naked, staying at your house, that weekend getaway, etc. Also, don’t get all creepy by announcing he’s the guy you want to marry or have babies with. Not. The. Right. Time. Or. Place.
  9. Don’t feed his grandma’s jellied salad to the dog. It’s hard to pretend that you enjoy every dish and even harder to pretend with the jello salad that has floaters. Instead, take seconds of mashed potatoes — you can hide a lot of undesirable food stuffs inside those fluffy mounds.
  10. Don’t make a beeline to the couch or your phone after dinner. Of course, you just want to pass out or call your folks to wish them a happy Thanksgiving, but don’t do that just yet. You should march yourself over to the kitchen, girl, pick up a hand towel and offer to help with clean-up. Hopefully, the dudes in the family offer to help, too, and don’t all go to the living room to collapse and watch the Detroit/Dallas game. But even if they do, shrug it off and smile. Skip the feminist lectures — at least until your third or fourth holiday meal with them.
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