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The Gentleman’s Guide to Meeting the Parents


Check all that apply to your current relationship:

o Your first date was three months ago, or longer. o They’ve given you a key to their place. o You’ve given them a drawer at yours. o You’ve lost track of how many times you’ve seen them naked.

Two or more? Well, soon enough you’re going to have to meet the people who made it all possible: their parents.

And when it comes to the monumentally all-important first impression, there are no second chances. It’s like a job interview, but instead of negotiating salary, it’s the right to sleep within an inch of their precious child for the foreseeable future. With a few key points, the position will be yours.

That’s where we come in, with the Gentleman’s Guide to Meeting the Parents.

Bring a gift. Something other than a bottle of wine, please. Because presumably your significant other has told you something about their parents: Dad’s favorite golf ball or Mom’s penchant for espresso-spiked coffee, whatever. Prove you remember the conversation with a specifically tailored gift, and not only will the folks be impressed, but you’ll definitely get points with your increasingly significant other. And those’ll no doubt come in handy later.

Tone it down. This includes: your wardrobe, your political views, your humor, at least for the time being. No matter how their kid turned out, always assume at first that their parents will be mildly, if not wildly, more conservative. So, for now, dial everything back from 11. That joke about the priest, the rabbi and the stripper? It can and should wait until you’ve gotten the all-clear.

Engage. Unintuitive as it might be, this thing is probably just as nerve-racking for their parents as it is for you, so take the pressure off them by taking the conversational reins. Ask questions, tell stories about your family, sing praises of their well-mannered progeny but also poke relatable fun, within reason.

But don’t be a kiss-ass. Just because you’re trying to impress them doesn’t mean that you have to agree with everything they say, so feel free to start a healthy discourse. They’ll admire your candor, as long as you’re not an asshole about it.

Note: This is one situation where that old adage about religion and politics really does apply, though. Change the conversation, stat, if you see it heading in either of those directions and find yourself immediately disagreeing.

No more than two drinks, ever. Unless Dad invites you out back for scotch and cigars after dinner. Then, follow his lead.

Leave no trace. If you were invited over for dinner, help with the dishes. If you stayed the night, strip the bed in the morning. In any case, don’t make a mess in the bathroom.

Your bowels are nobody’s business but your own.

— S.P.