A Man’s Guide to Meeting Her Parents

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What you need to know to make them fall in love with you (and not come off looking like a barbaric fool)
dinner with girlfriend
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dinner with girlfriend

The Wine

Let her father order it. Chances are good that he knows more about wine than you do and he’s also picking up the tab. (If he orders a cheap bottle, he probably doesn’t care much for you. Kidding!) With him in charge, he can decide how much he wants the table to consume, and you’ll go along with whatever he decides because you don’t want to be seen as a lush (even if you are). It will also save you from having to do the sommelier’s swirl, sniff, and sip dog and pony show. And if he doesn’t order wine, stick with something simple and safe: rum or vodka with tonic.

 

What to Talk About

Work is the most boring conversation topic in the world. No one actually likes listening to others talk about what they do from nine to five, but they still politely ask the question, “What do you do?”  Succinctly answer, throw in a self-deprecating joke about your occupation, and move on to a subject that engages the entire table. The day before dinner, it wouldn’t hurt to ask your significant other about her parents' hobbies, interests, and dislikes, so you know what to bring up and avoid. And, if her father starts to laugh at his own joke, chuckle right along like it was the funniest thing you’ve ever heard.

 

Safe Talking Points

It should go without saying that you shouldn’t touch on any conversation points that might cause controversy. In my case, I learned this not only meant religion and politics, but, for my University-of-Texas-alumni girlfriend, it also included Texas football, Texas BBQ, and the fact that Texas is the best state in the union, bar none.

So what’s considered safe (and not so safe)? Here are some to try:

To Everyone:

Safe: How was your day?

Not so safe: “Who wants to start things off with tequila shots?”

 

To Her Mother:

Safe: “That’s a great dress, where did you get it?”

Not so safe: “Wow, hopefully you got a discount on your facelift…”

 

To her Father:

Safe: “Did you see the game last week?” (But only if you saw it, too.)

Not so safe: “Between us, your daughter makes out like a minx.”

 

Grace Under Pressure

On the rare occasion that something goes awry in the evening — the restaurant screws up the reservation, the main course takes forever to arrive, the waiter is rude — just sit back and relax. Let the moment pass without adding your editorial comments to fuel the fire. The last thing you want to do is stick your foot in your mouth. Remember, you are not the reason your tablemates are irritated, so don’t do anything to add your name to their list.  

 

Thank You Note

This is the most important, and often overlooked, part of your evening. The next morning, ask you girlfriend for her parents’ address and send them a hand-written note — not an email or text — saying how much you enjoyed dinner. It should be clean and straightforward. Shoot for three sentences. The first to say how much fun you had, the second to say thank you, and the third to say you are looking forward to seeing them again. If you fail to do this, they will assume you were raised by cavemen and steer their well-mannered daughter away from your barbaric soul.