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It's All Relative: Family Ties

 by Stephanie Berger
 published on Thursday, March 30, 2006

Berger/issues/arts/696420
Berger
 

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When I was in the seventh grade, I went out on my first one-on-one date with a boy.

Our relationship lasted a week, and last I heard, my former flame now prefers to date men.

Despite these minor details, a strong memory of that very first, first date remains: My "boyfriend" standing, terrified, at my front door, so he could meet my parents. (This was before I got into his parents' minivan so they could drop us off at the movie theater to see "Titanic").

Meeting the parents of your boyfriend or girlfriend is an event so uncomfortable and comical that two movies starring Ben Stiller have been devoted exclusively to the topic. No matter how well you get along with your significant other, chances are that your intentions to make a good impression will end in at least a few awkward moments (though hopefully you'll have enough good sense to not mention anything about milking a cat).

Just like Stiller's on-screen experience, it's possible that your significant other's parents may not get along with you. However, there's another potentially disturbing component to that first encounter with the relatives: You might gain insight into your mate's past and future.

Most moms are just itching to break out the photo albums and show off their son or daughter's most embarrassing naked baby pictures, adding narration as they go along ("And as you can see, middle school is when Stephanie went through her chubby phase"). But even seeing how the parents decorate their home or checking out your date's childhood bedroom can reveal dark secrets of their mystifying past.

As far as future insights, guys I know often tell me that they look at a girl's mom to predict what she'll look like in the future. Of course, this is a dangerous generalization -- just because Mom may have gained weight doesn't mean that her daughter will, as well. Conversely, if Mom's really hot, it might be due to her talented plastic surgeon instead of her genetics.

MTV has even based yet another of its ridiculously scripted reality TV shows on this concept. "Date My Mom" sets idiotic frat boys up with three moms, and the guy picks which girl he wants to date based on her mother's antics. The general rule of thumb on the show is that the mother who acts the sassiest and most outgoing wins, because, as the guys doing the picking usually say, "If the mother is wild, the daughter will be wild too -- in the bedroom."

Although MTV takes meeting the parents a step too far, it is important to remember some basic rules when having your first interaction with the potential future in-laws. Try to view the meeting almost like a job interview: You want your personality to shine through as much as possible, but not the parts that might offend.

Don't brag too much, but make sure your date's parents know what an intelligent, accomplished person you are. Try not to say anything too controversial, but let them discover that you have opinions and a unique personality.

Above all, make it clear how much you adore their son or daughter -- without making out with him or her in front of them, of course.

And no matter how the first meeting goes, don't get discouraged or allow Mom and Dad to get you down. Even if you don't like your significant other's parents or they don't like you, it's your attraction to your partner that counts. If your relationship does ever come to the point where the m-word enters the conversation, you should be able to work something out with your new family.

In the meantime, just avoid dating anyone whose parents have connections to the CIA.

Reach the reporter at stephanie.m.berger@asu.edu.



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