For many innocent couples across the world, that first nerve-wracking meeting with the significant other’s family is just days away. This relationship milestone has been well-documented in pop culture—e.g., The Family Stone and Meet the Parents. But the awkwardness is real life, too.
While your big introduction to potential in-laws may not have cinematic levels of drama and comedy, that doesn’t mean it’ll be completely free of wincing. From physically uncomfortable meals to a clash of politics on Christmas morning, these stories will make you cringe, grimace, and smile in equal measure. Just remember that no first impression will go exactly the way you want it to—so as long as you can laugh it off eventually you’ll (probably) be just fine.
When your guy just can’t handle the charade anymore . . .
I once brought a guy I was dating to meet my huge family and we decided to play Charades…and he was TERRIBLE. But what was worse was that he was a terrible sore sport about it and proceeded to storm out of the room after losing yet again in humiliated anger. My family just looked at me and was like “Who is this guy?” and I had to go coax him back into the room. Needless to say, that relationship did not weather the storms to come. —Monica, 31
When your boyfriend breaks into a serious BBQ-smelling sweat . . .
The first time I brought Dan (my now-husband) home was over Easter weekend. He’d never been to my hometown of Memphis and was really looking forward to meeting my parents, but also indulging in as much BBQ as possible. My mother, being the Southern hostess with the mostest, happily obliged his craving with a full pork shoulder—probably about ten pounds worth. When it was served, Dan filled his plate to the rim and drowned his meat in the sauce. He scarfed down the meat, and of course, my mother was there with a second helping as soon as he was done. This happened again… and again… and after the fourth helping, my whole family looked over at Dan who had broken out in the full-on meat sweats. He was literally dripping! You could smell the BBQ pouring out of him and honestly, it’s something that I had never seen before.
My father, who is the definition of a Southern redneck, looked over at him and goes, “Son, if you can’t handle your BBQ, how are you ever going to handle my daughter?” Dan (ever the ham) responds, “Well when sh*t gets tough, guess I’ll just sweat it out!” It was probably one the funniest situations I’ve ever witnessed. The entire family died laughing and I knew then that they were really going to like him. —Jessica, 32
When your dad decides to launch into an unrelenting interrogation . . .
Mom and Dad came to New York to have lunch, a lunch that [my boyfriend] Ray had painstakingly prepared himself. Right as we were settling in to eat, my dad turned to Ray and started grilling him with question after question:
“What’s your five-year plan?”
“What’s your 10-year plan?”
“If I met your best friend, how would he describe you in five words?” etc., etc.
This went on forever, and poor Ray was a deep shade of crimson when it was over. We ended up finishing the lunch in total silence. It was mortifying. —Andrea, 30
When political differences “present” themselves . . .
I had been dating my boyfriend for about two years by the time I mustered the bravery to bring him back to the Midwest to meet my family for Christmas…It’s worth noting that my guy felt passionate about political activism, specifically gun control.
With Bing Crosby playing from my mom’s CD player (yes, she still uses one) and everyone in festive pajamas, we began our Christmas morning tradition of having each person open one present at a time and pass it around. After the little ones opened their toys, we came to my older brother, who had gotten exactly what he asked for: a brand new hunting rifle.
My boyfriend gasped, then stared in shock as the (still packaged, unloaded) gun made its way around the adults for the standard ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs.’ Naturally, I was mortified, until the moment the gun was passed to my boyfriend. In a desperate, unthinking attempt to rid himself of the object as quickly as possible, he started to pass it to my 13-year-old nephew! Who—upon presentation of the object—politely declined, stating, “I’m too young for guns!” This sent the whole room into a fit of laughter, breaking the tension for everyone, including my BF. —Megan, 27
When they “neigh” and he still stays . . .
My boyfriend-now-husband is a shorter guy. This probably would be unremarkable if it wasn’t for the fact that my family was such a loud, blunt, testosterone-driven, giant crew of tall people. So when I introduced my now-husband to my extended family for the first time, my uncle point-blank said, “What’d ya do? Are you a jockey?”
Fortunately, my husband is used to these jibes (what short guy isn’t?), so he just humorously retorted back—but it was only recently that I realized that this joke went further than this one mere (embarrassing) instance. Apparently, for the next couple of years (yes, years), my uncle would whinny like a racehorse when my husband would walk past him.
I probably would have died of mortification had I known this was happening, but neither my uncle nor boyfriend-turned-husband told me about this exchange until a couple months ago. They’re now like BFFs. —Maria, 29
When you run into your boyfriend’s father at a bar . . .
Merely a day after my new boyfriend and I decided that we were now “officially” girlfriend and boyfriend—we went out to a bar with his friends. Everything was going wonderfully. He had just told me he loved me, and I had stars in my eyes. Then his father walks into the bar.
This might not have been so weird if they were on speaking terms, but they weren’t… because his Dad was having an affair. Unfortunately, my boyfriend didn’t realize he was there and had stepped away to say hello to a school friend, who happened to be female. So I was left standing there with his male friends, and his father. We were both extremely surprised and entirely unprepared to meet one another. I had heard so many mixed stories about him, and had no idea how to act. Plus, he was very confused because he thought the girl my boyfriend was talking to was his girlfriend. We all laughed off the awkwardness, but honestly, I was melting in horror. —Alice, 29
When his family orchestrates a prank teasing your uptightness . . .
My dad is one of five kids, and the whole family used to gather for Sunday night dinner every single week. The first time my mom was invited, it was taco night. She’s very careful about manners, so she knew to wait until the host had “lifted their fork” to take a bite. She looked around as everyone took their tacos in hand and did the same. When she went to take a bite… She heard a solitary, resounding crunch. Her own! When she looked up the entire family was looking at her silently, still holding their tacos. Laughter broke out immediately, but my mom was so embarrassed. She calls that night her “initiation!” —Amy, 32
When you literally have nothing to wear . . .
The first time I met [my now-husband’s] family, we flew to his hometown of Houston. We arrived late in the night, dressed in super comfy (read: not cute) loungewear, with plans to meet the family for breakfast early the next day. I had dreams of making such an elegant first impression, with the perfect outfit picked out. Sure enough, my luggage didn’t make our connecting flight, and I was forced to leave the airport without it. There was no time between landing and breakfast to go shopping—the stores were still closed!—so I had to meet his parents in the grubby clothes I had worn on the plane the night before. Turns out, my charming manners and conversational wit were totally overshadowed by my ratty leggings and an oversized sweater that I slept in. Sure, no one in his family said anything…but I could feel his mom taking in every inch of stretched-out lounge fabric with her eyes. —Rachel, 33