You’re a grown-ass woman. Grown-ass, not old. There are people that are older than you, and they are your parents and the parents of everyone else you know.
Everyone seems to assume that the biggest-deal parents are the parents of significant others, but I feel that is overlooking the important role that the parents of your best friend can play in your life. Basically, you want to be liked by the people who are important to the people who are important to you, whether you’re boinking their son or spending every Friday night out on the town with their daughter, or vice versa.
Now, not to brag, but I am pretty good at parents. Once, on my first time going to this new boy’s house to “watch a movie,” he locked his keys inside (smooth) and his parents had to come let us in while we were sitting on his lawn drinking overly-large bottles of cider too early in the afternoon. That guy’s parents didn’t even know I was going to be there, and they were still on board. His dad gave him $20 to buy me a drink (our generation is screwed and we will never become adults) and they drove away into the night. I met my current boyfriend’s parents by surprise, in a robe, in their son’s apartment one early Sunday morning. We all cleaned his apartment together in silence (long story) until I sucked it up and made such pleasant small talk that we were invited out for breakfast after. Nailed it. And you can too, by following these simple tips:
Immediate common ground
You love their daughter. They love their daughter. They’re not dating their daughter, so don’t wax lyrical about her incredible rack or anything, but no parent is going to be bored talking about how great they think their kid is. And you agree! What good taste you have. You seem like a smart, upstanding young woman.
Be prepared for anything
You don’t really know someone until you know where they’ve come from. Your bud’s parents could turn out to be completely insane, or the best people ever. They might be the sweetest, loveliest 1950s nuclear family, or they might be fans of 1950s-inspired casual racism. There’s no way to know until you’re in the thick of it, so try not to go in with too many preconceived notions as to how the night will go. Maybe avoid really getting into religion or politics until you know what their deal is.
Dad-jokes Dad-jokes Dad-jokes
Rule # 1: Their dad is the funniest person you have ever met. Something about fatherhood alters the male brain into believing, truly and sincerely, that they, specifically, are the funniest human alive today. Do not discourage this, it’s really important to their man self-esteem. A good start in is to lightly tease your friend or bf/gf about something you know their parents are on board with, e.g. “He said to meet him at 1:30 so I told my roommate I had plans at 3, ha ha, he is so late for everything.” Louie this is not, but the Dad in question will be off running with fun anecdotes and his own KILLER one-liners, so you’re in.
A humblebrag never hurt no one
Chances are your friend/significant other has mentioned a few things you’ve been up to, and hopefully they’ve chosen a selection of Greatest Hits rather than like, how much you love getting stoned and eating peanut butter and jam quesadillas. If one of those comes up, you can talk about it a bit. Don’t be shy about your accomplishments! If it’s not a lie, and it’s a real thing you did and did well, feel free to go there for a bit. Keep it short, but let them know you’ve got stuff to offer. And you do, you talented creature you. Sell it!
Eye contact can be a killer
If you don’t make it warmly and regularly, you look like a serial killer. If you make it penetratingly and without any gentle breaks, you look like a serial killer. Try and avoid looking like a serial killer.
General Manners, Sergeant Helpful
Basically all your mom’s rules about being a good dinner guest apply x 10 here. Offer to help with food prep, clear the table, bring something for your hosts (wine or a plant or whatever, it doesn’t need to be crazy), try not to get too boozy, don’t monopolize the conversation, and say please and thank you more or less constantly. You might come off a little bit Stepford, but better too careful than written off as “a phase,” if you ask me. You can show them your fun, relaxed side at the family cottage.
Go forth and prosper, parent-impressers! Tuck in your shirt and run a brush through your hair. You got this.
~ Monica Heisey
Follow Monica on twitter: @monicaheisey
Read more of Monica’s Grown-Ass Woman guides on getting shit done, your face, sneak-cercise saying no, twitter, talking about your body anxieties, hangover maintenance, vintage clothes, how to have a long-distance relationship, sounding smart at cocktail parties, and packing to disappear.