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A Beginner’s Guide to Winning Over Your In-Laws

[I wrote this to try my hand at the ‘listicle’ format that seems to be so incredibly popular these days.]

In-laws have a very bad reputation, mostly thanks to Hollywood. But while there are some devilish, evil monsters masquerading as in-laws out there, most of them really aren’t so awful. I’ve met a lot of parents, and with the exception of one, they all loved me. What happened to that one, you ask? I fought her son at school and won. However, I’ve also had two sets of in-laws. One fell into the stereotypical, diabolical beast category, but my current ones are lovely, a real delight to be around. And they both had one thing in common–they thought I was pretty neat.

I’ve always had an easy time making good impressions. I have a wide range of interests I can speak about, and know enough about history to actually know what older people are talking about. This is mainly because I’ve always been mediocre at lots of things and masterful at few, but if you have to meet your significant other’s parents/family, research is your friend. And don’t give me advanced notice excuses. In today’s society, you just pop off to the loo and Google whatever you have to. If you do have advance notice, that’s much better. There’s a few things I’ve found really tickle in-laws.

1. Dress conservatively.

Yeah, I know, you’re a rebel, a free spirit, you’re gonna live as free as your hair, etc. Fine. Just rein it in for the in-laws. Trust me, they’re baby boomers, and they partied harder than whatever you did in the name of YOLO. My dad accidentally partied with the Rolling Stones once. Long story short, they won’t be impressed with how random and crazy you are. What they might be impressed with is that you somehow managed to find something at H&M that could be worn to an office interview. So put the sweater kittens away, leave the bullet belt in the closet, and make sure you can actually bend over in your skirt without moving things firmly into NC-17 territory. That doesn’t mean you can’t be sexy for your significant other. Pencil skirts are the perfect way to show off your ass, and as ZZ Top so elegantly put it, “every girl crazy ‘bout a sharp dressed man”.

2. Know how to cook well.

Even if it’s just one dish. One item. Know how to make one thing really well. Could just be brownies, or something as complicated as a lasagna. The sad thing is, you’re probably off to a disadvantaged start. They’re not impressed with you, and you’re sullying their offspring. It’s just biology; they’re programmed to approach with caution. But if you can show them that you’re capable of more than Hot Pockets, they’ll be really pleased. They’ll be amazed that you took the time, effort, and money to provide a dish, and when it’s a huge hit, they’ll be singing your praises. And it doesn’t even need to be fancy. Chicken parmigiana works well, or even a nice summer borscht(though heads up–beets stain everything you know and love).

3. Help in the kitchen if you can.

So maybe you don’t have anything decent to wear, and all you know how to make in the kitchen is charcoal and misery.

That’s okay, you can still win over your significant other’s parents by helping in the kitchen. The majority of first time meetings will centre around a meal, and if you hop up and offer to help clear the table or do some washing up, rather than belching and leaning out of the way to let Nan take your dish away, you’ll look like a real catch. It shows some sense of responsibility, and respect for your elders. Also it’ll help you work off that extra portion of mashed potatoes, which will please your partner, usually.

4. Don’t slag off your partner in front of them.

Some of you have to be right. You don’t suffer fools, and you happen to be shagging one on a semi-permanent basis. Don’t inform them that they’re an idiot in front of their folks. That’s their precious baby, and if your partner’s an only child, there’s a good chance their parents’ sun rises and sets with them.

So if this partner says something that’s ridiculous or incorrect, try to have some tact in correcting them. Wait until you can pull them aside for a moment, or act mildly surprised(“Oh, really? I was sure it was ___!”) and suggest something else.

5. Have something interesting to say.

And keep it clean, especially if Nan is about. It’s better if what you have to talk about is something they can relate to, but if you can at least explain it to them so they can follow you, that’s still better than falling dumb under their scrutinising gaze.

As I said before, you’re probably at a disadvantage here, and they might have trouble understanding why their darling golden child is wasting their time and money on you. This is your chance to make them see what an amazing person you are. Talk about your studies, and what you hope to make of them. Talk about a chance meeting with a celebrity. Just talk about something…

6. But don’t bring up sensitive subjects.

You know which ones I’m talking about. Religion, politics, abortion, civil rights, those things. Trust me, I know what it’s like to feel like you’re ‘behind enemy lines’. I lived with two family members who thought Fox News was the gospel truth. I work with people who parrot Glenn Beck. It just takes a certain amount of patience. Sometimes you have to deal with those people who just have to bring it up. If you can keep it civil, great, but I typically find it’s best to just nod and make non-committal comments until you can safely change the subject.

And lastly…

7. Remember why you’re doing this.

Chances are, to win over your in-laws, you’re going to have to agree to some viewpoints you don’t like(or at least not actively fight them), possibly cook for these people, and carry on painstaking conversations filled with lies and embellishment.

It sounds like hell, and it may end up being just that, but think about why you’re there. You’re there because your partner sees a future with you, and wants you to be a part of their family. Isn’t that nice? Someone cares about you and loves you enough that they want to show you off to people whose opinions probably matter a great deal to them.

So don’t humiliate them by showing your ass at every opportunity, literally or metaphorically.

(1107 words total)

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