Meeting his mother

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Meeting his mother Empty Meeting his mother

Post by Prajnaparamita on Thu Feb 26, 2015 2:41 pm

So yesterday afternoon my boyfriend called me to say that while we had made plans to get together on Sunday (the only day he’ll be available after not having seen each other for three weeks now) his mother had said she’d be in town and he was hoping to see her. His mother lives on the other side of the state, and so he only sees her once every few months, plus his relationship with her is really important to him, so I responded with: “Oh. Well, you should go see her. [I guess I won’t be getting naked cuddle time with you, but I’m mature enough to not show I might be disappointed because this is important to you.]” He then sort of sheepishly hinted at well maybe I could meet her and we could all go out for coffee together but he was really hesitant about the whole thing, so of course I had to be like:

“NO WAY that’s great I would love to meet your mother I have been waiting for an excuse to wear that 1940s cocktail dress I just got altered [she used to be a costume designer/vintage clothes dealer] we should totally do that!”

But I honestly have to say a lot of that enthusiasm came from the feeling inside of me that I have to be his super suave, mature, cool with everything girlfriend to make up for the fact that I’m fourteen years his junior and have no experience in regards to anything around dating. Also I could tell he was feeling a little embarrassed and awkward about it and sometimes its fun to let him just squirm a little.

Previously he had said that I wasn’t going to be meeting his mother for as long as we were dating (though he’d be fine with me meeting her once we’re just friends) and I wasn’t sure what he meant by that: is it because he’s afraid we’d hit it off too well and the combination of both our anxieties would mean he wouldn’t just have two people constantly worrying about him, but worrying about him together (he’s joked about that in the past) or the fact that I’m just not a long term girlfriend, and what’s the point of introducing me to the family if I’m not going to be around, or something else?

Also I know he hasn’t always had the most positive relationship with his mother, so I’m really not sure how to think of her. I mean, it’s not her fault her husband ran off and she was left to raise four boys in poverty while struggling with untreated mental health issues and little support, and so its just a fact that he has a very different relationship with his mother than I have (from growing up in a stable upper middle class family.) It’s just… It sounds like a different dynamic from what I’ve known.

(Also not sure if this has anything to do with his awkwardness at all, but for all of him saying I’m very different, it turns out I share some oddly specific biographical details with his ex-wife. It’s not like she’s parallel universe me, its just knowing them would make you pause and go “Huh. That’s really strange. Universe must be fucking with you.” Plus we have similar sounding names. But I’m sure his mother already knows this, or otherwise we’re having one awkward “so how did you end up around here” conversation.)

I mean, his mother has known about me from the very beginning and doesn’t seem to see me as some sort of Whore of Babylon who’s sleeping around with her son. I imagine I should just chalk up all of this worrying to my jerkbrain looking for something new to latch on to, plus when he commented at the time that I sounded much more enthused about this than him I responded with:

“Well I have never done this before and I have no fucking clue what I’m supposed to be doing! So I have nothing to compare this to so its not like it can be a disaster because even if it goes horribly I’ll have no idea!”

I think everyone gets nervous first time doing the meeting the parent(s) thing—any and all advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

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Post by reboot on Thu Feb 26, 2015 3:19 pm

Ooof! Yeah. Weird spot to be in.

First off, meeting family is always a little awkward because you are stepping into an unfamiliar relationship dynamic. Even the most functional families have minefields where they know where not to step but an outsider does not. This is a feature, not a bug, of meeting relatives. It is made a little more awkward because he previously said you were not going to meet her so you never built a "what if" so you are caught a little flat footed.

My advice is to treat it like meeting the parent of any close friend, especially since it is not like you are being presented as a future in-law. Do not let your jerkbrain spin you up!
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Post by eselle28 on Thu Feb 26, 2015 3:28 pm

Meeting parents is generally a bit unnerving, as is introducing them, and in my experience it doesn't necessarily get easier just because you've done it more than once! It's one of the more awkward social experiences, even for people who are generally pretty suave.

I think that your boyfriend is going about it in a wise way with the suggestion to have coffee on a day when he'd already planned to be seeing her, and that because of that, a lot of your concerns are unlikely to come up. There are people who are capable of dragging childhood issues and former marriages into even a casual meet up, but for the most part, I've found that parents will also want to be on good behavior the first time they meet their kids' partners. This is just personal experience, but I've actually found that mothers of sons can be particularly careful about coming off well because there are so many tropes about evil mothers-in-law out there.

It sounds like you actually have something in common with her if you both are interested in fashion. I'm guessing that between that and small talk and whatever she typically talks about with your boyfriend, you'll probably have enough to talk about to cover a coffee date without stumbling onto any tricky topics.

Best of luck, and remember, it's possible she's a little nervous about this too!
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Post by Prajnaparamita on Thu Feb 26, 2015 3:41 pm

eselle28 wrote:
I think that your boyfriend is going about it in a wise way with the suggestion to have coffee on a day when he'd already planned to be seeing her, and that because of that, a lot of your concerns are unlikely to come up.

So, I haven't had a chance to talk to him since the call, but after I mentioned wearing my vintage dress, he responded with something like "Oh. Well. You really don't need to dress up, but in that case I guess we'll go out to lunch..." and I haven't had a chance since then (because I didn't think it through at the time) to be like "Wait, what? No, I think just coffee will be best..."

(Also potentially complicating things in regards to eating out, I'm vegan and while there are a lot of really good just happens to be vegetarian/veg-friendly restaurants (that he also likes) where I live, in the next town over, where he lives, not so much... And while after knowing someone for awhile I'll make requests like "hey, next time, can I take you to this really great [veg-friendly] restaurant that I know?" I don't like to add that complication when I first meet people.)

I should probably call and get that straightened out.

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Post by eselle28 on Thu Feb 26, 2015 3:58 pm

Oh, yeah, definitely get that straightened out. Something quick to your boyfriend about thinking that coffee sounds easier for everyone should do it. Coffee's kind of nice for this sort of thing even without the complications of finding restaurants where you can eat, because it's more flexible in terms of timing and will give you three a chance to talk a bit and then end things when it feels right. Also, it's cheaper. I've sometimes found that meeting parents comes with some degree of weirdness about who pays, and doing something inexpensive lessens that.

I don't know how you normally dress, but if the 40s one is visibly more formal than your usual style, I probably wouldn't opt for it this time. Doesn't mean you can't talk about it, though, since it's something that might be of interest to both of you.
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Post by Prajnaparamita on Thu Feb 26, 2015 4:40 pm

eselle28 wrote:Oh, yeah, definitely get that straightened out. Something quick to your boyfriend about thinking that coffee sounds easier for everyone should do it. Coffee's kind of nice for this sort of thing even without the complications of finding restaurants where you can eat, because it's more flexible in terms of timing and will give you three a chance to talk a bit and then end things when it feels right. Also, it's cheaper. I've sometimes found that meeting parents comes with some degree of weirdness about who pays, and doing something inexpensive lessens that.

I just called and he said that his mother would be coming out to the town where I live, and the plan was to go out for lunch, because he's been exhausted by school and work recently and won't have any time or energy to see either of us beyond that. (I'm not sure why she's coming over to the town I live in, but that's where they always seem to meet up.) Oddly enough, this makes me feel more comfortable, because I know I'm going to be in my home turf and the one picking the restaurant, and I feel like eating out might put more of time constraint on things, because there's a set formula for what you do. Coffee and chat can take an indefinite amount of time, going to a restaurant, ordering, eating, paying, leaving has a set amount of time (especially if boyfriend has conveyed that he doesn't have time for much more than a couple hours out.) Plus the place I'm thinking of just happens to be vegetarian (but you'd never know because they don't say it anywhere), and they have an incredibly diverse menu with plenty of decadent ovo-lacto options, makes their own pasta, ect, is incredibly cheap (7-10 dollars for entree and beverage) which, I don't know, might make the paying part easier, because I could easily cover my part, but wouldn't feel super-indebted to her if she insisted.

I have no idea how they keep prices like that and still have their large, beautiful space and regularly feature things like wild morels on the menu, but they've been around for decades. Maybe they're owned by the mafia or something...

eselle28 wrote:
I don't know how you normally dress, but if the 40s one is visibly more formal than your usual style, I probably wouldn't opt for it this time. Doesn't mean you can't talk about it, though, since it's something that might be of interest to both of you.

Yeah, its a bit more formal than what I usually wear, but then my everyday wardrobe is basically solely consists of pretty little dresses, and even at my worst I always make an effort to look good, so I don't think I would feel unnatural in it. Plus in winter I basically go everywhere in a puffy fur coat, matching hat, and opera gloves, and the dress itself (black lace over faded gold, sheer illusion neckline) is quite beautiful without screaming period. It mostly just comes down to whether or not I can find shoes and a jacket to dress it down with, and I'm not super wedded to wearing it.

Anyway, it feels a lot better to have called him and gotten at least a little bit more of a sense of the plan.

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Post by eselle28 on Thu Feb 26, 2015 7:10 pm

Ah, that sounds like a good plan, a great restaurant, and a lovely dress! Sounds like it's a good setup for success.
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Post by Prajnaparamita on Thu Feb 26, 2015 7:28 pm

Except when I called him asking about the plan, he was like "Yeah, so I haven't had a chance to mention it to my mother yet..." Side-eye

But her not being warned and suddenly being dumped with this is not my problem Razz

Is there a general script for how these "getting to know your child's SO" typically go? I'm fucking horrible at small talk, and I suspect as this gets closer (provided it happens, but then again his family doesn't seem to do the planning things ahead of time thing the way mine does, so it might not mean anything at all that she hasn't been told) I'm going to start getting anxious again.

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Post by eselle28 on Thu Feb 26, 2015 8:10 pm

I've met several men's parents, though I only inflicted my own on my former husband, and this is a rough attempt at an approximation:

[Greetings]

[Brief discussion of travel: "How many days are you in town for?" "Wow, cross-town traffic was awful today. Did you brave it or take the long way around?"]

[A little talk about the restaurant or the menu, basically what you told me.]

[The guy and the parent/s talk for a bit about whatever their usual topics are, maybe with an aside now and then mentioning to me who the person they're talking about is or that the trip in question was one they took a few years ago. I either listen or contribute, depending on the topic.]

[A parent asks me a question or two based on what they've been told about me. "So, I hear you're a lawyer. What kind of law do you practice?" "Son tells me you're originally from North Dakota. Was moving a big change for you?"]

[Some more guy-parent talk.]

[I ask a parent a question or two based on what I've been told about them.]

[People finish up eating and say goodbye.]

Basically, I'd say this is a situation where it's more than fine to let your partner do the heavy lifting. He and his mom have an established relationship and know what to talk about with each other, so you can take a bit more of a listening role and offer an occasional comment or an interested question. I think you're already on the right track by having him work out the communication with his mother about the plan.
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Post by reboot on Thu Feb 26, 2015 8:35 pm

Seconding eselle's topics and the advice for letting him lead! 

Keep it light like meeting any friend's parent. She will probably ask you the standard cocktail party chat (e.g. where are you from? what do you think of your town? how long have you lived there? where does your family live?) and you can stick to the standards too (e.g. how was your drive? can you believe the crazy weather back east/midwest/here?)

I am a bit uneasy that he invited you before speaking to mom. It sound like he might be well intentionally trying to kill two plan birds with one stone due to limited time and wanting to see both of you. Maybe let him know that if mom is not up for it that you are completely fine with doing it another time?
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Post by Prajnaparamita on Thu Feb 26, 2015 9:18 pm

reboot wrote:
I am a bit uneasy that he invited you before speaking to mom. It sound like he might be well intentionally trying to kill two plan birds with one stone due to limited time and wanting to see both of you. Maybe let him know that if mom is not up for it that you are completely fine with doing it another time?

Yeah, as far as I can tell the exchange has so far gone on like this. The two of us had longstanding plans to see each other on Sunday. His mother contacted him to say she'd be in town on Sunday. He contacted me to ask if I would be willing to join him and his mother, given that he doesn't really have a lot of time for anyone on that day. I said yes, but he's been so overwhelmed he hasn't yet gotten back to his mother as far as I know. (idk if he mentioned that we had plans when she said she'd be in town she nudged him to ask me, but who knows.)

I'm okay with not meeting her at all (though I'll be sad to not be able to see him) because it was never something I planned I would be doing, and meeting or not meeting his parents doesn't make our relationship deeper or more important--we're a short-term couple, and that's a fact. If I have a chance I'll try to convey, as you said, that if she isn't up for it/comfortable with it, no worries, I can see him another time. But generally I think I'm going to trust that the two of them are adults and can communicate about their plans and expectations like adults.



Thanks everybody for the guides to conversation--its good to know that I won't be expected to participate in everything they're talking about and feel like I have to keep up. Knowing that will probably help with anxious feelings, so I won't feel awkward if I'm not talking nearly as much.

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