Dear Miss A,
My boyfriend and I have been dating for a little over two months, although we’ve been best friends for nearly a year and a half now. Needless to say, we’re extremely comfortable with each other, due to our friendship foundation. However, his mother is someone who I am definitely NOT comfortable around. She seems to dislike me, and ‘gently’ shows her dislike for me, by perfectly harmless suggestions and hints. In a few weeks, his entire family (yes, entire – all extensions, from both sides) are gathering for Easter. His mother decided to let many, many of them know that my boyfriend and I are indeed a couple, and that he is ‘very’ excited for them all to meet me. I’m really rather clumsy, and although I was brought up with proper manners, I can often seem, a little ‘rough around the edges’ when meeting new people. How can I make a good impression on his family, while still being myself?
P.S. i adore the site.
Thank you so much for writing in. With many mothers, you can’t win for losing. You might be West coast, and his family very East coast. You might be from above the Mason-Dixon line, and his family is Southern. You may be from a small town, and he’s from a sophisticated family in a big city. You may be Protestant, and his family is Jewish. Or you may be a different race of which the family may not be accepting. There are endless issues that come up with a boyfriend’s parents. I am seeing that this may be one benefit of dating in your 40’s — you don’t have to impress the parents. Then again, you have to impress his kids.
As for manners and etiquette, some of these things are local to different areas of the country, cultures, and societies. In the movie The Family Stone, Sarah Jessica Parker’s character was too polite and proper for the family. She was seen as uptight. In your case, it seems your boyfriend’s family may be more proper and they don’t appreciate your rough edges. There is more to making the right impression than etiquette and manners. Grace and poise are very important. While there are places you could go to learn more, I’m not sure how much can be taught. Some of this may be genetic, innate, or learned at a very young age. I think that having a feminine, graceful mother and being surrounded by similar women growing up definitely helps. Having parents who expect nice table manners at every meal — not just on holidays, special occasions, or out in public — also helps. I don’t know if it’s genetic, but some women just carry themselves in a bit of a more masculine manner. I have no clue if it’s from playing soccer rather than taking ballet and gymnastics, or just nurture or nature.
The bottom line is that you are who you are. While she is his mother, and you should respect her, she is also just a woman like yourself. She is no better than you are. I would bet that you are younger than I am. I’m not sure that I can give you the confidence or wisdom that comes a bit later in life, but try to realize that what matters is how your boyfriend feels about you. I think it’s great you started as friends, and are so comfortable together. Try not to give his mother the power to make you feel badly about how you are. How you are is exactly what your boyfriend loves. If she has a problem with you, that is her issue. If your boyfriend gives up someone he loves because of what his mother thinks, that is his issue. You can only be who you are — clumsy, rough around the edges, but a great person who cares about her boyfriend enough to want to try to improve herself. So do what you can to be graceful and elegant for your own sake, and if she has an issue with you, so what!
I wish you all the best! Please do write back and tell me how it went!
– Miss A