Romance 101: Meet the parents

| Scene Romance Columnist

When we first start dating someone, we tend to see them as perfect—their bizarre habits become cute little quirks and their personal stories that might otherwise incite a yawn are instantly fascinating. All you want to do is spend every free minute with them, preferably making out. In short, it takes a lot to separate you from this incredible new person. But nothing can make you leap up and head for the hills like this phrase: “So my parents are coming into town next weekend…”

I forget when exactly my boyfriend told me that his parents were visiting, but I do remember that we had only been dating for about a month, and although I responded enthusiastically, I was practically lacing up my running shoes (Julia Roberts-style). I prayed that his next sentence would be, “So I’m sorry if I’m not around a lot,” but instead I got what I should have expected: “Want to come out to dinner with us on Friday?” If his arm hadn’t been around my waist, I probably would have been off the couch before he finished the question. But since I was captive, I grinned and said, “Sure!”

When I told my roommate, she was ecstatic. She asked me why I was so nervous, and I exclaimed, “Because they’re his parents!”

We’ve seen it all—there are parents who keep you at arms length (because, after all, you are stealing their child away from them), and others who love you instantly and send you Facebook messages and texts. But no matter what experiences we’ve had or witnessed with our significant others’ parents, we have an inherent fear of meeting the people who raised our boyfriend or girlfriend. Why has everyone decided that “meeting the parents” is such a major event—it’s just being introduced to some new people, right?

Wrong.

Yes, our parents are those obnoxious characters who call us to ask about grades and bug us to book our flights home for Thanksgiving. But odds are that they have spent more time with you than any other person in the world. They know you better, they have dirt on you (including naked baby pictures) and they understand how you work, as much as you may hate to admit it. When a person is that big of a deal in your life, introducing the person whom you are seeing to them is a way of saying, “You are important enough to meet this person who made me who I am. You matter.” And deep down, all parties involved know this.

So maybe the fear isn’t just of meeting the parents. It’s the fear that comes along with realizing how much someone cares about you. Your boyfriend or girlfriend is willing to deal with that weekly phone call that will now incorporate the question, “So how are you and [your name here] doing?” Someone bringing you into their lives in such an intimate way, beyond the realm of dorm rooms and dates, means that they’re in it for the long haul.

As far as my “meeting the parents” episode, it went amazingly well; my boyfriend’s parents were welcoming, kind and tons of fun; we even went out again the next night. And honestly, things have only gotten better since then.

We’ll see how he does next weekend—did I mention my parents are coming in on Friday?