December 2007

Meet the Parents: A Christmas Tale

Author: Keith Kelson

Sooner or later a woman will say those words that will send an icy chill down a man’s spine. The words most men dread hearing. No, not “Do these pants make me look fat?” Those other words that will produce fear even in men who’ve stared death in the face: “I want you to meet my folks this Christmas.”

Silence usually follows and the guy smiles nervously before meekly saying, “Sure. That would be great. I’m looking forward to it.” Meanwhile, visions of Ben Stiller’s character hooked up to a lie detector in Meet the Parents are dancing through his head. Some men begin to immediately plot their escape. Some will opt for the medical emergency route and eat some three week old sushi two days before the trip. “Babe..(cough) The doc say it’s some kind of food poisoning. Tell your parents I’m so sorry.”

Some cats choose to simply vanish and go AWOL and never return. Most men who live in Cleveland, Ann Arbor or Baltimore used to live somewhere else until some unsuspecting woman suggested that he meet her folks.

It doesn’t have to be this way, fellas. I’m here to help. I can get you through the all important meeting during the holidays, but it’s not for the faint of heart. You have be a man willing to take risks. You have to be willing to think outside the box. You have to be willing to admit that the Trix Rabbit deserves a bowl of that darn cereal.

Are you ready, grasshopper? Let’s begin…

First and foremost, you have to remember that you are not to antagonize the males of the family. You are going to be under the microscope, but you have to remember that any family worth its salt will have its male members test any prospective suitors of their female members. You are going to have to suck it up and fly under the radar and wait until you have home field advantage, dude.

That means you’re not going to get into any alpha male showdowns during your stay. No arm wrestling with the older brother, no push-up contests or foot races with the dad and no beer chugging contests with the crazy uncle. Most confrontations start with a stare down, but you’re going to be wearing your “As-Seen-on-TV” Texas Hold ’Em sunglasses. Tell your sweetie’s male relatives that, like former Chicago Bear Jim McMahon, you have extremely sensitive eyes and you have to wear sunglasses indoors from time to time. Plus, sunglasses give you that cool guy vibe.

If they can’t see the whites of your eyes, they can’t challenge you. Confused, befuddled but impressed by your coolness, the males will eventually wander off and watch whatever football game is on the telly. Be careful, however, because the father will still be watching you even in defeat, looking for any weakness you might have. So stay on your toes and keep your sunglasses handy, because next you will be interacting with the females of the family and they’re just as dangerous, if not more dangerous than the males.

The mother will be the first to attack, as she will offer you cakes, cookies, pies and even lemonade or eggnog to weaken your defenses. Don’t be fooled; she merely wants to loosen your tongue so that you’ll slip up and say or do something embarrassing. She will then pull her little girl aside and recommend that she reconsider Larry the nice boy at the post office with the lazy eye. If you pass her first test, prepare yourself—the second wave is coming and it’s gonna be a doozy.

The next door neighbors, Wilma and Herb, will pop over for a visit, accompanied by their daughter, Amber, the college freshman who’s a dead ringer for Charlize Theron. The whole situation screams test, but you’re two steps ahead of your sweetie’s mom. You’ve got your sunglasses on, so just be cool and appreciate Amber in all her glory. Charlize Theron is a good-looking woman—a bit on the thin side, but a looker nonetheless. Any woman who even resembles her will get gawked at, but with your sunglasses on, no one will be able to see your pupils dilate or see that “Holy Cow!!” look in your eyes. To ensure that your jaw doesn’t drop in amazement, keep some of the mother’s cookies handy to munch on.

Now, that you’ve survived the full frontal assault from the parents, you’ve got to make sure that you don’t become your own worst enemy and step on a land mine left by the grandparents or some other stragglers invited to check you out (you know, the great aunt with the back problem; the cousin with the employment problem; the snot-nosed kids that want to challenge your mastery of Capcom’s Street Fighter Alpha 2.

Be polite, but ignore these folks except for the snot-nosed kids. Never let any opportunity to teach snot-nosed kids a lesson pass you by. After delivering a world-class beat down, go ahead and join in as the family breaks out the karaoke machine. But remember to keep it simple. You’re not to do any solo party karaoke songs, no matter how much the crowd begs you to. Duets with your sweetie like Endless Love and You Don’t Bring Me Flowers are acceptable. If you just have to do a solo, Joe Cocker’s You Are So Beautiful is a surefire crowd pleaser and will make any dad feel like a heel if he’s been giving you the business earlier. Songs like Super Freak and Talk Dirty to Me are definite no-no’s. Those songs are bachelor party fare—not meet the parents material. Remember, your main task is not to entertain her folks, but to disarm them.

Let the crazy uncle and the brother amuse everyone with their impersonations of Tom Jones and George Michael. Fly under the radar, grasshopper. However, it won’t hurt your cool points to take your sweetie’s mom on the dance floor and remind the old man that he might need to polish up his moves.

Your evening should be a rousing success, and you will have not only impressed your sweetie, but impressed her family as well.

Don’t dance with Amber, though. Trust me when I say that.

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