Introducing significant other into family circle can make or break it.
By TAMAR CASPI
There comes a point in every relationship when it's time to meet the parents. This often happens sometime between late September and early January. From Rosh Hashana through New Year's Day, many single Jews are under pressure to bring home their new significant other. But introducing a new boyfriend or girlfriend during the holidays, or any other time for that matter, means exposing them to your entire family and all their loving craziness. As Ben Stiller's character Gaylord Focker so hysterically showed us in Meet the Fockers, it can become a story for the ages, one you'll end up telling your grandchildren.
Many women are quick to ask a boyfriend home while most men tend to be more hesitant. But not all. My cousin Michael is a handsome, successful bachelor in his late 30s who has brought nearly every date home to his parents. I told him he needs to stop introducing dates (I call them that because often they haven't yet even earned the title of "girlfriend") to his parents because it makes the women think the relationship is much more serious than it actually is. But for him, it's natural. He's a big family man and needs to know right off the bat that the woman will get along well with them. It may be a good tactic for him, but it's not for everyone. When he ultimately breaks up with these "girlfriends," it's usually more difficult for his family to recover than for the woman herself! His young nieces and nephews have been known to call one of his dates by the wrong name or to talk fondly about a previous girlfriend, totally oblivious to the faux pas.
A few years ago, when I was living at home, a couple of dates inadvertently met my parents, but I've only purposefully brought home a chosen few. My family is not quiet - if they have something to say, they say it - which is one of the reasons I wait until I know the relationship is serious and strong before introducing a new boyfriend. By this time my mom has already Googled him and researched exactly what he does for a living, because she wants to make sure I'll be taken care of. She once even asked a guy if "he could afford me." Great first impression, right? I was so embarrassed, my cheeks turned as red as the polish on my toes.
MY FATHER will quietly observe everything and not say much, which has been known to intimidate many a man. When he does speak, his super-thick Israeli accent only increases the intimidation factor. My sister is known for making (smelly) noises with no excuse. My brother, a human sponge for knowledge, will bore them to death with facts. My brother-in-law likes to ask completely inane questions that leave my boyfriends in total confusion, trying to talk their way out of the hole they dug themselves into. And I usually lose my marbles as I bicker with everyone to stop humiliating me. In my family's defense, the few boyfriends I have brought home quickly became endeared to my family, enabling me to appreciate the folks for just being their (kooky) selves.
It's not as bad as my friend Lindsay's situation. Lindsay's mom flirts with her daughter's boyfriends as if she's the young and single one (which she isn't). Or my friend Matt, whose parents don't stop arguing long enough to even greet the girlfriends he brings home. Emily has a father who likes to open the door wearing full hunting gear with a couple of rifles on the table behind him (and I thought my dad was intimidating). And then there's Yael, whose parents are so warm and loving that they'll ask her dates in for a cup of coffee and end up spending the whole night talking to him, getting to know him better than Yael has and even exchanging numbers with her dates so they can play tennis or find out more about the Torah classes he's taking. Parents, even if they're well-intentioned, don't know the meaning of "comfort zones" when it comes to their children and their possible future significant others.
Bringing home a date is a huge, anxiety-ridden step. It will, without a doubt, intensify the relationship and not always in the way one might hope. Many Jewish parents will be happy enough if your special friend is Jewish, others will never think anyone is good enough for their son or daughter. Hopefully, your boyfriend or girlfriend will love you more because of your family and not in spite of them. If your family ends up being the "break" in the make-or-break phase of your relationship, then they probably did you a favor in the long run and you should thank them instead of berating them. If your parents don't understand discretion, you may need to wait a bit longer before bringing home the goods, but trust that your parents have your best interests at heart and will not do anything (intentionally) to ruin a good thing for you.
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