So you’re all at dinner at some fancy eatery that only serves a limited number of breadsticks, no matter how much you cry, and you’re wondering how you should act. Should you be touchy with your boyfriend? How long can you stay under the table before you’re definitely not looking for your earring anymore? I’d say hold off on the overt PDA — it makes the parents uncomfortable, which will make him uncomfortable.
The main thing that will make your boyfriend nervous about meeting your parents is that he will just want them to like him. Sure, there’s the danger that your Dad is an overprotective axe murderer or that your Mom is a cougar prowling for young meat. But if you tell him to just be himself, then he’ll probably only lose a couple of limbs from axe blows — which leaves him plenty of limbs with which to make a successful sex tape.
That said, there are definitely some things you can do to make him more comfortable. When the dinner conversation steers, as it inevitably will, to events and people he has no knowledge of, keep him in the loop: “Ms. Johnson is the woman across the street, whom I suspect my Dad is having an affair with…” and stuff like that. And never put him on the spot. You might think you should include him in the conversation by saying things like, “Jeremy got his first grade above 70 percent yesterday,” or, “Oh, Jeremy likes apples, too — he once made a bong out of one.” While your intentions would be good, such statements create an uncomfortable situation. All attention shifts to him. Everyone in the restaurant goes quiet, waiting for him to say something charming and witty. Then, his voice cracks, and he pees himself a little and never has the confidence to go on a date again and dies a cold and lonely man. To avoid this fate, just have a regular, pleasant conversation on topics he can participate in (politics, keg stands, upcoming keg stand legislation), and he will feel comfortable and impress your folks with his seemingly effortless ability to interact socially with other members of his species.
As for your parents, tell them to be relaxed. This will be difficult for them to do — in most first encounters, the parents’ number one goal is to scare your young suitor so badly that he will tear his eyes out of if he ever glimpses a fleck of your bare skin because he knows what your parents will do to him will be worse. But the more relaxed and normal they are, the more relaxed he will be. When you talk to them before the encounter, stress that underneath the leather and safety pins, your boyfriend really has a kind soul, and it’s important to you that they trust your judgment in men. If you’re easily embarrassed, tell them to try to stay away from embarrassing stories about your past — but, to be honest, guys love hearing about that stuff. It gives us endless material for below-the-belt insults for future fights. Just kidding, but still, Mom should probably leave the baby book at home (or in a well-locked cupboard if you’re having dinner at home). And definitely alert your parents to subjects your boyfriend is extra sensitive about, whether it be the number of nipples he currently has or the entirety of his past. Best to steer clear of these.
Other than that, tell your boyfriend to review his manners, pull the chair out for your mom, let your dad win in the customary arm-wrestling match, and the Parents-Boyfriend Summit of 2012 will go just swimmingly.