"He gripped my hand like a vise, and uttered in very broken English, 'Hello. I am father.'"
My boyfriend still lived with his parents when we started dating. He invited me to dinner with them, but I got cold feet and backed out at the last minute. Two weeks later, he invited me over to fool around since his parents were out of town. As we put our clothes back on, we heard footsteps, then voices.
After a brief moment of panic, we cobbled together an exit strategy: as soon as he was sure we were clear, we would sneak out the backyard towards his car. We made it out of the gate when the highbeams from another car — his dad's — flashed on us.
"You didn't think you could get away that easily, did you?" his father called, before escorting us back inside, where my boyfriend's mother and teenage sister sat awaiting the introduction.
I had long been curious about meeting my girlfriend's mom. I've almost always gotten along instantly and fabulously with parents. But knowing that my girlfriend kept her mom at arm's length, and that she was an evangelical Christian, made me a bit nervous.
Her mom was going to be in L.A. for an evangelical conference, and I had agreed that she could spend a couple of nights with me. My girlfriend would be in Asia for work, but we agreed that her mom would fly in, stay with her cousin out near the airport the first night, and then come over the next. So, imagine my surprise when the morning she was set to arrive, I woke up with fifteen voicemails. The first was a perky "Hi! I'm here! Can't wait to see you. I'm outside." By the fifteenth, it had evolved to, "Hey, so… I'm going to sleep… in my car."
This was all surprising, because she didn't even have my address. But I live in a recognizable building, and she had gotten the address from the rental-car people, showed up (unannounced), and been promptly turned away by the doorman. When we finally talked, it turned out that she couldn't stay with her cousin, and had decided to stay with me… without telling me.
She ended up meeting someone at the conference she could stay with for a couple days. So I was spared until Friday night. I got home late, completely exhausted, and knowing she was planning on crashing on one of my couches, I was surprised when I didn't see anyone in the living room. Thinking she hadn't made it, I walked into my room. And there, for the first time, I saw my girlfriend's mom. Asleep in my bed.
I had been dating this girl for no more than a few months, and gone to collect her from her house for our date. I knocked on the door, and she answered, telling me to come in and go sit down in the lounge.
I walked in to the lounge to be greeted by a room full of family members — she'd really pushed the boat out here. Her father greeted me with the most horrifying thing I've ever heard in my life: "So I hear you're marrying my daughter?" I decided not to sit down, as the room was getting increasingly uncomfortable. The girl was fussing around in other rooms, and her dad then jovially elbowed me and said she was "getting her jam rags out." Bemused, I asked what he meant. "You know, jam rags," he elaborated. I still didn't know what jam rags were. I assumed it must have been a colloquialism for some sort of snack, as she had a hearty appetite.
She walked in to the room, holding bundles of unused sanitary towels. Jam rags. My bikini wax had been a total waste.
The first time I met my ex's mother wasn't so bad. I was staying at their house for the weekend, but my flight got in late, so we crept in quietly thinking everyone would be asleep. She greeted us at the door; I thanked her for letting me stay, and handed her a box of biscuits as a thank-you present. So far, so good.
Her father, on the other hand, was a completely different deal. He worked odd hours (though my ex refused to tell me what he did), and her close knowledge of local organized crime had me convinced he was involved in the Mafia. I met him my first morning there, and he was a giant of a man — around 6'6", and fat in a way that made him terrifying, not laughable. He gripped my hand like a vise, and uttered in very broken English, "Hello. I am father."
I found out later that the bedroom door that had been closed when we went to bed was open when my girlfriend woke up — so apparently before I even had a chance to introduce myself to this man, he had already seen me sharing a bed with his only daughter. Our relationship was doomed from the start.
Several years ago I dated a Welshman whose family hailed from rural Tredegar. The first time I met his dad was when we picked him up from JFK for his week-long visit to the States. That evening I meant to take father and son to a cushy gastropub, but we ended up in Lucky Cheng's, a drag-queen karaoke restaurant.
Somewhere between my efforts to order as much alcohol as possible and Welshman Sr.'s disappointed cries over the bartender ("She can't be a man, she looks like Kylie Minogue!"), my boyfriend got dragged on stage for a male beauty contest, which he won after getting stripped down to his underwear. The reward turned out to be several deep, lipstick-caked kisses from the MC. "Son, I'm oddly proud of you," his dad burbled when we finally got him in a cab back to the hotel.
NEXT: "Oh, I don't like foreigners," she said. My smile froze and she continued, "Ah not you, you're fine! You can speak English almost like us!"
The Christmas tree was decorated with Jesus ornaments and Budweiser cans. Christmas stockings (improbably patterned with yin-yangs) hung from a gun rack. This was my beautiful girlfriend's childhood Oregon home. I am a New York neurotic, Woody Allen with contact lenses. I was here to meet the love-of-my-life's parents, and I couldn't tear my eyes from the enormous mounted moose head that hung above the fireplace.
"I shot that sucker dead," beamed her dad as he walked into the room. He was dressed in biker leather, from steel-toed boots to a suede Harley-Davidson cowboy hat. A grizzly beard fell to his waistline. "Best darn feelin' in the world. But you gotta skin it and git the gizzards out quick. You can't mess around once she drops."
"Hi," I said. "Nice to meet you."
He asked me if I ever hunted elk, and if I owned a "motorsickle." When I said no, it was over. He'd pegged me for a city slicker. Not his kind. Probably one of the liberals ruining the country.
I'd met her pistol-toting mother earlier that day; we had a long chat about her health issues. She’d been in a lot of pain since her accident, yet all the CT scans found nothing. While I was explaining that motorsickles weren't practical for city life, she splashed in from the kitchen, swallowing another handful of Norco. "Sooooo, tell us why you're so damn interested in our daughter."
A text message appeared on my cell. It was from my girlfriend, who was hiding in her old bedroom, trembling with embarrassment. It read, “I love you.”
The summer after high school, I had just broken up with my first boyfriend and decided that playing the field was my best option.
My fuck buddy C had a conveniently-located basement room with a large window that I could slip through after midnight, when his parents were asleep. I'd go spend the night and leave early in the morning a few times a month.
Once, while we were lying half-asleep, his mom knocked on his door, asking if she could borrow some cash. We panicked, and I jumped into his closet to hide behind the clothes, still naked and practically shitting myself with fear.
She, of course, was suspicious, asking why his door was locked and why it took so long for him to open the door.
Then she looked in the closet and saw me, curled naked in the corner.
"Nice one," she snapped at her son, and then stormed out of the room. I crawled out of the window and drove home in shame.
I was dating (sleeping with) a semi-obnoxious girl in high school solely for the sake of irritating my parents. Emily was the kind of ostentatiously punk rock girl you date (sleep with) solely for the purpose of irritating your parents; she wore ripped fishnets and a belt made of small-caliber bullets.
One day, her mother showed up — with my father in tow — to the grocery store where I worked at the time. Outside, the mother tearfully explained that Emily had quite literally run away from home, and that my home phone number was the closest clue her family had to her whereabouts. This was the first time I’d met her mom. The whole thing was elevated to dark comedy by Emily’s bright-blue head peeking around the corner of the grocery store like a cartoon, about twenty feet from where we were talking. I pointed her out to her mom, who gave chase. The last I saw of either of them, they were sprinting down Walnut Street, shouting obscenities.
My first relationship was a long-distance one during my freshman year of college. I was living in New York and he in California. Right before I returned home to Los Angeles to visit my family during Christmas break, my boyfriend's mother visited New York City on a business trip. He implored me to have dinner with her at her hotel's restaurant one night, despite the fact that we previously hadn’t met. I downed a few drinks in my dorm room and headed uptown to meet her for the first time.
Our introduction seemed to be going well — she was warm and charmingly British, and reminded me of Mrs. Weasley. After finishing dinner, she invited me up to her hotel room for a glass of wine and some conversation. Although my first instinct was to run, I agreed for my boyfriend's sake.
Curled up against the arm of a couch in her hotel room's foyer, I listened to her talk about her son. As she consumed more and more wine, she became increasingly emotional and began telling me things about my boyfriend that I hadn't been privy to prior to our meeting — he'd been expelled from school as a teenager for making a bomb threat, and he'd made violent comments toward several classmates. She also proceeded to describe my boyfriend’s four ex-girlfriends in detail, denoting which ones she had liked most and why.
The evening ended with her in tears, moaning about the despair she had been feeling over her son growing up and gradually separating from her. I decided to make my exit, hugged her goodbye, and rewarded myself for making it through the night by taking a taxi home.
The relationship ended shortly after our meeting.
I was thrilled to meet my boyfriend's parents. A date had been set, I'd picked out my outfit, and I was feeling confident until he dropped the bomb: he'd accidentally let it slide that I was a professional dominatrix. I was mortified. I love my job and feel no shame about it, but I'd hoped to let them get to know and love me before they found out. I'd at least have expected a chance to explain to them what being a pro dom is — and isn't. Luckily, they were wonderful and not judgmental at all. Soon I was sharing stories of guys who pay me to dress them up like Zooey Deschanel.
I'm Spanish, he's English. We had been together for six months and I finally mustered up the courage to stay at his house with his overbearing mom. (His father left when he was a toddler.)
When we got there, she was reading the Daily Mail, a very conservative newspaper. She started reading loud some of the news out loud, at one point remarking, "Oh, I don't like foreigners." My smile froze and she said, "Ah not you, you're fine! You can speak English almost like us!" We chatted a bit more before she showed me her surprise: she had put some tea candles on the pebble path in the garden "to make it look more Spanish." (I still don't know what she meant.)
She made us sleep in a bunk bed during our stay, checking in on us through the night to make sure we weren't sleeping together. He didn't say a thing; he said he "didn't want any problems." One day we went to the pub and she made him pay for everything because he was "the man of the house."
Our relationship lasted four years. When we eventually broke up, one of the perks was never having to hear from her again.