Meeting daughter's partner first time xmas
December 22, 2018 2:29 PM   Subscribe

I'm an aspie. I sometimes make people uncomfortable. Sometimes, I'm so anxious I can barely speak. I'm meeting my daughter's (26) boyfriend (32) for the first time. I think this one is serious. He, poor bugger, is meeting me (51, obese, laxy eye, buzz cut), her brother (28, unemployed, somewhat lacking in personal hygene, shy) and my partner (60, invalid pension, anxious, talented musician) for the first time.

I take son & partner to trivia, and if I'm not at the table with them, they turn to their phones (even with other people at the table). So daughter and I will be doing most of the work in making conversation happen, and while she has met my partner, she's not yet familiar with him, and while she loves her brother, they don't typically keep in touch. So, we have games planned: trivial pursuit, balderdash etc.

Conversation topics? I can ask him about his work but partner & son unemployed and embarrassed = potential minefield. I can ask about his family but his mum died when he was 16 and his dad is apparently right-wing while all of us (including him) are left. We had some hail yesterday, but you can only talk about the weather so long, and when I run out of smalltalk (approx 6.5 seconds), I start talking about inappropriate shit that fascinates me, like the history of necrophiliacs, or the research around tolerant confessor figures impacting on whether nuns who masturbate remain in their order. This may amuse my son but would probably horrify my daughter.

Oh jeez, I can't really even talk about Christmases past because the kids' father made their childhood xmases so miserable. Last xmas he had a stroke and while I despise him, and daughter is estranged, we all ended up at the hospital at 2am Boxing Day to support my son, who is loyal to him while recognising his father's many failings.

So, um, help?

(Australia, so picking on Trump shouldn't take more than 3 minutes, not like we should be discussing politics, sex or religion. And I'm 97% certain daughter would be horrified if I pulled out childhood photos).
posted by b33j to Human Relations (28 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
"So, [guy], do you have any plans for the rest of the holidays?"

He will either come up with something fascinating for you to ask him further about. "Why yes, actually, I'm going to hike the thing and be on the the top of this other thing on New Year's Eve and then go do a thing at this other, nearby place." (At which point you can ask about hiking, what he loves about being on top of a thing on New Year's Eve, has he been to nearby place before?) Option B is "Nah, I'm just gonna chill at home and watch Netflix." To which you can commiserate together about how awesome it is to chill at home and not go do a thing, and hey, what has he watched on Netflix lately?

(If I'm in a Mood I'm pretty awful at small talk so I've kind of learned how to do it from the outside in, if that makes sense. Basically, look for keywords you can ask about. People adore talking about themselves, and if he doesn't, you can sit in comfortable silence.)

Honestly, with games and things planned, you hopefully shouldn't have to make much small talk at all. Asking about future plans is a nice way to detract from painful past stuff, as well as hopefully turning over some kind of topic.

(I would also assume your daughter has given him the heads-up that all of you are kind of shy/anxious/on the spectrum as appropriate, and that he will meet you all in a spirit of lovingkindess. Is this something you would be comfortable asking her to do, or checking in with her about? I find it a lot easier when I can give people the heads-up that sometimes I will need to disappear for a few hours for quiet time, or that I'm having a high-anxiety day.)
posted by kalimac at 2:40 PM on December 22, 2018 [8 favorites]

I think a little politics and religion are probably ok, as long as you know in advance that everyone is more or less on the same page. You should probably avoid sex. And other than that, you are who you are, and you’ve produced a daughter whom he clearly likes, so I don’t think you should try too hard to suppress your natural personality. Maybe brainstorm some weird shit to talk about that doesn’t involve anyone’s genitals? History of cannibalism, rather than necrophilia? Honestly, you sound totally fun to me, but I am also awkward and inappropriate.

Can you ask him about his hobbies, interests, taste in music, etc? What was the first concert he ever went to? Has he ever been on a road trip, and if so, where? Does he have pets? If not, would he want one? I actually think you learn more interesting things about people when you don’t ask them about work.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:45 PM on December 22, 2018 [8 favorites]

Your daughter will have given him a heads up. It is also okay for you to front load by saying, "I am anxious and not great at small talk but I am pleased you are here." Ask him what brings him joy.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 2:50 PM on December 22, 2018 [47 favorites]

...I start talking about inappropriate shit that fascinates me, like the history of necrophiliacs, or the research around tolerant confessor figures impacting on whether nuns who masturbate remain in their order....

No advice here, but why oh why couldn't you have been my parent-in-law? I would have loved you 'til the end of time.
posted by BostonTerrier at 2:53 PM on December 22, 2018 [71 favorites]

Take whatever talking points you get here, and the ones that pop into your head between now and when they arrive, and write them down on a piece of paper and stick it in a kitchen drawer or somewhere he won't see it, and then when you start to flounder, you can go "get a glass of water" or whatever and refresh your memory of things to talk about.

And I too wish you could have been my parent-in-law! Are you sure the boyfriend won't want to talk about necrophilia and whatnot? Have you asked your daughter if she thinks you should rein it in?
posted by HotToddy at 3:09 PM on December 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

Unless you've changed a lot in recent years, your daughter is probably familiar with your conversational "quirks". I would say relax and don't fear to talk about what interests you. Interesting conversations are usually out of the ordinary. I think it can be like picking up a well-written magazine article. It may not have been a topic you would have looked for, but once you're in it it's enjoyable and informative.

In any event, it will clarify what he's connecting to. Better now than later.
posted by uncaken at 3:10 PM on December 22, 2018 [6 favorites]

Watch an interesting documentary or movie together! That might be the start of some interesting conversation and allow for a shared point of discussion.

Go to a museum or something where everyone can drift on their own and look at different things, and then meet together for dinner. Talk about what you saw.
posted by suedehead at 3:14 PM on December 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

I also take a pretty keyword-driven approach to conversation. It works great, especially when you're first meeting someone.

[MENTION OF INTEREST] — "Oh, cool, how did you get into [INTEREST]?"

[MENTION OF PLACE] — "Huh, I have a friend from [PLACE]" or "Huh, I've always wanted to go to [PLACE]" or "Oh neat, I went to [PLACE] once and this thing happened to me there..." or "Wow, I've never been, what's [PLACE] like?" as appropriate.

[MENTION OF CHILDHOOD] — "Oh, where did you grow up?"

[MENTION OF WORK] — You said this is a minefield, and so I wouldn't bring it up first, but if they do bring it up it's completely appropriate to say "Oh, what do you do?" or if they've mentioned a specific job then "Neat, I have a friend who [JOB]" or "Oh interesting, how did you get started doing [JOB]?" or "How long have you been doing [JOB]?" or "What is [JOB] like?" as appropriate.

Like, if you just say "Please tell me more about that" every time it's your turn, that comes across as odd to neurotypicals. But there are lot of questions that are just fancy neurotypical-approved ways of saying "Please tell me more about that" that you can totally get away with.

The other great thing about these is they don't expire the way some other conversational openings do — they're not like opportunities for jokes or banter that you have to use right away. You can totally be silent for ten minutes, realize you missed one, and be like "You know, you mentioned you were an underwater basketweaver — I've always been curious, what's that like?" and they'll jump right back in and talk about it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:19 PM on December 22, 2018 [29 favorites]

You described yourself and your family in a way that suggests you might feel embarrassed, and I just don’t think you should go there. Assume not that this guy is there to judge you, he’s not - he’s there to connect. You have a love for your daughter in common, for one thing. And she loves you, which is why she’s bringing him home for Christmas. Just remember that. (Also - sounds like he’s had a rough time as well, so... I mean everyone’s carrying baggage, and everyone’s doing their best. Assume that :) )

My advice is to dip into a *bit* of liquid courage. For conversation, if you’re worried, just check in with your daughter if you’re concerned at any point. Otherwise be yourselves and try to enjoy the time you’ve got together.
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:37 PM on December 22, 2018 [17 favorites]

Yeah, nthing those who would love to have you for their mother-in-law. I would take awkward and sometimes socially inappropriate any day over judgemental and hard to please. Also, coming at this from the perspective of someone who has been in the shoes of your daughter's partner many times, meeting the parents for the first time, he is probably just as nervous about this as you are. The mothers I loved were the anxious ones who seemed concerned that I was having a good time, etc. regardless of how socially adroit they seemed. Good luck!
posted by whistle pig at 3:55 PM on December 22, 2018 [4 favorites]

If there is a chance he's going to be family one day. Be honest & be yourself. I mean you can be your polite self, but don't try too hard to be anyone else. It's hard to keep up if they're together for years. My MIL tried it when I married into her family, boy was I in for a rude shock about 2 years later. Remind yourself he's even more nervous than you guys. Your daughter knows what you are all like & still wants to bring him around for Christmas so I'd assume he knows what you are all like before hand and she thinks you'll all get along fine. I'd seriously suggest talking to her about your fears.
posted by wwax at 4:03 PM on December 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

Thanks, meta-mates! You are so awesome. We have liquid courage (they are bringing some extra as well). We have games. Daughter & I had quick text conversation "don't mention the war (etc)". He seems such a nice guy - he made her my favourite soup from scratch because it reminds her of me (but I use instant - so he went to way more trouble) and he packs her lunch for work when she stays over, so I am very much inclined to like him. It'll be great. It's going to be the first xmas I've had with both my kids in about 8 years, so I'm totally chuffed.
posted by b33j at 4:17 PM on December 22, 2018 [44 favorites]

I like to talk about food and different forms of art with people I'm meeting. Food can be a minefield but often art is a lot safer because most people are okay with opinions being subjective about it.

You mention that your partner is a talented musician. That's very interesting and something that hopefully they aren't embarrassed to talk about. Maybe you can ask if your daughter's boyfriend would like to listen to some music (it can also be a great way to fill awkward silences) and also ask if they have favorite kinds or maybe play an instrument, etc. You can mention your partner's talents then as well, not to brag but as a point of interest. Believe me, he will be just as desperate to find things to talk about with all of you as you are with him.

A classic holiday activity is going to see a movie together. He might like movies a lot, you could definitely ask, but if he doesn't and any of you guys do, you could talk about why you like them and which ones are favorites - particularly if you have favorite holiday movies, which would be on-theme, you know?

Other forms of art that can be comfortably discussed are things like fiction books, tv shows, dancing, photography... Express an opinion about something and then ask him for his opinion about it or a similar thing. If his opinion sounds positive, you can share a related anecdote or interesting information. What do I know, maybe he'll have read a book recently about necrophiliacs and you can talk about your fascination with that in a nearly neurotypical way!

I see on your update that it appears he likes to cook. That's awesome. Food and cooking is my top favorite area of conversation. If you're comfortable with it you could invite him to help cook food over the holiday which will go a huge way towards making someone feel welcomed, and comes with a built-in activity. You can also ask him for favorite holiday foods and talk to him about food related anecdotes. Maybe your daughter has special food memories or silly stories you could share that aren't on par with naked baby pics but of a similar "here's new things about this woman you're enamored of" value.
posted by Mizu at 4:29 PM on December 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

In these situations I actually try to pull topics based on FPPs. Benign ones of course, like "I read a great article about..." or "Earlier this week I read a thread about new band or new book, have you heard of it?". You may ask about places visited or places he may dream of visiting. You may ask if he likes any area museums. You can delve into whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie or not. You can mine Saturday night Metatalk questions for material. These are all fairly benign and lend to deeper questions - or not, as the case may be. But they will all be a helluva lot more interesting than talking about the weather for 30 minutes.
posted by vignettist at 4:43 PM on December 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

“What are you passionate about?” is one of my go-to lines. Maybe you’ll discover you have something in common! Maybe you’ll learn something! Regardless, I hope you have a great Christmas with your family :)
posted by nathaole at 5:59 PM on December 22, 2018

Most people would describe my MIL as outgoing and socially adept .The last conversation I had with her started with her asking about my new job but ended up being 90% her ranting about how lazy black people are. So, honestly, talking about necrophilia would have been better. I could have contributed to that discussion. Don't be so dismissive of your social skills right out.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 7:21 PM on December 22, 2018 [17 favorites]

young(er) people expect to have to impress their partner's family, not be impressed by them. they will be paying a lot of attention to the impression they're making and may not notice your own anxiety. let your daughter guide the conversation as much as she is willing and able to do; she knows best what you have in common and what topics will be safe. she'll have prepared him in advance not to ask awkward questions about sensitive life circumstances. or if you worry that she won't have thought of that, you can just ask her to do that.

if you feel there's too much silence just ask him questions. he won't know it's because you can't think of anything else to say; he'll think he's being gently interrogated and will try to be interesting.

I start talking about inappropriate shit that fascinates me, like

be a history bore if you want, that is perfectly acceptable in this situation. parents with hobbies they can go on and on about are the easiest parents to make conversation with, he'll appreciate it. but do not bring up weird sex trivia if you get nervous. not to him, not at first meeting. ignore all the well-meaning but incredibly ill-advised encouragement to go ahead and do that. bring up obscure facts if you like, just not those ones.

and even if it all goes badly, it doesn't matter. because if he's a good boyfriend, he will still pretend that he had a nice time in order to make your daughter happy.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:49 PM on December 22, 2018 [12 favorites]

I’m super extroverted but even then I’ve really appreciated when people I’ve stayed with have said, “glad we got to talk. I’m going to go do XYZ thing for a while now on my own.”

Your daughter’s partner may appreciate some time to go do their thing as well.
posted by raccoon409 at 8:01 PM on December 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

My family is totally right-wing but I still like being asked about them. I can tell you a lot about them besides how they vote, and they are part of me - musical, quirky, funny, nerds. Getting to know me means knowing at least a little bit about my family.
posted by bunderful at 8:08 PM on December 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Go easy on personal questions. Some is (obviously) fine, but you don't want him to feel like he's being interviewed or grilled. Talk to your daughter about common interests you share, and he will probably chime in. Find the common ground you all share and talk about that. Get some suggestions from your daughter beforehand if you want.
posted by ananci at 8:14 PM on December 22, 2018

Party games exist for this reason! Balderdash, 6 Nimmt, Yahtzee, Wits and Wagers are all fairly simple and fun.

There are some “games” that are really just sets of conversation starter type questions. We used to use one with my grandparents to limit the amount of grandma’s rambling/pontificating. Essentially, on your turn you draw a card with several different questions on it. You pick one to answer and then it’s the next person’s turn who draws a new card. I don’t have it with me so I don’t know the exact name.
posted by ticketmaster10 at 8:34 PM on December 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

People like to talk about themselves. Where are you from? Why did you come to [town]?

You don’t have to get super personal, just get to know the things that are universal.
posted by bendy at 9:08 PM on December 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

I say lean in to your freak flag and wait for him to impress you. Stay a little quiet aside from hi how are you and see what he says. You don't have to fill the silence. Have him peel potatoes for dinner or fix a lamp. Is he tall? "Hey I've got this light bulb I can't reach." If he's "the one" for your daughter then he will be trying to make a good impression on you. So much social pressure for women to be nice and hospitable and completely put others at ease. Bah humbug.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:52 AM on December 23, 2018 [7 favorites]

What about just having some good discussion questions at the ready ? There’s a lot of pretty good hypothetical ones in this list of journal
prompts for teen
s, but you could google around for more. You could them into strips and choose from a hat even. There are also packaged sets of these. I know of one called chat pack and one called table topics.

Seconding watching a movie or documentary together.
posted by wowenthusiast at 7:12 AM on December 23, 2018

I wish you were my parent in law, you sound awesome!

Find something to center yourself, breathe, be yourself. And definitely agree that front-loading by saying you do get anxious and that makes you talk too much and that you won't be offended if boyfriend tells you that he's not interested in the history of necrophilia (in which case, he's dull as hell, because...I mean...come on!).

Have a good time, ask him about himself, listen to what he tells you.
posted by biscotti at 8:07 AM on December 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

It was WONDERFUL. I was myself. Thank you. When I met him at the gate, I thought he positioned for a hug but wasn't certain so asked. He said yes.

He liked my stories, my daughter wasn't worried when I took the conversation down a dark alley. We played many games, and belly-laughed so much I thought I was going to pee myself. Everyone had a brilliant time. I would be happy if they turn out to be permanent, he fit so well with all of us. I did use some of the questions suggested and they worked marvellously. Thank you, metafilter.
posted by b33j at 2:58 AM on December 24, 2018 [39 favorites]

Oh, I also asked if he was at all religious, intending to make an atheistic joke, and my daughter scoffed and said "yeah, he's waiting till marriage," whereupon I said (without brain engaged), "so just anal sex, then?" and then blushed furiously, while he laughingly answered, gesturing at daughter, "yes, that's what I keep telling her." So, even that gaff turned out okay.
posted by b33j at 7:38 PM on December 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

Yay! And that's going to make a great "first time I met the fam" story years from now. Well done! (Now I seriously wish you were my MIL)
posted by HotToddy at 6:01 AM on December 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

« Older Odd secret santa gift sought   |   Which Instant Pot should I buy? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments