Meet the parents: Our step-by-step guide

12:00AM, Nov 16 2012

Here's how to make meeting anyone's 'rents go down like the ultimate Biebs performance (read: with adoring fans screaming for an encore).

You know that "flashy thing" Will Smith's character used to erase people's memories in Men In Black? Boy, would we give up our fave pair of Cons for one when those awks meet-the-parents sitches strike. Like when you're having dinner at your new boy's house for the first time and, as you reach for the salt, you knock over your glass of red cordial — or worse — you accidentally let one rip! Even the pet goldfish will want to forget that moment...

While we can't offer any memory-erasing gadgets (although we'll totes work on one for a future DOLLY free gift), we DID drill etiquette expert Anna Musson from The Good Manners Company (goodmanners.com.au) for ways to make meeting the parents as pain-free as possible.

First impressions count
It sounds OTT, but approach the first meeting with your pal or BF's parentals just like you'd approach an interview with a potential boss. "Dress well (without showing too much skin!) and introduce yourself using your full name," advises Anna. And you wouldn't go to a job interview unprepared, would you? "Before the meeting, find out what they're like and what they're into," says Anna. If your friend says their mum likes art and is a stickler for brushed hair, you could scrub up on your Monet and go for a Selena-style 'do over your usual Olsen-inspired "just rolled out of bed" look.

Table etiquette
Invited for dinner? You'll have any mum eating out of the palm of your hand if you follow Anna's golden rule: Offer to set the table! As simple as it sounds, remembering to say "please" and "thank you" will also go a long way to getting you in the good books, as will taking cues from the family. If they're waiting for everyone to have their plate before starting the meal, then you should do the same. Here's a few more of Anna's dinner table dos and don'ts...

DON'T take your phone to dinner (and definitely don't text at the table).

DO show interest in everyone at the table, not just your friend.

DON'T brag about how nice your family's house/boat/car is. Show-off alert!

DO talk about what you want to do when you finish school (parents love this topic).

DON'T lick your fingers. Ewww!

DO politely ask for a napkin.

DON'T put your elbows on the table.

DO keep your cutlery close to the plate to avoid waving it around when you speak.

Small talk 101
While most parents won't expect you to have a big ol' convo about the state of the economy, it IS a good idea to have a few hot topics up your sleeve. "Read the headlines on Ninemsn.com.au, in your local paper, or at least listen to the news in the car on the way over to get up-to-speed with some current events — this is impressive," suggests Anna. She also says to avoid dominating the dinner table chit-chat. "When asked a question, answer, then ask about them." Other foolproof convo topics include pets (people LOVE talking about their pets!) and sports (footy, netball, ping pong — the possibilities are endless!).

Play by the rules
You might eat choccie in your bedroom and paint your nails on the couch at home, but the rules could be very different at your mate or boy's place. "Ask your friend what the dealbreakers are and try to fit in as best you can," advises Anna.

Many families have different religious or cultural practices that they follow, too. If this is the case, ask your friend how you should act to remain respectful and don't be afraid to ask the parents directly. "Start with, 'Mrs [insert surname], I apologise for my ignorance, but I was wondering...'," says Anna. "Bow your head for grace and dress modestly if you know this is important, however, you can still be true to yourself," she adds.

Oops!
So you were practising your Single Ladies moves in your friend's lounge room and managed to booty-shake the antique vase right off the coffee table and into a million pieces? Or you were telling your boyf's fam the story about how your iPhone was stolen from your school bag and accidentally let a four-letter word fly? How can you recover from this kind of uncomf situation?! "Apologise immediately and look embarrassed," says Anna. If you think it caused serious damage, pick your moment afterwards to say sorry again. "Try, 'Mrs [insert surname], I just wanted to apologise again for what I said at dinner. I don't usually use that word, but I was a bit nervous and it just came out," suggests Anna.

If all else fails...
Even if your dude's dad tells the most lame-o jokes or your BFF's little sis is driving you up the wall with her Bindi Irwin impersonations, try to be polite at all times. "You don't want to get anyone in the family off-side," says Anna. And that includes your bestie or boy — while they might moan and complain about certain members of their fam, resist the urge to join in, 'cos it won't go down so well when someone else does it. And when it comes down to it, they're really the ones you want to impress, right?




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