‘Meeting the parents’ – the venerable ritual of getting serious with the boy/girl of your choice. Dating for a few months till finally you tentatively ask; ‘would you like to meet my parents’. Honestly, I’m usually filled with utter joy and jubilation that anyone would think of me seriously enough to meet their parents. But this jovial attitude lasts a maximum of 20 seconds. Once the concept has sunk in, I am left with the other hoary question…. what if they don’t like me?
Meeting anyone’s parents is a nerve wracking affair. It’s a time of utter judgement, deliberation and sizing each other up. It’s almost primal in its connotations – the parents assess whether you are a proper ‘mate’ for their offspring.
Usually the battle ground is in an impartial location – tea and on the rare occasion, dinner. Wherever it occurs, let’s face it…no one initially likes to meet the parents.
Now, try to imagine meeting your could-be potential in-laws in a foreign language, in a foreign city and climate? Innuendos you miss, the language is utterly incomprehensibly and all you can do is sit there smiling like a cheshire cat on crack?
The year was 2015 for me – I had already been dating my partner for over a year (we met in Australia and moved to London, all in which time I had yet to meet his folks). He’s Italian, the eldest of two sons ) who glorifies his mother and idealises his father.
This was going to be no easy feat.
I journeyed across the pond solo, to be picked up in the spartan Linate airport. My hands were excessively shaking and I was saturated in sweat – not a good look.
As we approached the confines of his suburban Milanese home, panic really started to creep in, and rightly so – the cultural barriers were strong and unwavering – whatever the tone, this was not going to be an easy meeting.
I spent over a week with his family for our first-time get together. Rather, than a short interlude of a couple of hours over tea and cake and formal chit-chat – this was a first meeting that threw me into the deep end and left me there for seven days.
Luckily, the excessiveness of food made up for the lack of conversation. I managed to ensure I would never be left on my own, and I did try and make an effort and speak in my diluted, pigeon and unrecognizable Italian dialect.
Meeting the parents is a daunting occasion – it’s almost unnatural in its charade of showmanship and introduction. Both parties are blatantly assessing each other, ensuring that the standards are set. Niceties are all well and good, but a raw ruthlessness is the real backbone to the affair.
I analysed. They assessed. I enquired. They asked me questions. And we both judged.
I was caught up in a cataclysmic symphony of language – the tone was loud, very loud – and far too loud for my suburban Australian ears. Arms and hands were thrown around and gesticulated, fingers were pointed, bosoms projected as the emotional intensity continued to increase. Italian families are rich in their discourse, love, hate and passion. They are culture and people that intensify their emotions. It’s wonderful being a spectator to all of this – but being embroiled in it can be a slightly daunting affair, especially when you can hardly understand what’s going on.
In the end, I don’t think anyone really understood what I was trying to say. Comprehension wasn’t really on the forecast.
But, did we laugh? Yes. Did we all enjoy each other’s company? I think so….
I went back for Christmas…. does that mean they like me?