I used to dread going home to Chattanooga for the holidays when I was single. My mother would always invite eligible men to various dinners to meet me. Most often they were soft, menschy types, and this gal liked athletic, preppy boys. Some were interested in meeting other men and not me. I sighed with frustration hearing comments from family friends like, "Such a shame she hasn't found a nice man yet." Note, "she" was usually in the room within earshot.
My worst holiday dating experience was when I brought my sophomore college boyfriend home after Christmas. My mother came out to greet him wearing a very curly purple wig. Seriously! I wilted speechlessly while she gabbed about having a "bad hair day" to Steve (that was his name). The relationship didn't last. The next boyfriend I brought home a few years later was briefed about my mother's obsession with the color purple, prepped with topics to talk about with her (theater, books, travel) and warned that she sometimes goes for "shock value" when it comes to meeting my boyfriends.
If you're planning to introduce your new man to your family this holiday, whether it's local or a trip somewhere, here are some of my tips:
1. Prepare him for the best and for the worst. If your dad is opinionated, politically incorrect or has a cringe-worthy combover, warn your guy before he walks in the door.
2. If your family insists that everyone take off their shoes when they come inside, or if there are any other "house rules," let him know.
3. If he has any dietary restrictions (e.g., no meat, no wheat, no dairy, etc.) discuss ahead of time and let your parents know so meal planning can accommodate him.
4. Discuss before you wheel your bags into the house and into the wrong bedrooms who is sleeping where. I have unmarried middle-aged friends whose parents still insist on separate bedrooms when they bring their male friends home.
5. If your guy is not pet-friendly and your mother lets her dogs run and pee all around the house, warn him.
6. Decide how you will respond to nosy questions like, "When are you two getting married?"
7. If guests at the table or holiday party include old boyfriends, it's unnecessary to bring it up if it might make your current beau uncomfortable. If feelings for the former flame have flickered out, why try to flash him in your new man's face?
8. Schedule some quiet time alone, preferably exploring the area and being in nature. Being constantly around people in a house or participating in group activities can be stressful for a newcomer.
9. Manage your expectations (and your family's). Just because you are bringing your boyfriend home to meet the family -- or returning with him for another holiday -- does not mean there is a ring under the tree, or even a romantic gift coming your way.
10. If for any reason, things are not going your way or the relationship gets strained, talk it over or tough it out, but don't let relationship drama dampen your holidays or your family's or host's.
Dating anytime has its challenges, and holidays can be harder for some. If you are married and have single friends who may not be in a relationship please don't ostracize them for being single or make them feel uncomfortable at the dinner party if they don't have a date. If you are single and want to bring a date to a dinner or to an event you've been invited to, ask your host first. If you are single and looking, get out and mingle! Don't hole up during the holidays. You deserve to sparkle!