Congratulations! You made the cut and snagged an invitation to the most exclusive event of the year. No, I'm not talking about Diddy's White Party, Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, or the taping of Oprah's Favorite Things - I'm talking about holiday dinner with your man and his family! Yes, all 55 of them! Now holidays, like funerals and weddings, tend to bring out the worst in families, so here are my top 5 tips for survival.
5. Do Your Homework.
Remember that episode of A Different World where Whitley goes home with Dwayne for Christmas and discovers right before dinner that his family opens gifts on Christmas Eve instead of Christmay Day? The next thing you know, Whitley almost gets mugged by Santa on a New York City subway platform while trying to buy a present for Dwayne's mom. Please don't be Whitley. Think of this as an opportunity to learn about your partner's family and traditions. Ask lots of questions and never assume (because you know what happens when you assume). Sometime in the near future, you both may choose to create your own traditions that differ greatly from anything either of you grew up with, but when in Rome...
4. Even If You Can't Take The Heat, Get Your @!$&% In The Kitchen!
Now, I don't know if this is just an African thing, but growing up, my sociological paradigms were strongly formed through the experience of gender roles in the context of social interaction. Translation? At any type of gathering, all the females were packed on top of each other in the kitchen and every male was in the living room watching soccer, or football, or basketball, drinking Guinness or Malta, eating peanuts and yelling back and forth about politics (both Nigerian and American, but mostly Nigerian).
Maybe you think of yourself as "one of the fellas." All of the loud yelling in foreign languages (including southern drawls or new england long vowels) might scare you. Perhaps the kitchen intimidates you because you can't cook. Basically, take any notions of you as a guest and throw them out of the window. As one mother-in-law said, "many hands make light work," so at the very least, take a minute to stop by the kitchen and ask the host or hostess if there is anything you can do to help. Even if they say "no" they might like some company.
3. There Are No Stupid Questions.
Generally, people love to hear themselves talk and they love to hear themselves talk about themselves. So if you don't remember where Cousin Flozell works or how exactly he is related to your partner, use that as a conversation starter!
2. Do You.
People want acceptance, especially as an outsider entering the unfamiliar terrain of a new family. But if you're rhythm-deficient, now is not the time to show everyone how much you love doing the Electric Slide in your free time at home. If you're allergic to nuts you have no business eating Uncle Lorenzo's famous pecan pie. And what sense does it make for you to cheer on the Jets when you don't even know any of the players names and you're a diehard Patriots fan anyway? It's nice to be accepted, but most people want to accept the genuine you, not the fake you.
1. Keep a Drink in Your Hand and a Smile on Your Face.
This one actually came from my husband. I must give credit where credit is due.
P.S. - The Black Girl's Guide to Surviving the Holidays With White In-Laws is basically the same. Just turn Uncle Flo and Uncle Lorenzo into Uncle Jim, Uncle Bob, or Uncle Jim Bob.