I missed out on the tradition of a dowry. The closest thing to a dowry I got was the assumption of my wife’s debt (I can’t begin to convey to you how much my wife will hate that joke). Ritual and tradition are important parts of relationships. It’s one reason why we celebrate anniversaries. They help ground us in remembrance of a greater story. One of the rites of passage for a relationship is the dreaded meeting of the folks.

In this case, the story that this rite of passage dives us into is that of your significant other’s life. Their story began with their parents and to a great degree, the person they will become is foreshadowed in them. Meeting the parents can be a dreaded rite of passage in many relationships, especially if the child is either close to their parents, seeks their approval/values their opinion, or simply wants everyone to like each other.

[Granted, interracial relationships can sometimes have specific bumps to navigate. My wife is lucky that I even thought about bringing another white woman home to meet my mom. The last one I brought home actually thought the line “I think my family used to own your family” was a good conversation breaker. I’m surprised that my one-day-going-to-be-my-wife didn’t walk out on the spot with people flipping off each other, food being thrown (everything from chicken wings to rolls to ice), people eating from each other’s plate and yelling so loud it couldn’t possibly just be casual conversation.

When I had to meet her family, it was like navigating a Bosnian minefield. She had me over for Easter dinner. Upon my arrival and introduction as “a friend,” her sister went “mmm” and walked out. Her mother, trying to bond with me, spent the afternoon telling me about how I came from “a spiritual people.” The entire time, my one-day-going-to-be-my-wife stared over at me with eyes pleading “please be good. For me.”]

Forgive the generalization, but parents want to know that their children, daughters especially, will be taken care of, provided for, or otherwise will just be happy. The meeting is simply a chance for everyone to know what they are getting into. Though many parents might smile at your antics to be polite, or otherwise try to engage you, you can believe that at their first opportunity, they will start whispering in their daughters ear about whether she knows what she’s getting into.

It’s important to meet the family and observe the dynamic in action. This is the laboratory that your special someone was created in. The dynamic you are involved with because when you date someone, you date their families too. Treat them seriously, because they are a rite of passage for the budding seriousness of your relationship. Like first dates, first impressions count (though, with time, they can be overcome).

Next time, because I made someone a promise, we are “meeting the kids.”

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