Comedian John Mulaney jokes about how it is counter-intuitive that, when relationships are going well, couples decide to meet one anothers’ families.
THIS HITS HOME FOR ME.
It can be awkward and anxiety-provoking. Why do we do it? Why?!
Because it simply must be done.
In my first ever relationship, we started to talk “meet the family” around the nine month mark. And by ‘we,’ I mean ‘me.’ He decidedly did not want to meet my fam. Therefore, I did what a great many people have done before me in times of relational conflict: I iced him out, and we took a week long “break.” Like a great many people who mostly just act when ultimatums are handed to them, he ultimately decided to yield and consented to meet them.
I won the ultimatum (or so I thought)!
As a result, we *cough cough* “made up” for the third time ever; the very next day he told me he couldn’t actually come with me anymore, because of a scheduling conflict with his own family. To his genuine surprise, I promptly kicked him to the curb (for three entire months, before I agreed to getting back together).
Please note I have learned a lot about boundaries since then. Don’t be younger me. Don’t be passive aggressive. Don’t give ultimatums.
You don’t want to actually go through the semantics of having your love interest meet your family, you just want them to want to meet them.
You get me, right?
In my second ever “so we agree, this is a relationship” relationship, he brought up wanting to meet my family after only a couple of months. Given my prior experience, my response was to question him about what game he was trying to play.
Why would he want to meet my family? What was his ulterior motive?!
It was too easy.
Just four months after we started dating, my now husband and I drove to my grandparents’ house for dinner with them, my Step-Dad, my four sisters, and my nieces and nephews.
I had warned him about my crass Grandpa, whose three great loves in life, excluding Grandma, are mowing his grass, Donald Trump, and fighting with me about politics.
I warned him my Grandma would be so perfect he would want her to adopt him.
I warned him about how I would likely turn into a fire-breathing dragon when some of my sisters would inevitably attempt to bait me. I warned him.
The thing about me is that I can present as being super sweet and quiet and agreeable, untillllll you learn, NO, I’m not really like that all the time.
I have two personalities. One is what I call “kindergarten teacher.” Many people assume I teach kindergarten and have kids of my own. Nope and nope. I get it though. I am a care-er to my core, I am creative, and I am just a nurturing little baby whisperer. Seriously, kids meet me and just know I’m good people and will play with them. However, “kindergarten teacher” is only half of my personality.
My other personality is what I call “boss.” If you meet me in a class, or in a work related meeting, you might wrongfully assume I’m in charge of some things. Nope. I get it, too, though. I can be terse, obnoxiously logical, and speak authoritatively— using periods instead of question marks. In the real world though, I try to keep this side of me under wraps.
Until I reach my breaking point.
Then, I am the girl yelling this: “GIVE ME A SOAPBOX AND A MICROPHONE, BECAUSE I HAVE SOME THINGS TO SAY, PEOPLE.”
Nothing gets me to my true retaliation-rant form quite like 10 minutes or so of Fox News–the news channel exclusively played in my Grandparents’ living room, or an inevitable sass-off with my youngest sister.
All of this was explained to him beforehand, but he still wanted to meet them. He was allegedly prepared to see past the “kindergarten teacher” version of myself. It was a bold move.
And it went exactly as I described it to him. I told him so, and it was so.
We had dinner with my family, crowded around my Grandparents’ dining room table.
This is how said dinner started…
My Grandpa said, “Sean, I already know I like ya. Jessica said you are a nice conservative boy, so you’re pretty good in my book.”
My Step-Dad (whom I call Dad) said, “yeah, we’ve been hoping she would find a nice conservative guy who would help us unbrainwash her. If it were up to her, she would have us give all of our hard-earned money to those people on welfare.” Insert some other generic comment about me being a Socialist, and so on and so on.
This is when Sean met the true me.
I got my pointer finger out and looked around the table at my family, and said, “raise your hand if you have ever been on any type of government assistance. Your hand should be up (point) and your hand should be up (point) and your hand should be up (point)! We can’t act like we don’t know “those people on welfare.” Half of us at this table, at the very least, have been “those people” at one point or another. We can’t pretend like we are any better than those who need help now, or like they don’t deserve help when people in our own family did. So yes, I believe in sacrificing a little bit to help people who need to be helped.”
Silence. Much like after any textbook mic drop, there was silence.
Then my Grandma, like the sweet angel she is, politely changed the subject.
Thus ended our discussion about politics, and we all ate something smothered in gravy, while my Grandpa drilled Sean about his job and his family and my sisters asked inappropriate questions they already knew the answers to.
When we got in the car to head home, Sean said two things to me:
“One, your grandpa is exactly like you described him.”
“Two, that. was. awesome.”
I was afraid the sassy rant me would be what made him realize he, a conservative boy, couldn’t date me long-term. (I have literally been told, following a first date, that I was “politically dangerous,” and therefore they could not date me). Instead, my fiery defense of my beliefs ended up being exactly what made Sean start falling in love with me.
When I was not present, he also told his conservative Father about it, to which his Dad said, “good for her!” He can appreciate a well-argued rant, regardless of whether or not he entirely agrees with it. I have grown to love him especially for it.
Now, at weekly Sunday night dinners, my two favorite Rukavina men listen to the rants I have pitched in the week prior, and tell me they are proud of me. It is why this year has included me standing up for myself, and the principles I believe in, more than ever before. They are constantly helping me to embrace my inner boss.
What I have observed, in my soon-to-be thirty ancient wisdom, is some people who have experienced hardships understandably cannot wait to do all they can to separate themselves from the circumstances; they don’t want to be associated with the problem, or those going through it, no matter how far removed they are from it themselves. An example would be people who have managed to dig themselves out of a financial hole and are then resistant to helping those in hard times; they claim they were able to pull themselves out of it on their own, and others should, too. I guess I can understand that. But it’s not how I choose to operate.
Instead, I use the memory of my hardest times to push me to help others who are still going through them. I use the memory of all of the people who helped me make it, without turning to government assistance, to help others likewise.
My husband, who has never experienced real financial hardship himself, has very sweetly and empathetically walked with me through some of my memories of struggle and allowed it to shape how we share our money and resources.
It is also worth noting my husband has admitted he will have to vote for Elizabeth Warren in the next presidential election, if she gets the nomination, because of my massive student loan debt load.
So, I ask you, who un-brainwashed who?