Help! My Family Is Embarrassing

Ask Demetria: Five ways to reduce stress when you bring a mate home for the holidays.

2. Make sure your family knows your date’s name (and that they know he or she isn’t the person who showed up last year).

My grandmother had Alzheimer’s, a condition that resulted in many embarrassing moments, like the time a relative arrived at a family dinner with his new companion, the woman he’d begun dating after he and his wife divorced. My grandmother saw them together, pointed to the woman in horror and loudly accused, “That is not your wife!” My mother and I calmed her down and corrected her, and just when things were settled, Grandma yelled it again.

That’s the worst-case scenario, of course. But a relative who greets your date with, “Hey, Marvin, good to have you back,” when your date’s name is Chris and this is his first visit, will have the same effect on him. 

3. Warn your date of family traditions.

My friend Sophia was raised in America, but her parents are from London by way of Lagos; thus they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s no bigger deal than, say, your average Sunday dinner. Her boyfriend invited her to Thanksgiving dinner where the men cook, per family tradition.

After Sophia ate, she, a football fan, headed to the basement with the men to watch the game and hang out with her boyfriend instead of staying upstairs with the women, per another family tradition, to clean up. There’s no way she could have known this without being told, but because she didn’t pick up on it or offer to help with the dishes, his mother took it as a sign she was “rude” and didn’t “fit” with the family and held a grudge against her for years.

4. Rescue your mate from awkward situations.

If your family is anything like mine, someone (age 70-plus) will find the most inappropriate time of the night and when everyone is in earshot to ask about some personal issue that is none of their business. For me, it was the elderly aunt, who asked my boyfriend (of less than a year) why it was taking so long for him to ask me to marry him. He sputtered for so long, I just told him, “Why don’t you head to the basement … now!”