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Caroline Rules

How to Make a Good Impression When You're Meeting the Parents

Caroline Manzo puts the real in The Real Housewives of New Jersey, and her fans relate to the reality star's no-nonsense attitude, focus on family and, above all, abundant common sense. Check back at Glo every Monday as Caroline helps solve your most pressing dilemmas.

The Dilemma: With the holidays in full swing, some of us will be meeting our significant other's families for the very first time. How can we make good impressions on our future in-laws, and what kinds of faux pas should we try to avoid? Also, when going to their homes, what is an appropriate host/hostess gift to bring? Anything else we should be sure to do or not do during a first meeting with the fam?

Caroline's Ruling: Great question! It's funny how the thought of meeting “the parents” can propel some individuals into a state of pure panic. Why? Why is it almost instinctive to turn into a chameleon, morphing into what you assume is the person they expect to be worthy of their child's love? In my opinion, the worst thing you can do is be anything less than yourself. You are the one your significant other cares for, not your “representative.”

By representative I mean the people pleaser. Think about it: How long can you keep the charade up, and when you are revealed for who you really are, what happens then? Not worth the risk or the aggravation that's sure to follow.

Having said that, I think it's common courtesy to act appropriately. Make an effort to interact with the family on some level, whether it be through conversation, lending a hand in the kitchen or joining in on a game or activity. There are many ways for your personality to shine through. Go with what works for you. Obviously, there are some things that are downright inappropriate on any level. You need to respect the fact that you're a guest in someone's home. Don't abuse their hospitality by behaving rudely or dressing in an inappropriate manner. Save the f-bombs and the chainmail bustier for another time. In other words, don't make your hosts feel uncomfortable in their own home.

I'm a big fan of fresh flowers for a hostess gift. Don't go overboard. It should just be a little token of appreciation for the invitation into their home. It's not a wedding. Too much can be insulting. Remember, no one likes a showoff. A simple gesture of flowers, or even homemade baked goods with a handwritten note of thanks, goes a long way.

Once again, I find myself thinking of my own children. I want three things for them: a lifetime of love, health and happiness. Their partner is a big factor in two of the three — love and happiness. I don't care if you can't cook, or you don't make a million dollars a year and like to you wear lime green every day of your life. So what? When you walk into a room, I want to see my child's face light up. Guess what? I will love you forever. I'm willing to bet most parents would agree with me.

  • From marriage dilemmas to family issues, Caroline's got the answers!

    Photo by Michael T. Greco
Caroline Rules
How to Make a Good Impression When You're Meeting the Parents
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