Meeting a boyfriend's parents has always scared me.
I think it's because I don't know how to behave. The things my men tend to like about me - that I'm a bit weird, that I'm funny, that I have orange hair and wear strange clothes - don't appeal to parents - mothers especially - as they want a nice sensible girl for their boy. Not someone wearing a dress with parakeets on it.
And I've always found the ritual to be a kiss of death in any relationship: a dead weight round both your necks as it declares you both to be a cute couple, who go visiting, taking little gifts along and sitting prim on the couch sipping tea and joking with the mother about how he just never learns to take the bins out, does he? I hate all that. It makes me cringe. But I fall into that stereotype whenever I meet the parents as I need something to act along to. I need a script as I can't possibly be myself, ie the weird one dressed in parakeets.
My first real boyfriend - Terry Boy - had a perfect attitude towards meeting the parents. I was only 21 at the time and hadn't even developed the parakeet persona, as we'll call it, so would have been clutching at nothingness had I been thrown into such a meeting. His dad lived across the road from us so it was horribly inevitable that, one evening, Terry would suggest we just pop over to meet his dad. But he never did. Instead, we'd just see his dad every now and then on the street. It was Maryhill so it'd usually be wet and grim and cold, so we'd just stop for a minute or two to nod hello. I could handle that as it was always quick but, most importantly, unexpected so there was no fretting about what to wear and how to act.
Perhaps I should have been insulted that there was never a proper meeting, that there was no invitation to go over and have tea, but I was just wildly relieved.
Years later, dating Shug, there was a totally different approach. We were heading off on a day trip to St Andrews one lovely sunny day. We'd been on the road for about twenty minutes when Shug announced we'd be making a quick stop at Grangemouth. Why, I asked him? He turned and said the awful words because it's time you met my dad. Meeting his dad? Oh God, but it was too late. The doors were locked. So, I was tricked. Bundled into a car and then told our hideous destination once I was securely strapped in.
Of course, both dads were perfectly nice and jolly, as dads so often tend to be, so where does my dread stem from? Is it perhaps the sinister figure of the mother who riddles me with fear?
When I was 17 I was going about with a boy whose mother despised me. She had never met me, but loathed me nonetheless. Simply knowing that a female was associating with her precious boy was enough to do it. I worked in Marks and Spencer at the time, folding lambswool jumpers day after day, or killing my feet by standing behind a till for six hours at a stretch. One day, I noticed a woman staring at me. She was standing behind a glass display cabinet of purple and silver pot pourri, just watching me. I looked behind me. Is she perhaps eyeing the poster behind my till about the M&S Storecard? I carried on serving my customers but every time I looked up she was there. She was a frightening woman, tall and thin, wrapped in a faded trench coat, with a lined face and pouches under her witchy eyes, perfectly still. The next time I looked up she had vanished, but I saw her again throughout the day, standing at the escalator, or walking past my till, always staring at me.
On my break I skipped down to Ladies Formalwear to see the boy and told him some crazy woman was stalking me.
'Yeah I know,' he said, smoothing out the receipts in his till, 'that's my mum. She said she'd be coming in to look at you.'
Mothers who cling unnaturally to their sons and hiss and spit at any girl who comes near them… middle-aged men who lock you in the car so you can be shown off to their old dad...if this is 'meeting the parents' then I want nothing to do with it!
But now that The Proclaimer and I are living together I suppose I'll have to do it. I just hope I can do it without being menaced and stalked and anxious and without being bundled off to Grangemouth.
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