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Holidays are about family — and sometimes, that includes the significant other’s family. My parents have not liked any of my boyfriends, and I’ve told every boyfriend to be himself. That was my mistake. It’s not that he can’t be himself — it’s just that he should be the professional version. I might be able to forgive drinking out of the milk carton; however, my dad will instantly go into the bacterial colonization of the defenseless milk. (I should really show him the carton in Pecker.)

Meeting the family should be handled much like a college interview. Here are some pointers for the “interview” with the inlaws:

Be Interested

You shouldn’t apply to a college you’re not interested in — same goes here, you shouldn’t date people you don’t care about. People who’ve watched you grow up can tell when you’re smitten with someone. Out of respect for you, they usually try to understand why — what makes Person X so great. Be prepared to justify the relationship. Word of advice: interested does not mean, “can’t keep our hands off each other.” You don’t want to imagine your family members having sex, and it’s safe to say, they probably feel the same way about you.

Dress for Success

Clothes provide the first impression, and I’m not just saying this as a shopaholic. We’ve all seen shirts that scream “BOOBS!” No one should want people to gawk at their chest. However, overdressing is just as bad as underdressing. If someone shows up overdressed, people wonder what they’re compensating for. My suggestion, be safe, go business-casual, which means no suits and no jeans.

Know a Joke

Believe it or not, some people are sarcastic! Parents, mine included, will lovingly bash their children. My parents love to tell this story about how I extorted the Tooth Fairy for years, and they’ll even show evidence of it. They always add the line, “We should’ve realized what we were getting into there.” Under no circumstances, should someone turn a joke into actual bashing. No one is perfect, but leave pointing out flaws to the parents. They usually notice them anyways. Plus, if your girlfriend is so horrible, why are you dating her?

Research

Most people Googled their college interviewer to better predict what to expect. Well, in this case, you have the added resource of your significant other. In theory, they know their family better than anyone else. For instance, I know the quickest way to my dad’s heart is to read his PNAS publication and discuss it with him. While it might be considered “cheating” to do such, if there’s a conversation starter that you find interesting, why not go with it? However, don’t feign interest in a topic — it’ll be obvious and obnoxious.

Show Respect

We hear about the Golden Rule from a young age: treat others like you want to be treated. Your parents are stuck with you, but that doesn’t mean your significant other’s parents are also. If you’re disrespectful or rude, expect it back. Turn the other cheek if the situation pans out vice versa. Avoid these common scenarios of disrespect: using the cell phone during dinner, calling the pets fat (seriously, it might be true, but that’s like calling someone’s child fat), bashing religion or politics, and showing aggressive behavior. Also, remember, no family is perfect — don’t exploit imperfections. Family drama is amplified during the holiday season, and like the politicians, keep family private.

Understand Rejection

It’s impossible to be liked by everyone. So, stay true to yourself, and you will find fulfillment. If your significant other’s family hates you, don’t take it as a personal failure. You’re dating a person — you’re not supposed to be dating their family. If a relationship doesn’t work out because of this, it’ll be ok. Disney propels this notion of a “one,” and well that’s entirely unrealistic.

When you think of most people’s quest for “happily ever after,” there’s never only one meaningful relationship. People need to lose to love. There are always many reasons for a breakup. There’s no point in thinking, “If it wasn’t for their family, we’d still be together.” Chances are something else would’ve broken you up. Rejection hurts, but it’s a process of life.

Meeting the significant other’s family this holiday season? Well, meeting the pets is scarier, as there’s no way to actually prepare for this. Sure, you can bring cheese, but my dog will eat it and then bark. Loyal pets don’t usually change their minds— they actually judge on a deeper level.