How do you introduce your significant other to your family for the first time over the holidays?

Illustration: Nadia Snopek

@AskPeaches: I’m a lesbian from Chattanooga, Tennessee, but live in Atlanta, Georgia. I’m going home for Thanksgiving and I plan to take my girlfriend. My immediate family knows about my sexuality, but the folks in my community do not. This will be the first time my family has met anyone I’ve dated. How do you deal with the seeming awkwardness of bringing back your boo to your hometown?

@Mia: On Thanksgiving Day, you’ve chosen the perfect day to share with your family someone that means so much to you. Our Founding Fathers recognize a day of giving thanks to celebrate their blessings of the past year, so your action here is more than symbolic—especially given the hardship that unfolded in 2020. The truth is — the harder part is over. You’ve already come out to your family. Presumably, they’ve also known of your girlfriend.

The way you’ve phrased the question suggests that you’re concerned about your family’s reception of your girlfriend. But don’t forget that this experience will be new for her as well. It’s stressful enough to introduce your partner to your family, let alone at a gathering where they will see you interact in new and different ways. Choosing this occasion is a great idea; as it is a time of celebration, the primary focus will not be on you.

Here are some tips to consider to make your meeting stress-free and pleasant:

  • Medical and scientific experts have been recommending that everyone should limit their travel and do virtual Thanksgiving celebrations this year, since we are still in Covid times. In fact, the rates of cases seem to be increasing in Chattanooga, so you want to be careful, especially if you, your girlfriend or anyone in your family is among the most vulnerable groups for the virus. Perhaps, get tested for the virus before and encourage your family to do so and wear a mask or practice social distancing.

  • Before heading there, make sure to prepare your girlfriend about any family dynamic or any subjects to avoid in conversation. You don’t want to have any surprises or create any awkwardness. You should also set expectations with your family in advance.

  • If there will be family members present who will be learning about your sexuality for the first time, use your discretion whether to let them know ahead of time, or determine whether the first meeting should be with a much smaller group.

  • If you are spending the night at your family’s place, work out the sleeping arrangements ahead, or perhaps stay at a hotel or Airbnb closeby for your own comfort.

  • You and your girlfriend should show up with a little gift not only as a courtesy but also as as a reminder of your union.

  • Consider any games or family activities where you can incorporate your partner to help break the ice.

  • Allow your girlfriend some time with your family without your presence so that she can make her own impression unfiltered by you.

  • You don’t need any grand pronouncements, just relax, enjoy and get lost in the mac and cheese or with a turkey leg.

It may be unavoidable to run into folks outside of your family who may not know about your sexuality or with whom you may not have interacted in a while. In fact, seeing them may trigger past fears you may have left behind moving to the big city. But remember why you’re there. It’s not about them. It’s about you and spending time with your family. Don’t shrink back into your younger, perhaps more-guarded self. Don’t give anyone that kind of control. You’re on your way. You’ve changed. You’ve grown. You’re blessed.

The @AskPeacheas column is prepared by committee but written from one person’s experience. Send emails to askpeaches [at] freshfruitinc [dot] com with “@AskPeaches” in the subject line. Be sure to give enough background, so the advice can be more specific and relevant.

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