Anastasia e-mailed me the following question last week:
I've been a fan of your blog for a while and both you and your mom give thoughtful, well-written advice, so I'd really like her (and your) take on this question: what do you wear when you're trying to Impress His Mom? I'm eating with my boyfriend and his mom in a couple of weeks and would like her to get a good impression, so any etiquette/clothing tips? I would hate to come across as rude or tasteless...also, in casual situations that might involve running into her, what do you recommend wearing?
Here's what mom had to say:
How thoughtful that you want to impress his mother! My advice is to wear something on the conservative side. You’ll never regret playing it safe. Keep your own style, but if it’s a little bit out there tone it down. Avoid showing a lot of skin and stick to outfits where you're mostly covered. Before the big day arrives, ask what the restaurant attire is and be sure that you're dressed appropriately. If it's at his house, ask your boyfriend what your family usually wears to family gatherings and try to dress accordingly. Even if they're very casual, you'll want to look put together (jeans, a blouse and flats instead of a tank top, ratty jeans and flip flops, for instance).
Now, you can’t control a situation where you just happen to run into his mother and you’re wearing miniskirt or plunging neckline. If you're in that situation, try to be polite, respectful and confident that she will see your true personality beyond the belly ring and realize what a find you are for her son. It wouldn’t hurt to laugh off an excuse like, “Sorry, you caught me on my laundry day."
As far as restaurant etiquette goes, here are a few tips for making the best impression:
- Don’t monopolize the conversation
- Be cognizant of the expense if someone else has offered to pick up the tab
- Offer to pay for your own meal but accept with grace if there is any objection
- Don’t order more than you’ll eat
- Include her in your conversation and ask her questions but stay away from discussing controversial subjects like politics, religion, sex, etc.
- Don’t drink if she isn’t drinking – better yet, don’t drink on the first meeting at all.
- Don’t be competitive for your boyfriend’s attention. He still belongs to her and she will probably always feel that way.
- Keep your hands to yourself. No fingering his hair or sneaking in kisses at the table.
- Send a thank you note to her the next day.
- Always bring a gift for the hostess
- Offer to help with dinner
- Don’t overstay your welcome.
- Make sure to send a thank you note to her the next day.
I wrote a very detailed post about meeting your significant other's parents for the first time in an earlier post, which you can read here. My biggest suggestion is to do some reconnaissance work beforehand and find out absolutely everything you can about her, the family, the restaurant, etc before the big dinner. The more prepared you are, the less likely it'll be that you make a faux pas.
Once you know what the restaurant dress code is (you can always call the restaurant yourself and ask what most people wear), ask your boyfriend how his mother dresses. If she's a very formal woman herself, dress up a little more than you usually would. If she lives in jeans, wear jeans yourself (but again, you still want to look put together). Find out what her interests are so you can ask questions during the meal (there's nothing worse than a dead conversation the first time you meet someone), it'll show that you're interested in learning more about her and getting to know who she is as a person and not just your boyfriend's mom.
It's also good to find out if there's anything about yourself that you should downplay in front of her. Perhaps she has very different political views, or she's uncomfortable with the fact that you're of a different religion than her family. Avoid those topics, and if she's at all confrontational about it, stay calm, answer her as best you can and try to steer the conversation toward something else.
I also definitely agree with my mom. If you want to impress her so much, it definitely suggests that you'll probably do a fantastic job impressing her.
Anyone else have any suggestions for Anastasia?