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Ask The Ask The Good Enough Guy: White Fright!

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…. I’m terrified to introduce my black boyfriend to my white parents!

 

Dear Will,

I’m from a very small town in Ohio and ventured out to Los Angeles to be with the “beautiful people” while I was in college. After graduation I stayed in California and my parents never complained about my new life. Well, now I’ve fallen in love. I’m Caucasian and he’s not. My parents have never really known any African Americans and I’m very afraid of taking my new beau home. Every time I’m on the phone with my parents they ask questions about his heritage and now that I want them to meet, they are being even less sensitive. I know they mean well and want to understand, but I’m so scared to take my boyfriend home to my racially awkward parents. How do I do this, Will?

Scared To Go Home

 

Hey Scared,

Is there any chance that I could get you to set up a video camera at the dinner table, because I would LOVE to see this one! HA! Sorry, but I just couldn’t resist, and I strongly suggest you work on your sense of humor too, because you’re gonna need it. If you’re the type who takes these things too seriously, you’re in trouble. Take a deep breath, have a good laugh, and let me explain why this isn’t that big of a deal.

THIS ISN’T HIS FIRST TIME: This may be the first time that you’ve had to worry about an uncomfortable cultural conflict, but I’ll bet your boyfriend has had a few already. You see, there are places that a black person can go and be the only black person there, and there are places a white person can go and be the only white person there. The difference is white people don’t have to go to those places as often as black people do. Your boyfriend is dating a white person and is going to meet her (more than likely) all-white family. He probably has several white friends and has met many of their family members as well. And, there is a good chance that at least some of the people that he met were “racially uninformed.” I say this because, on some level, we all are racially uniformed; no one knows everything about every other race. Sometimes, we have to ask ridiculous questions so we don’t make ridiculous assumptions. Other times, we say offensive things because we honestly didn’t know any better. For me, I’d rather a person ask a sincere question to try to keep from offending me, then to apologize for something that they knew was offensive.  And trust me, I know the difference.

WHAT’S THE WORST THAT CAN HAPPEN?  You know that nightmare you’ve been having? It isn’t real. Your boyfriend isn’t going to kick your parent’s front door open, wearing a Black Panther T-shirt, pumping his fist in the air and shouting “Power to the people!” And your parents are not going to be in the backyard wearing white sheets with pointy hoods, roasting marshmallows around a burning cross (but if all of that does happen, PLEASE keep the camera rolling). Do you know what is going to happen? In a word: dinner. Your boyfriend will be nervous and try to make small talk. Your parents will be nervous and probably say some things that embarrass you. Your mother will probably warm up to him to some degree, because that’s what mothers do. Your father will think he’s alright but that you could have done better, because that’s what fathers think. And, in the end, you’ll all survive, and you’ll realize that the evening would have been equally disturbing no matter the color or race of boyfriend.

PLAY DOUBLE AGENT: It’s the best way to make this go smoothly. First, prepare you boyfriend. Tell him to be sure to mention that his father served in the Marine Corps, but not to mention that he’s a Democrat, a Raven’s fan, or a cat person. Tell him to save room for a piece of your mom’s chocolate cake, and to choke every bite of it down, even if he has to risk death to do so. Give him as much info as he can hold. He won’t get everything right, but at least he’ll feel prepared.

Next, talk to mom and dad. Tell mom that your boyfriend loves pot roast and that he can’t wait to try her famous chocolate cake. Tell dad that your second favorite guy can’t wait to meet her all-time-favorite guy. Answer all of their questions: the more you answer, the less he’ll have to. Make your parents feel like they already know him and like him.

And when they finally do meet, keep it simple, play it cool, and keep it short. You are the keystone that decides if this building stands or falls, so try to keep the attention on you. Laugh, tell stories, enjoy yourself, make everyone feel comfortable, and look for an excuse to exit. Get out while everyone is still having fun, promising to return as soon as you can. After the first meeting, any following get-together will be easier. And before you know it, your dad and your boyfriend are sitting next to each other on the piano singing a duet of “Ebony and Ivory.” Okay, that ain’t gonna happen, but MAN am I having a good time with this!

No matter how awkward they may seem, your parents love you and want you to be happy. If they see that this guy wants the same thing for you, there’s a really good chance they’ll do their best to treat him right. If they screw up a little, give them the benefit of the doubt. Because one of the things that every race has in common is that none of us is perfect.

Best of luck to all of you.

More From Good Enough Mother:

Ask The Good Enough Guy: Where Are All The GOOD Men?

Our Story Begins: And Where Do We Go From Here?

The GEM Debate: When Is A Relationship Age Gap Too Big?

 

William Jones is originally from the tiny town of Alton, Illinois, and now lives in the tinier town of Reisterstown, Maryland. He is a happy husband and a proud father of three, and writes as a hobby, in those few moments he finds between husbanding and daddy-ing. Follow him on Twitter @goodenoughguy1.

9 Comments

  1. Sandra Sharp

    March 3, 2012 at 10:13 am

    What a thoughtful response! I have been in this situation and I did absolutly everything wrong! So wrong. This is great advice….where was GEM 30 years ago!

  2. Mary

    March 3, 2012 at 10:19 am

    well said, Will. However, since she’s asking the question, it can’t possibly go as smoothly as you’ve laid out, so I too want to see the hidden camera footage!

  3. Mairo Speaks!

    March 3, 2012 at 10:27 am

    Luv this response! Wishing them all the best.

  4. Lashell

    March 3, 2012 at 11:09 am

    “Ebony and Ivory….live together in perfect harmony!”.

  5. m.e. johnson

    March 3, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    You’re hilarious, Will. For sure give Dude some credit for having experience in this type situation. Maybe she should watch the movie “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner”.

  6. Elizabeth

    March 3, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    Once again, you come with excellent advice, and great humor! Love this!

  7. Mike McGinley

    March 3, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    I hope it goes smoothly! I’ve seen such situations go not-so-great and it’s really heartbreaking when a parent shuns you for the color of your significant other’s skin. The couple to which I’m referring are still together and happy as ever, hoping one day the parents will come around and accept it. For the old-school-type, it takes time sometimes, unfortunately. : (

  8. Joss

    March 3, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    I think your response was great Will! But I have one thing to add, and this is from experience. After all, 6 years ago I introduced my Filipino boyfriend (now husband) to my very white, culturally uninformed parents. We had dinner, small talk, and everything went smoothly. Then we watched the movie Guess Who with Ashton Kutcher and Bernie Mac. You know, the movie where Ashton is brought home to his AA girlfriends house and Bernie Mac is the Father. It was perfect and made my dad and boyfriend laugh at all the onscreen awkwardness and we all had a good laugh. Anyway, I would recommend this movie as a back up ice breaker if the family is into watching movies together. It worked for us….

  9. Will Jones

    March 3, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    Sandra- I doubt if you did EVERYTHING wrong… but it can feel that way! LOL. Just remember that nothing teaches like making mistakes; it’s how we grow. Thank you for the great compliments.

    Mary- I think if she thought her parents were actually racists, she wouldn’t be taking this guy home. I believe she’s just worried that they’ll say or do some embarrassing things. It probably won’t go as smoothly as she’d like; few things ever do, but luckily they seldom go as badly as they could either. Here’s to hoping for a good spot in the middle, or at least some really great footage! 😉

    Mario- Thanks, and me too! LOL

    Lashell- Can’t you just see them sitting at the piano together? (…neither can I!)

    M.E. I love that movie! Sidney Poitier is a favorite of mine!

    Elizabeth- Thank you sooo much for the compliment, and for reading my column.

    Mike- I’ve seen it go badly too, but as I said, there’s a big difference between not knowing what your parents might say, and knowing exactly what they’ll say. I had a friend that didn’t even bother to try to introduce his Japanese girlfriend to his parents because he’d heard all of his life how his dad felt about it. When his dad did fin out, he basically dis-owned his son. Now his parents have a beautiful daughter-in-law and two fantastic grandsons that they probably never meet… and a son who doesn’t come home anymore, all because they’re too stubborn to let go of old ideas. No one suffers more than a close-minded person. Thanks for commenting.

    Joss- That might actually be a GREAT idea. Even if they can’t laugh at themselves just yet, they could probably laugh at what they see of themselves in the movie. Maybe she’ll read this before the big night, and work it into the evening! I’m so glad it worked for you, and congratulations on six years of being with the right guy! 🙂

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