When you're in a blossoming romance, there is a wonderful progression through the steps of courtship. You meet and like someone; the 'like' turns into butterflies whenever you think about, talk to or see that person; the butterflies turn into bigger butterflies that make you feel quite nauseous at times; you can't sleep or eat or concentrate on anything, and after the shock of these new feelings subsides slightly, you realise you might like this person quite a bit, ok a lot; you try and keep things quiet for a few weeks while getting to know each other but it's hopeless and you tell everyone you know about how you feel. You tell your best friends, your parents, the rest of your family... you tell random strangers on the bus how hopelessly in love you are.... No? Oh, that's just me then. But after all the 'telling', are the 'introductions'. You meet their friends, they meet yours... And then if that goes well, after a long pause, you get the courage up to meet the parents.
The reason so many comedies have been written about these occasions is because it is a minefield of possible disasters. You want to give such a good impression that your nerves are shattered before you even meet them. Most men tend to imagine that all girlfriends' Fathers will be like Robert De Niro in 'Meet the Fockers', who begins a slow and intense interrogation and background check of the boyfriend, from the minute he shakes his hand. (Must be a firm handshake too, by the way, God forbid its a limp fish!) Girls usually assume their boyfriends' Mothers won't think they can take care of their 'little boys' and go overboard with their domestic goddess abilities, whilst being very careful not to 'outdo' the Mum. It sounds all very 1950's but having talked to friends over the years, not much has changed. It's very simple... the parents want their children to be happy and loved and cared for. But in order to ascertain wether that new partner can do that, the first meetings can be slightly tortuous.
I am off the hook for now... Mr Blue is Irish, therefore a trip to Cork to meet the family (at least a 100 of them by the sounds of it) is a little way off. What I did do last weekend, however, was meet his son. I was absolutely terrified because this was almost more intimidating than meeting the parents. Having experienced my own nephews at this tender, hormonal, difficult age, a fifteen year old teenage boy is quite hard work at the best of times... Monosyllabic, shy, stroppy, grunting and bored. So I prepared myself for an awkward few hours. I couldn't have been more wrong. The initial introduction was slightly embarrassing as I didn't know wether to hug him, kiss him or just say hello, and instead, thrust my hand across the table for a weirdly formal handshake. It didn't seem to phase him at all, thank god, and I'm happy to report it was confident and firm in return. I possibly babbled a bit much, was rather dramatic in my story-telling, surprise surprise, and maybe didn't breathe as much as I should have between sentences, causing me to slightly hyperventilate but all in all, it went really well. I thought he was charming and adorable, just like his Father, and as he reported back to Mr Blue later that evening, he thought I was: cool, fun, bubbly, full of beans, cool, cool, crazy in a good way and cool. So I think that's good and um... cool?
This weekend, however, Mr Blue will meet my parents. Now as you will recall, my Mother and Mr Blue have already shared a fairly excruciating but hilarious phone call, mistaking identities and becoming a bit too familiar... so that has broken the ice already, with them, so to speak. My Father though, is a different kettle of fish and slightly harder to please. Although he has very much mellowed with age, and is actually a bit of a softie, he still wants the best for his little girls.
In our early years, he had quite a terrifying reputation among our boyfriends. If they were brave enough to make it past the front door, they were usually led into the sitting room to be cross-examined. Boys were NEVER allowed upstairs in our house - even if they were dying for the loo and the downstairs one was occupied - so if they passed the first interview, we would then have to hang out in the playroom, knowing full well at any moment, the door could burst open and Dad would be there to check up on us. If we went out, there would be a long list of rules and regulations, endless questions of where we were going and what time we'd be home, and so on. One of my sisters' boyfriends was so scared of my Father that he would sit in his car, honking the horn, rather than coming into the house. My Father got so annoyed with this that he stood on the front steps one night and shouted "Only geese honk!", at the cowering boyfriend. On another occasion, some village boys had climbed up onto the wall outside my bedroom window and were flirting and being silly and the next thing I knew, my Father was outside, aiming an air rifle at them. They were terrified but got their revenge by digging up our house sign and throwing it over the hedge into a bed of nettles. This happened every few days and continued for years! Another boyfriend and I drove down to see my parents one weekend and before he could get out of the car, my father got into the passenger seat and told him to drive. That was his way of getting to know him. Haha.
But I soon realised, as I began regaling these amusing stories to Mr Blue, that I possibly should have waited until after the weekend to share them, as he was turning a very funny, shade of pale.