I wrote once about what it was like for me to meet Mian's parents for the first time. It was just days before our wedding, they'd arrived in America only a few days prior, and in less than a week we were all living in the same house. Whirlwind doesn't even begin to describe it.
How Mian met my parents for the first time was a bit different. After I met him, we were officially boyfriend & girlfriend only one week later. That's pretty much all it took for my mother to start haranguing me to bring him to meet my parents. Well, maybe not right then, but it certainly wasn't a full month before I was being repeatedly asked when this meeting was going to take place.
First, I worried about how to ask Mian to do this for me. It's a strategic dance, modern dating is. I didn't want him to freak out that I was "moving too fast" but I knew that by all accounts asking your 1-month-shy boyfriend to meet your parents did certainly qualify for moving fast! But my parents weren't letting up, my father joined in, and anyway, I REALLY liked this guy and we were already speaking for hours on the phone every single day, so I took the chance.
We went to pick up a pizza once, and while waiting in the parking lot, I sprung the question on him. He responded in a kind of measured way, told me he'd think about it, and get back to me. The rest of the evening was awkward, the pizza was tasteless, and I couldn't wait to get out of there, sure I'd ruined it. I only found out much later that he consulted with his group of close friends about it - all of whom told him it was too soon, too fast, definitely don't do it.
Luckily he ignored them. Or just wasn't able to do what they told him for whatever reason. I can't remember exactly how he told me he'd do it, but he said he was nervous - he'd never 'met the parents' before. Suddenly I had an idea - I could bring a friend! Jennifer, the girl who'd been with me the night we first met, who'd gone on our first date with us, who'd hung out with us in a group many times since then - she'd be perfect! She was my best friend since our early teens, she was close to my parents, close to me, comfortable with Mian, and she'd help deflect attention and keep conversations going. She could serve as Mian's backup. I asked and she agreed, so we set up the meeting with my parents.
I was nervous. It's such a strange thing. Two sides of your life converging. Your parents could end up looking at you like "Who is this girl? We raised her to date THIS kind of man?" and your boyfriend could end up looking at you like "What kind of crazy woman is this if THAT'S the kind of people who raised her?" M was really nervous too. "Backup" as we started calling Jennifer, was enjoying her important role.
We decided to meet my parents at a restaurant - neutral territory. M, Jennifer and I all drove together - he was really pleased with the idea of having backup. When we walked into the restaurant - Chili's Tex Mex - my parents were already there, standing in the lobby waiting for a table. Introductions were exchanged, hands were shaked, and then, my weird parents immediately launched into making fun of Mian for having to bring backup.
My family is a very jovial, joking group. I'd known that would happen. NOW, with the benefit of eight year with him, I know how weird that must have been for M. He took a long time to fully understand all the ins and outs of my family's very sarcastic American humor. But back then I didn't know how different our families were from each other. Looking back, I'm really impressed that M was able to kind of immediately adapt and roll with the punches that evening, to give almost as good as he got and fall into a pace with my mother and father. The dinner went really well, with both my parents telling me later that they really liked Mian, that they enjoyed seeing our interaction, and M saying that he'd enjoyed meeting my parents. They didn't meet again for two months, when I brought M to his first official large family gathering - Thanksgiving.
There are a few things remaining in our lives from that one meeting, though.
First, because the meeting took place before the truth came out about where Mian was from, my whole family knows the Brunei story and still tease him about it sometime. It was actually one of the few faults they found in him during the early days, kind of a "if he lied about that what else is there..." kind of thing, for which I can't blame them and thought myself for a while too. Luckily, eight years down the road we all pretty much know all there is to know about him and it's just a joke.
Second, when I first met him he'd introduced himself with a shortened version of his name - only the last four letters of his seven letter first name. By itself those four letters are a common men's name in America and elsewhere. I found out that his name was longer than that on our first date when I asked him if I could rifle through his wallet, but I just assumed it was the nickname he went by. What I didn't know is that *I* was the only one calling him that nickname, he's chopped his name in half right on the spot when we first met and no one had ever called him that but me. But I didn't know then, and I introduced him to my parents with the short Americanized version of his name. They still call him that. In fact, I still call him that most of the time when I'm talking or thinking about him, just because that's always been the way I thought of him from Day 1. (I call him "Mian" when I'm talking TO him.)
Lastly, ALL of us still call Jennifer "Backup" sometimes - it's our little nickname for her :-)