My black American boyfriend had no trouble charming my Brazilian family the first time they met for dinner. He brought flowers for my mom and told my father he respected his daughter.
But I was a little nervous about whether they would get along throughout the rest of the night. It wasn’t just the first dinner, it was the first time they were even meeting.
At first, the conversation was a little awkward with my parent’s heavy accent and my boyfriend having to ask for clarification repeatedly.
But then the golden moment happened - the moment in which they realized they shared the same belief on a particular issue.
“Walyce talks too much,” my father said.
“Oh yeah, she has something to say about everything,” said my boyfriend.
They all burst out in laughter saying how accurate that statement is.
After a little pouting, I conformed. Even though they bonded at my expense, it was great to see my boyfriend become a part of my family.
But not everyone in interracial relationships has the same experience when they bring their sweetheart to family dinner table for the first time.
Sometimes that first gathering can be awkward, funny, or bad, depending on how accepting the family is.
If you’re expecting your boo over in the new year, hopefully, it’s a success like it was for me. And hopefully, this won’t happen:
To ensure things can go really well, Psychologist Dr. Terri Orbuch advises in an interview with "Beyond Black & White," a blog focused on interracial relationships, to prepare ahead of time.
Orbuch recommends getting to know the family’s cultural rituals and demonstrating at the table that you can follow along any family tradition. So if the family sings, prays, holds hands, or anything else, join in.
And if someone says something insensitive or ignorant, she recommends responding with neutral statements that keep the peace and to save confrontations for when the relationship is further along.
Ronzell Mitchell, an interracial relationship expert, wrote in the "Examiner" that being open-minded and willing to learn is crucial. Here’s one practical tip he gives:
“It is extremely thoughtful to learn a few basic words from the other language, if there is one. It is helpful to remember that people think in their native tongue and then translate into a second language to speak, sometimes creating inaccuracy in meaning. “
Start with “thank you” and “that was delicious.”
Still not sure what to do? Here are some first family dinner stories from other interracial couples that may help you prepare for all kinds of scenarios.
When It’s Your First Interracial Relationship
Jessie Neft, a web developer from Minnesota, admits she didn’t notice her small rural hometown wasn’t diverse until after moving to Miami.
“Couples didn't look like us where I was from,” Neft said, adding it never occurred to her that she could date someone of a different race. “Being one half of an interracial couple had crossed my mind, now living in Miami. But even then, I never thought I was ready to cross that ‘hurdle,’ until I met Jesse.”
Then she took her African American boyfriend to meet her family and share their first meal.
“Jesse and I have been together for six years and I would be lying if I told you I wasn't apprehensive about bringing him home to meet my family,” Neft said. But, “as soon as he shook hands with my dad it was like they were long lost friends.”
When they got to talking, her father and boyfriend bonded over their favorite topic: cars. Fast cars. You can never go wrong by finding common ground.
When Your Family Wants You with “Your Kind”
Russell Rosario, a data analyst in Miami, Florida, took his Ghanaian girlfriend of the time to meet his Indian family, who weren’t too happy about the mixed-race couple.
“I hadn't told them I had a girlfriend so they were kind of shocked,” he said. “And then on top of that, they would probably prefer I marry an Indian girl.”
Rosario’s girlfriend was so nervous, he says, she kept grabbing his leg underneath the table.
“I kept pinching her to get her off me because my mother could see her hand on my leg,” he said. “I pinched her pretty hard one time and she screamed.”
Unfortunately, his father didn’t quite take to the girlfriend. But his cousins made her feel welcome after a teary-eyed moment in the bathroom.
After this situation, he learned to be more cautious the next time he decides to take any girl to meet his skeptical family. A warning ahead of time might help.
When Your Family is in Denial
Tanisha Love Ramirez, who writes for "Cosmo for Latinas", took a while to get her family to understand she was dating an African American.
“The first few times I brought him over to my abuelita's place, she and my extended family kept insisting that my boyfriend must be Dominican,” said Ramirez, who is Puerto Rican.
They’ve been together for 11 years now and eventually her family snapped out of their denial.
“They love him dearly,” she said. “And they have come to terms with our relationship and the fact that he is in no way Latino.”
When you love your sweetheart, your family will likely come to do the same too.
Ramirez gathered more experiences from women in interracial relationships in this story.
When Your Partner Doesn’t Like the Cuisine
Shawn Soares, a Jamaican event production business owner, was proud to say he and his Colombian-Peruvian girlfriend will celebrate their two-year anniversary on new year's day.
And so far, he says his girlfriend, Fusion Segment Producer Paola Bolano, and his mother have been getting along well. But there’s one little issue that came up when they first started dating and kind of persists.
“Paola has questioned some of the cuisine I ate such as curry goat or ackee and saltfish, but never in a rude way,” said Soares, who then went on to clarify his statement. “Actually, a couple weeks ago Paola mentioned some of our cuisine she doesn't care for in front of me and my mother (curry goat).”
But Soares says he and his mother have never taken offense. Instead, his mother asks her about Colombian recipes.
Bolano chimed in saying Jamaican food was not something she was familiar with when first dating Soares, but has become more open to it.
Also, Bolano says she’s willing to try more Jamaican food when he’s willing to try more Latin American cuisine. She points out, Soares is the picky one in the relationship.
Either way, there really isn’t a better method to getting to someone’s heart than through their stomach.
And there really isn’t a better way for people of different races to bond than spending quality time together over a delicious meal.