Meet the parents
FORTyFIED - FORTyFIED By Cecile Lopez Lilles () - March 14, 2007 - 12:00am
When I was in fourth grade at an all-girls’ school, James, a handsome fifth grader from the neighboring all-boys’ school, sent me a three-inch stack of Archie comics and a gorgeous Greek Orthodox cross necklace made of papier-mâché. The necklace looked magical because of the three colored faux jewels that adorned it. He sent them through his sister who was a classmate of mine. I was completely clueless as to what the gesture meant; all I knew was that the necklace mesmerized me. It took his sister to explain that he had a "crush" on me, and what exactly that word meant. Innocent as it may have been, my instinct was to hide it from my dad. I, however, told my mom all about it — it became our little secret. I hid the comics and the necklace under my bed so my dad wouldn’t see them and was completely taken aback when he started talking to me with a lisp. My dad doesn’t lisp; it was the boy who gave the items that lisped. I then knew that he had found out. I never hid anything from him after that for fear of strange consequences that might befall me in the event that he uncovered any more hidden information.

You see, my father’s sense of humor is unique. You have to be personally attuned to him to get his jokes. He is excellent at poker so you can imagine how his facial expressions never give away his intentions. His sense of humor is wry. And, to those lacking a funny bone in their bodies, he may appear unmerciful — boorish, even. But for those who do know him, it is his most endearing trait.

Fast forward a few years, sometime in high school: John, a son of his golfing buddy, sent me a bouquet of 12 red roses wrapped in a banana leaf — you know, the type that is displayed in blue plastic buckets and are sold on the steps of the San Pedro Cathedral in Davao City. Along with it he sent an entire box of Serg’s chocolate — a whole box! Was I impressed! My father obviously wasn’t. At the golf course the next day, he went up to John’s father, his close friend, and proclaimed, "It’s tragic that your son likes my daughter; if all goes well, my grandchildren will come out looking like you." What a disaster! And with that he turned around and headed for the lockers. Although John’s father laughed at the comment, I never saw much of John again.

Another time, my older sister and I had several high school friends over at home, both boys and girls. We pulled our Dad over to the living area to meet them and he casually blurted out, "O, I thought you said they were all ugly, hindi naman a."

This story is my favorite. Our house in Davao sits on a hill, at the bottom of which lies a duck pond. Once, when my sister was in high school, a suitor of hers named Joe, the captain of his school’s basketball varsity team, parked his car outside the house and spent a good two hours playing chess with her (see what a wholesome bunch my generation was?). He had made his exit before dinner but came rushing back in, crying "Carnap!" The guards who were stationed by the gate, the driver and my dad were all baffled because no one had heard a car engine starting. They had a hunch and marched down to the pond where they found the blue car, nose down, half-submerged in the water. Joe had left the gear in neutral! My dad told Joe that, on his next visit, he should not leave his brain inside his car. Joe sort of disappeared from our lives after that, which is a pity, because he was quite cute.

If you’re currently in a relationship and are considering meeting your intended’s parents, hope to the high heavens that her father is nothing like mine. Otherwise, fortify your ego and your sense of humor, as you will definitely need both to survive.

Here are a few survival tips for when you meet the parents:

Take note. Would you go to a job interview for IBM without knowing what IBM stands for? (No, it isn’t International Babe Market.) You should have the same attitude regarding meeting your girlfriend’s parents; it may seem ruthless, but you need to do some research. Ask your girlfriend what you should know about her parents and family: what line of work they’re in, what their preferences are, their hobbies, political leanings, religious practices, etc. Don’t chastise the government without first asking whether her father is a politician or not. Don’t go slamming jueteng, unless you’re certain that her father is not a jueteng lord. Otherwise, yours could be the next body found floating in the Pasig River.

Don’t oversell yourself. Of course you want her parents to realize what a good catch you are, but you shouldn’t go overboard. Don’t talk about yourself unless you are asked. Your aim should be to get along with both parents and get on their good side. But here’s a little secret: her mother can be your most powerful ally if you play your cards right.

Bring something. Nothing fancy, which will trumpet that you are indeed trying to buy their affection. Bring a token gift like a bottle of wine, a box of candy, a small bouquet of flowers, a fruit basket. Be imaginative.

Polish your small-talk skills. Don’t sit there and make like a tree — contribute something to the conversation, and I don’t mean the occasional "Uh-huh." Read up and stay informed a few weeks before D-day. Look for common ground you can share with either parent, such as similar hobbies and interests, a love for the same sports team, a passion for dogs, and work from there. Suggested topics: your job; your family; sports; movies (recent or old, and all G-rated); pets (if they own any); a current newsworthy tidbit. Stay away from: jokes (until you’re familiar with their sense of humor); politics; personal questions (like "Where did you buy your toupee?"); religion; money or income.

Get on Mom’s good side. Flatter her looks or her clothing. Be sparing, though: there’s a fine line between charming and obnoxious. Compliment her on her dress and always underestimate her age by seven to 10 years if she is at all like me and asks you how old you think she is (don’t exaggerate or she could take it as sarcasm). Make sure to eat as much as you can; at least finish what’s on your plate. Compliment her on her cooking. If you don’t, she’s sure to hand you the bill as soon as you’re done. I know I would!

Get on Dad’s good side. Talk about sports or cars; these are usually safe topics between men. If his interests are something you wouldn’t be caught dabbling in, like stamp collecting or hotel matchbook collecting, at least show some interest in his passion. If he shows you his extensive gun collection and starts polishing his favorite pistol with the muzzle aiming straight at you, stay cool. Fetch that can of WD-40 and that piece of chamois from your car. Hand it to him and say, "Sir, these might help." Let him talk about anything he wants and seem truly interested. It might be torture for you, but if your girlfriend is truly gorgeous and worth it, grin and bear it!
* * *
Coming next: "Meet Your Future Son-in-law." E-mail the author at clfortyfied@yahoo.com.

ALTHOUGH JOHN DAD DAVAO CITY DON FATHER GREEK ORTHODOX INTERNATIONAL BABE MARKET
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