If you haven’t seen Meet the Parents with Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro, here’s the gist. A guy meets his girlfriend’s parents for the first time. He’s clumsy, accident-prone, and a male nurse. Her father is super-conservative, will accept nothing less than perfection for his daughter, and happens to be ex-CIA.
Spoiler alert: it worked out for Stiller’s character, Greg (male), dating Pam (female). Last weekend’s scenario was different: I (male) was bringing home my boyfriend (male), to meet the side of the family that (bless them) is pretty high-strung. Also, it happened to coincide with my grandfather’s funeral.
I’ve lived a pretty don’t-ask-don’t-tell lifestyle for the last six years of dating. Plenty of relationships started and ended without being mentioned to the many people I knew would judge my dating choices. Then I met Malcolm.
We met on a train. I was making ends meet as a background actor, and he’d taken a night off from his job to do the same. We spent the night catching each other’s eye on the subway between “Action” and “Cut.” I invited him camping that weekend, and magic happened. I know it was magic because after a huge fight tore us apart for eight months, he came back. On Valentine’s Day.
Malcolm is fearless at talking gay issues, lifestyle, and relationships. He encouraged me to give boldness a try too. So I started introducing him to friends, who loved him. Encouraged after six good months back together, I thought I’d try the family too.
Things were rough at home when I first came out but had smoothed over the last six years. Still, I had a bad case of “Meet the Parents” nerves, especially when Grandpa died and Grandma scheduled the funeral for the same weekend. The whole thing started to feel like a bad idea. But we went anyway.
In the six years I’d painted horrible pictures of this moment, I never bothered to give my family credit. They were so delightful. There was no pretense, awkwardness, or raising of walls. Malcolm, in turn, charmed the pants off of them. Everyone had a good time. Two of Grandma’s elderly friends offered to adopt him, and he held most of my extended family at rapt attention with his “astrology rant.” Several cousins asked when he would be coming back next.
What meant the most, though, was when my dad took me aside to tell me that he considered himself a pretty good judge of character and that I’d brought home a “really outstanding young man.” In that moment, six years of anxiety evaporated, and I realized the full extent of my good fortune. My parents loved and accepted me no matter what. Maybe I should too. Wish I’d known that sooner…