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How To Navigate Meeting Bae’s Family For The First Time

Love & Relationships

Navigating the holidays can be tricky when you start dating someone new. You're either faced with spending the holidays separately – each of you enjoying time with your own families – or spending time with each other's family. Depending on how serious your new relationship is, your partner may convince you to do the latter: meet their family for the first time.


While it can be a momentous occasion, it can also be nerve-racking. The "throw-you-right-into-the-fold" method of introduction can be anxiety-inducing. However, as intimidating as it may seem, if your partner didn't think you could handle it, they wouldn't even propose the idea. So, you will go – you must go! – and the following tips will ensure you survive the evening unscathed.

1.Dress for the occasion.

As we all know, the first impression anyone has of us is based on what they see. It's important to understand the occasion and follow the family's tradition when it comes to attire. You don't want to wear your favorite holiday dress if the family tradition is to wear onesies. Likewise, you don't want to be too dressed down if the family plans to serve you on their best china. The goal is to show how well you can mesh with the family – not necessarily stand out. When it comes to attire, it's important to follow your partner's lead. While you may not be the type to judge someone by what they wear, there are tons of aunties and cousins who will, so paying attention to attire is imperative.

2.Don’t arrive empty-handed.

There are few things more insulting to a hostess than arriving empty-handed. If you're going to someone's house for the first time – especially for an event as important as Thanksgiving – it's critical to bring something. Find out what the hostess likes – whether it's wine, Tito's Vodka, or Godiva Chocolates – to bring as a "thank you for having me" gift. Tip: play it safe and avoid bringing a food item; things can go south real fast if the family doesn't like the way you seasoned the turkey wings.

3.Offer to help.

It doesn't take much to wipe down the counter or set the table. Extending a helping hand can go a long way. Even if the family doesn't actually need help, offering displays selflessness, helpfulness, and a willingness to be independent from your partner to impact the greater good. It also shows that you're not afraid to roll your sleeve up and get to work, and that you're able to 'take care' of their beloved family member. They may turn it down, but offering to help will certainly leave a lasting impression.

4.Put the phone down!

It's a shame I have to say this, but nothing ruins a genuine in-person connection quite like a smartphone in your face. Minimizing your phone usage will allow you to better connect with the people you're there to meet. Interrupting dinner or disengaging because of a text conversation or social media debacle can be disrespectful and offensive. Enjoy time with your partner's family without constantly checking your phone.

5.Ask meaningful questions.

This step is critical. While it may seem that the benefit of meeting the family is for them to get to know you, it is also the perfect time for you to get to know them. Use this moment to ask questions about your bae's childhood and show interest in the people around you. Ask about their career choices and personal passions. Get to know their favorite memories and some of their greatest lessons. Displaying a genuine interest in getting to know them will allow them to want to get to know you more. And it'll put a smile on their face knowing that you actually care.

6.Be authentic.

You want people to get to know you for you – that requires authenticity. You do not have to fake the funk to get them to like you. The point of them getting to know you, is to get to know YOU, not who you think they should know. Don't parade around to be someone you're not for the sake of their approval. Instead, honor the woman you truly are and showcase her. Show them why your beau wants to date you in the first place. Laugh at the jokes that you think are funny. Share your personal stories. Explain the work you do and why it's meaningful. You can even share about your own family who you probably miss at this point. The purpose is, allow yourself to be yourself. Don't put on a façade to impress anyone – mothers and grandmothers can see right through that. Instead, be you.

7.Don’t take anything personal. 

In some extreme circumstances, a family may not be as welcoming as you'd expect. Often, that behavior has nothing to do with you, but with the family member themselves. Don't be down on yourself because of it. People will have their opinions; if the family is decent, they will at least repress those opinions until after you leave. If they don't, however, it's not you, it's them. Understand that there are family dynamics, histories, and past behaviors that have nothing to do with you. Don't pick up what they're putting down and get discouraged. Instead, pile through with the good spirit you had walking in.

8.Just breathe. 

This is just the first of what may be many meetings. They will not get to know all that you are on this day alone – not with all the football, cooking, and food comas that'll be going around. This is simply their introduction to you – and you, them. Don't stress yourself out about what this day will bring; instead, delight in leaving your bae's family and friends with a great first impression of you!

Featured image by Getty Images

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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