I'm really afraid of introducing my girlfriend to my parents

Discussion in 'Advice (Dear AE...)' started by softspot, Dec 20, 2015.

  1. softspot

    softspot New Member

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    So, I recently got a new girlfriend whom I adore. My parents know about her, like they know her name and tidbits about her, but they have never met her in person. My parents are trying to be accepting of my sexuality, all of my previous relationships have been with guys (I used to identify as pan, but never had an actual relationship with another girl. I now identify as a lesbian), my parents are trying to get used to me being in a serious relationship with another girl, I think they're handling it fairly well.
    However, this is not why I'm nervous about them meeting my girlfriend. I come from a family of health nuts/fatphobic people, this has been so severe that it resulted in me dealing with a eating disorder through the majority of my teens. My girlfriend is this gorgeous fat chapstick lesbian with an alternative lifestyle haircut and multiple tattoos and piercings, while I could be described as conventionally attractive (as much as I despise that phrase), we constantly get told that we're a strange looking couple and my girlfriend has had major insecurities about us being together because she felt like I was "out of her league". I think she has finally overcome these insecurities, and our relationship is going really well, and she seems a lot more confident in us. I've met her parents and she really wants to meet mine, but I'm really worried that my parents will make some stupid fat phobic comment and make my girlfriends insecurities come back. How do I handle them meeting? I haven't told my girlfriend why I haven't introduced her to my parents yet, because I feel like it would really hurt her. Should I even let them meet?
     
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  2. lorienczhiu

    lorienczhiu Well-Known Member

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    You are not in charge of your parents, the crap they say, or their awful fatphobia. But you are totally, totally in charge of your reaction to all of the above. If you want to have an ongoing relationship with your parents, and potentially make that relationship better than it has been in the past, I think that shielding your girlfriend from them indefinitely probably will not work - and it might send the message to your parents and/or your girlfriend that you are ashamed (of her size? her gender? your relationship?). And it's good to approach situations like this with positive assumptions: maybe your parents are aware that to comment on a relative stranger's size or presumed health is hella rude, and the visit will be lovely. (Maybe!)

    That doesn't mean, though, that you shouldn't be prepared. If they show that they are not ready to be kind and fair and open to her, you are perfectly within your rights to say, "Please don't say fatphobic/body-shaming things around me or to my girlfriend. Let's talk about [other neutral subject] instead." If they press or object, you can say "We're here for a pleasant visit, and this kind of conversation is really unpleasant for me. If this is what you want to talk about, against my wishes, we're going to leave." And if they keep going? Stand your ass up, thank them for whatever hospitality they offered, and leave.

    Will this be awkward? Yes ma'am, it will. Will your family be hurt? Probably. Is that your problem? No. Having an adult relationship with difficult parents sometimes means that you have to enforce your boundaries and ask for what you need, and it's never easy or fun. However, you recognize that their body shaming has hurt you, and will be hurtful to your girlfriend, and is not a thing you want in your life. And at the end of the day, when told the consequence of that conversation topic, they can choose to make voicing their hurtful opinions more important than your stated preference (and continued presence). They control themselves, and you control you.

    As to being honest about your hesitation: well, we fat chicks are aware that we are fat, and we are aware that some people don't like it. I think that this particular piece of information may be hurtful, but it will not be the first time that she has heard it. She probably has whole arsenals of zingers and statistics and rebuttals that she has used in the past, or solid one liners (I really like Captain Awkward's "My gravitational relationship to the earth is literally the least interesting thing about me!") to head off this kind of rudeness at the pass. I literally say the words, "Yeah, I would rather be fat than not eat [delicious food]" to my fatphobic coworkers every other day to shut down the universal and dreaded office diet talk. So don't presume that she is going to fall apart at the suggestion that some people might find her unhealthy or unacceptable; she likely suspects that something like this is motivating your hesitation, and will be sad that she was right.

    Here is a thing you could say that, again, respects that she controls her own behavior and decision-making around putting up with your family's potential unpleasantness. "I want you to meet my parents, because I really like you and think our relationship is going great, and I want to share that with them. But sometimes they say super fatphobic things - by not meeting them, I was trying to protect you from that. I know that you can protect yourself, though, so I wanted to tell you what was up." Ask her whether she would like to meet them, and make it clear that you are not going to tolerate mean comments for your own well-being, and that you plan on leaving if it becomes an issue. If she decides that she does not want to meet them, that's completely reasonable; if she wants a signal that means "time to bail," that's also reasonable. If she laughs and says "I've been the fat queer girlfriend before, I've got this!" - trust her to take care of herself and ask for the help she needs.
     
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  3. softspot

    softspot New Member

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    Thank you so much for this response! I would definitely not passively accept any kind of fatphobia from my parents, I would tell them off and get my girlfriend and leave. My only concern here is that they'll hurt my girlfriend, or even worse, that I will hurt my girlfriend by how I handle this.
    My girlfriend can be incredibly hard on herself and has only recently begun to be body positive towards herself. This has been a huge problem for us, at the beginning she didn't want to be with me because she felt like she wasn't good enough, it's been a very long process before we ended up as girlfriends and before she could accept and trust that I actually really love her. We've come so far and I'm just terrified of anything causing her to lose confidence in us. I think I'll talk to her about it, I'm just nervous of saying anything that will upset her because she's still seems like she's in a vulnerable spot with body positivity.
     
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  4. lorienczhiu

    lorienczhiu Well-Known Member

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    That is incredibly kind of you, and as a lifelong fat girl with an eating disorder, I understand her fear, and yours. My wife's mom is mean about weight. I am perennially afraid of being talked to about diets, or having my body commented on, or feeling unsafe in their home. What helps is not my wife tiptoeing around the topic, but her active appreciation of my body and the fact that she lets me make decisions about how much of her mother to deal with. I know, 100%, that she is on my side and thinks her mother's skinny obsession is unhealthy and obnoxious. I know that she doesn't want me to be skinnier, and actively celebrates body. I know that we can leave whenever, or just not go. I trust that she will not make me be the defender of fat girls everywhere, because she can knock down that bullshit too.

    Body positivity takes a long time, and we fat girls are receiving a 24-hour-a-day stream of how we are unacceptable and take up too much space. So interrupt that bullshit. Here are some naked pictures of beautiful fat people. Here is writing by some sassy women who are fat and happy. Here is my favorite fat yogi kicking ass and taking names. These people make me feel powerful and safe and beautiful and exactly good enough to be loved. My wife helps by also appreciating me, and other bodies like mine (I actually feel weirdly validated when she expresses admiration for art/photos/cute girls who are my size - I am not an exception with a good personality, but actually attractive out of context!).

    Your job is to take it as read that your girlfriend is a-fucking-mazing, and that the only reason she doesn't agree is that society sucks and has taught her (and you, and your parents) something different. Because you think your girlfriend is gorgeous, right? You love her body. You think it's powerful and sexy and you feel so incredibly lucky that this amazing woman thinks you're good enough for her. You have absolute confidence that she and you are great together, and she doesn't have to do anything at all to be the greatest in your eyes. Given her self-confidence or lack thereof, I think you can make it very clear that she does not have to meet them right now, or that it's 100% up to her to set the terms of this meeting, but it's important (I think) that this be about your parents' rude habit of body-shaming and not her sensitivity.

    If you think it's appropriate, you can also/instead tell your parents what's up. "Hey, [parents], I'm really excited to introduce you to my amazing girlfriend, but I'm a little nervous because body-talk is not her favorite (or mine). Can we agree to keep it to [safe, mutually interesting topics]? She loves talking about her job, gardening, and corgis." If they don't agree to that, no meeting - but I actually think they will agree, because they are probably just as nervous about preserving their good relationship with you in this new, queer era you're ushering in.
     
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