The most awkward situation in a person’s life is likely the first time they are invited to their relationship partner’s family holiday dinner. In those rare cases where the partner comes from a family with a similar background there may be a degree of comfort and familiarity. But depending on how different the family backgrounds are, a range of culture shock can be experienced.
This time of year brings me back to the first Easter I spent with my wife’s family. She wasn’t my wife yet – but she would be. First of all, I was meeting people who might be a part of my life forever going forward and I knew they would be watching “The New Recruit” like a hawk. To make it worse, for me, it is always a little overwhelming to meet a lot of people for the first time all at once. So I was already in a battle to keep my cool.
My family back in the Midwest was small without a lot of extended family nearby so we never had large family gatherings. Only at the bi-annual family reunions did I see any of my cousins at all. But my wife’s family was large and Italian. And loud. There was talking and arguing and loads of small children dashing all about. Did I mention they were loud? But the crowd wasn’t the biggest shock. The biggest shock was the sheer abundance of food. Food was being served continually. Side tables held plates of tidbits and the main dinner table was crammed with homemade delicacies. As a matter of fact there was food everywhere I looked! I tried to pace myself, but I don’t have a giant appetite and before I knew it I found I was stuffed. Really stuffed. It look me a while to realize that this was just appetizers! The dinner was more of the same. A LOT more of the same.
In this situation what could I do? I was trying to make a good impression so the only option was to eat. And eat.
My moderate eating habits continue to be a bone of contention between my wife and I, but over the years I have learned that my situation is not uncommon. For us “outsiders” being exposed to a New England Italian family for the first time can be a major shock. Over the years I have found others of my kind with whom to commiserate and I have heard my share of similar stories. My experience was a shock to me but how bad could it have been really? I chose to marry into the family!