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In-law-to-be introductions: Someday we'll laugh about this

  • Article by: LINDA MARX
  • New York Times
  • March 2, 2014 - 4:54 PM

Consider some of the more difficult things we do for love, like meeting future in-laws.

The pressure to please and to make a good first impression at these encounters can create more anxiety than those jittery hours leading up to the first date. And things don’t always go as planned.

Months or maybe years later, however, some of the excruciating moments become laugh-out-loud funny and could make good scenes in a Ben Stiller romantic comedy. Here are a few examples of nerve-racking introductions we have come across:

Anna Whitlow, Jose Posas

On Nov. 26, 2008, the first Thanksgiving that Anna Whitlow spent with Jose Posas’ family in rural Georgia, the couple arrived late at night, let themselves into the house and placed their crated dog in the garage. Since Posas’ father and stepmother, whom Whitlow had never met, were asleep, she retired to the guest room by herself while Posas, who is now 33 and a sports neurologist, went to another room.

“This was a very traditional family, and I was supposed to be properly introduced the following morning,” said Whitlow, now 30 and an account supervisor with Murphy O’Brien, a public relations firm in Los Angeles.

But in the wee hours, the dog started barking in the crate, so Whitlow hopped out of bed and entered the garage, closing the door to the house behind her. She let the dog go into the back yard, then turned to re-enter the house, but discovered that the door had locked behind her. In a panic, Whitlow, pajama-clad with uncombed hair and no makeup, crawled under the slightly opened garage door and tried to find another entrance to the house. She found a door on the side, but it was also locked.

“I didn’t want to meet his family in such a disheveled state, so I frantically looked for another door, an open window, anything to get me back inside,” she said. “Since it was dark when we arrived, and I had never been to their house, I didn’t know the layout.”

She finally made her way around the yard and found the front door was unlocked. As she was ready to sneak back in, a tiny dog appeared outside out of nowhere. She had no idea whose it was or where it belonged.

“With the door cracked open, I tried to shoo away the dog and get inside,” she said. “Then I heard a female voice say: ‘Oh! You must be Anna.’ ”

So Whitlow met her husband’s stepmother while breaking into her house, wearing pajamas.

“We still laugh about it today,” Whitlow said.” The couple were married three years ago in Key West, Fla.

Caroline Fare, Eric Villency

Eric Villency had a bad case of prenuptial jitters when he boarded a jet for Europe to rendezvous with his fiancée, Caroline Fare, and, for the first time, meet her parents during Swedish Midsummer festivities in June 2011. Villency, chief executive of the Villency Design Group in New York, landed at 10:30 a.m. totally jet-lagged.

“I wanted to make a good impression, but I was nervous and completely out of it,” said Villency, now 38. “I was wearing a rumpled T-shirt while Caroline’s family was celebrating a Swedish holiday that is like Christmas, Thanksgiving and July 4 all in one.”

When Villency arrived at her family’s home in Mellbystrand, Sweden, 90 minutes from the airport, he wanted to spruce up and at least put on a jacket over the T-shirt. But that was not to be.

“The whole family was ready to jump naked into the sauna as I arrived,” he said. “I was promptly invited to strip down and join her father, whom I had never met, and the other male relatives as they enjoyed their holiday tradition.”

Inside, with steam rising, Villency nodded to her father and tried to enunciate a “Nice to meet you, sir,” but sitting naked in the sauna with a group of strangers made him feel painfully awkward. The Swedes, who were having a great time, did all they could to make their American guest feel at home.

“Eric was so nice and eager to meet the family, yet he was modest about our sauna tradition,” said Peter Fare, Caroline’s father. “We tried to make him feel more comfortable, and he seemed to relax after a while. We were so happy to have him join us for the holiday.”

The rest of the day, Villency, fully clothed and joyfully refreshed, joined Fare, now 28 and a model and jewelry designer, and her family in running egg-sack and potato-sack races, drinking rounds of schnapps, singing traditional Swedish songs and dining on meatballs and Norwegian lutefisk, which “traumatized” him, he said, but he “manned up and sucked it down.” They were married in Manhattan on Dec. 14, 2013.

Sarah Ivory, Carl Gambino

Sarah Ivory met Carl Gambino six years ago at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in New York. They became friends and started dating. Gambino, an actor who is now 28, soon asked Ivory, now 30, to join his family for an annual holiday tradition in which his father rents a limousine to ride around New York, shop and admire the holiday windows. She wasn’t thrilled.

“I come from a family of no traditions,” said Ivory, who is a talent manager. “Christmas barely makes a dent in our lives. So you can imagine my surprise and wonder why anyone would waste time driving around, looking at windows.”

She added, “They literally stop at every major department store so grandma, cousins, aunt, etc., can get out and admire the holiday scenes.”

When the limo fetched Ivory at a sushi restaurant in Manhattan where she had been dining with friends, she climbed into a jam-packed vehicle filled with the family members talking loudly, laughing and joking.

The first thing Gambino’s mother said was: “Hello. So you must be the young lady who has been violating my son.”

Ivory and her boyfriend were “mortified.” But while she was deciding how to respond, the banter among the family members immediately shifted to a more lighthearted direction. Within a minute or two, all was forgotten. The couple plan to marry May 24 at Blooming Hill Farm in Blooming Grove, N.Y.

Steffi Graf, Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi began to date fellow tennis star Steffi Graf not long after his 1999 divorce from actress Brooke Shields. Both Agassi’s father, Mike, and Graf’s father, Peter, who died last December, had been driving forces behind their children’s tennis careers.

When the two dads met, according to Agassi’s 2009 memoir, “Open,” the “unavoidable moment” took place. After Mike Agassi showed Peter Graf a machine he had rigged for 7-year-old Andre to shoot as many as 2,500 tennis balls a day at him, each flying at 110 mph, the fathers got into an argument over the merits of Graf’s one-handed backhand and of Agassi’s two-hander. Both men raised their fists before Andre Agassi broke them apart.

Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi had a secret wedding at his Las Vegas home Oct. 22, 2001. Neither father was present.

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