Nothing causes anxiety quite like meeting the parents. And while it's unlikely you'll lose the family cat, break an urn of grandma's ashes, or spike a volleyball into somebody's face, getting to know Robert De Niro and/or your girlfriend's father is still a stressful experience. So to help you out on the cusp of this holiday season, we asked dads across America how their daughters' new boyfriends can win them over. Shockingly, not one mentioned possessing a strong knowledge of the rare flower business.
For the love of LeBron, be able to talk about sports
Introducing the most popular tactic to break the ice, according to our dads: as Jerry Maguire once said, “Help me, help you.” (Also, you should probably know who Jerry Maguire is, although we wouldn't ask dad to SHOW YOU THE MONEY!!!!) “I’m not saying you have to like all my teams, although that doesn’t hurt,” assured one sports-obsessed patriarch. “But at least have an intelligent opinion on any major sports things happening. It's the easiest way to strike up a conversation. If I bring it up, and you can’t really talk to me about it at all, I’ll probably question you.”
Pro tip: If you know nothing and/or don’t care about sports, the founders of Seamless (both of whom are dads) launched a newsletter for novices that tells you exactly what to know (and even say) about sports, based on your level of knowledge. Dads are literally giving you the answers, guys. No excuses. Dads hate those.
Applying to college? Entering the job market? Have something to say about it.
“I asked one kid my daughter was dating what his plans were for after college. He shrugged and said he hasn’t really thought about it. Even if that’s true, which in this case it very obviously was, at least pretend it’s not. Even if it’s your dream job -- or grad school, whatever -- throw out something that proves you’re at least vaguely interested in something besides looking at your phone."
Pro tip: We can’t tell you what to do with your life, but we can tell you that being a professional fortune cookie writer is an actual career path option. And should hopefully crack a smile on even the most surly of fathers.
Have some interests outside of work
Although the specific hobby is less important than just giving a damn about it. “It doesn’t matter if it’s taking an improv class or having a sneaker addiction; anything that proves you have interests that are in no way related to what you do professionally. No rollerblading, though.”
Bring some decent knowledge of bourbon -- or preferably, actual bourbon -- to the table
Yes! A topic you’re probably very excited to broach. But before you go on a long-winded diatribe about how Old Crow is seriously underrated, know what good bourbons are and use the conversation as a bonding tool with pops. “I love a good bourbon, so taking the time to know that in advance and then bringing one shows me you did your homework. But it’s also a really good way to work in some one-on-one time, which is ultimately what I want. So suggesting we have drink and taking the initiative to get to know me shows me you have balls. After a couple, anything we talk about will probably go over well.”
Pro tip: Make sure your GF’s dad, in fact, drinks bourbon before attempting this very classy move. And bring a decent bottle.
Seem nervous, at least at first
“A good rule of thumb is to be overly respectful until I make you comfortable enough that you don’t have to be. Everyone probably says firm handshake and looking you in the eye, but that’s a given.”
Pro tip: Make a point to note dad’s eye color, it means you’re doing it right. But don't say anything about it to him, 'cause that's weird.
Keep something in your back pocket... like cigars
Kipling once said, “A woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke.” Don’t use this line when meeting your girlfriend’s dad (AT ALL), but stashing a stogie can add some sophistication to this inaugural encounter. “My daughter’s current boyfriend found out I liked cigars -- I guess he asked her. The first time she brought him home he pulled out two and suggested we smoke them outside. He even cut them the right way. I swear I almost proposed to him.”
Pro tip: There’s actually a cigar notebook that gives you tips, and doubles as a pretty killer host gift.
If you’re going to talk politics, be able to back up your positions
While politics is certainly a slippery slope, most dads say they welcome the discussion, as long as you know what the hell you’re talking about. “You don’t have to agree with my views, but just have intelligent opinions to back up your stance... not just how you think Trump is misunderstood.”
Pro tip: If nothing else, just say you can’t believe how much booze James Buchanan used to put away.
Broaden your beer horizons beyond domestic lights
Remember how Hank from Breaking Bad was really into homebrewing his Schraderbräu? Well, real-life men (including dads!) are into good beers, too, whether you like IPAs or despise them. “I was in the beer industry, so maybe I’m a different breed, but I like when these guys actually have an appreciation for the history, or even just know, what decent beers are.”
Pro tip: Not a beer snob? Here’s how to talk like one.
Know how to handle certain tasks
We’re not talking about building a house or even whittling a giant chuppah from a single piece of beechwood (not everyone can be as talented as Kevin Rawley), but according to several of America’s dads, there are some basic skills every man should have on lock. “If he's never done any repair of any kind or doesn't even know how to use jumper cables, it would be off-putting to me.”
Pro tip: Make sure you’ve mastered 1, 2, 5, and 16 on this list.
Have impeccable manners
We’ve told you the ins and outs of hosting a proper tailgate and even the finer points of strip club etiquette, but we’re also telling you that NONE of those apply here. Well, maybe the tailgate tips, depending on the dad. But those aside, we’ll let one dad’s very direct quote sum this up: “Be polite as fuck."
Pro tip: Be polite as fuck.
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Liz Newman is a freelance writer for Thrillist, and if you can’t at least pretend the '97 World Series was the biggest sports devastation of your life, don’t even bother meeting her dad. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @lizn813.