Bringing your partner to a family dinner for the first time is always scary. Sometimes you wish the chair could eat you the minute you sit down.

The day that my boyfriend met my family wasn’t terrible, but it also wasn’t great. My boyfriend and I were halfway through a museum date when I got a text from my mom that my family was having a birthday dinner for my youngest sister. My boyfriend had met my mom but no one else in my family before. I asked him if he wanted to come to dinner and he said yes. He thought it was only going to be my parents and three siblings. I didn’t know how to tell him it was going to be all my grandparents, my aunt and uncle, and my siblings. My boyfriend isn’t shy; he’s just quiet when he meets new people. He has no trouble carrying on a conversation with someone if they start the conversation with him, but sometimes it’s hard for him to be the one to make conversation. My family, on the other hand, is loud, never a moment of silence at the dinner table (if there ever is, something’s wrong).

The whole drive back from the museum, we were running late because of traffic. It meant we were one of the last ones to get to dinner and had all eyes on us when we sat down. The restaurant was a pizza place by my house. My mom grew up with the owner and my grandfather worked there back when they opened their first location in the city. To say my family was familiar with the spot was an understatement.

When we got there, my grandparents and parents had already arrived, along with my three siblings. I was most worried about them. Like little siblings do, they always want to get under your skin, make comments, or tell stories about embarrassing moments of the past. I introduced my boyfriend to my dad and grandma. “This is John,” I said, as he reached for a handshake. I quickly introduced him to my siblings before they could say something embarrassing, then we ran to our seats.

Then I got a text from my sister as appetizers were coming out. 

“Who is he?” She was joking, trying to get more information out of me about him. 

So, I showed my boyfriend. We giggled to ourselves and came up with some silly text to send back to mess with her. We sent her back a picture of him, starting a chain of texts joking about who John actually was. First, he was some guy I met at the museum. Then,  he was an extra in Shrek that never got his Hollywood debut. These jokes went on for the rest of the night, ending with my personal favorite — he is a fairy that smelled like gumdrops and happiness.

I introduced my boyfriend to my dad and grandma. “This is John,” I said before he reached for a handshake. I quickly introduced him to my siblings before they could say something embarrassing, then we ran to our seats.

My uncle and my aunt arrived and sat across from us, which means we had to talk to them throughout dinner. They brought up topics like how we met and school. We talked about how my boyfriend drives into the city every weekend from his home in the suburbs of Chicago. I was nervous — just waiting for them to bring up a topic that would steer the conversation away from pleasantries.

My grandma asked him if he liked the pizza that we got for dinner. He said he did, and which launched her into a conversation about the pizza. My mom cut in, talking about how my grandpa used to work at that pizzeria back in the day. 

As he conversed, I studied my boyfriend. I was watching to see if he became fidgety with his jacket, showing he was getting overwhelmed, but that never came. He was comfortable mostly during these conversations, which made it easier for both of us as I sat back and watched him converse with my family for most of the night. 

When my mom was setting up the cake to sing to my sister, I had to help, which left my boyfriend stranded talking to my dad. That nervous feeling came back to me. Leaving him alone with my dad meant I couldn’t monitor the topics of conversation.

At the end of the night, we drove my sisters home. In the backseat, they joked around, cracking jokes about things they saw on their TikTok or taking Snapchats. I looked over at my boyfriend and noticed he cracked a smile, commenting about the TikTok they were giggling over. 

Looking back, I was more nervous for my boyfriend to meet my family than he was. But once I saw him smiling in the car, I knew it was a successful trip. My grandma texted me later to tell me she liked meeting my boyfriend. She said he was sweet, very polite, and a cutie. Just wait until my sister's sweet 16.