Stand out from the crowd with these tricks of the trade

Mother Dearest

March, 2012

There may be many a London Datress currently wiping her brow after a successful Mother’s Day.  ‘Does she like chrysanthemums?’, ‘Do Maison du Chocolat sell a low-GI gift box?’, Does Royal Mail do same day delivery???’ – these have all been pressing questions in the run-up to March 18th. Just imagine the stress if you had not one but two mothers to consider. After all, there may come a time in the life of every gal about town when a Mother’s Day is spent lovingly supporting your man while he wines and dines his Mum. Of course, it’ll take some time to earn the invite. While women are generally eager to showcase a new homme to family, friends, neighbours etc., the average bloke prefers to stall. Most often than not, girls are just glad for the opportunity to say ‘LOOK I GOT ONE!’; men, on the other hand, want to make it quite clear that they’ve got the right one. Indeed, it’s not unusual to find yourself eight months into a relationship – having discovered one another’s likes, dislikes, OCDs and bowel patterns – to still be waiting for him to make that lunch reservation for three. Plus men just aren’t as keen as us girls to mesh every element of their lives. I jump at every opportunity for school friends to meet university friends, home friends to meet work friends – why would I not want Miss Carolina, Minxie Pixie, the Leggy Blonde, ‘Georgie Thompson’ and New York It-Girl all under the same roof? But The Boyfriend doesn’t get it. I can see his point. Arguing for quality over quantity, he feels that time is better spent focusing on the group you’d like to see rather than flitting between various factions. In the same vein, he very convincingly supports male hesitancy for the ‘meet the mother’ moment, stating that the conversation a trois will never be as good as what it would be if it were just he and his mother, or he and you.  It’s more than possible that there’s an element of embarrassment there too. No one is in any doubt about the fact that sons are the apples of their mother’s eye and it is more than likely that the resistant man is ever so slightly ashamed of just how doting his mother can be.

On that note – brace yourself. When the day finally arrives to swap your tribal prints for florals, be under no disillusion about the gravity of the first meeting. No matter how many times your own father has called you a princess, the mother of your spouse will judge you as anything but. Despite every effort to charm, you will always be the woman who stole the affection of her precious little cherub. Make no mistake about it, you will never be good enough. That said, play your cards right and you might be almost okay. Heck, if you follow The London Libertine guide to wooing his Mother Dearest, you might just bag yourself a seat – maybe even a drink – at Mother’s Day lunches to come.

  1. Say it with a Gift. Throwing money at a situation is always a nerve calmer. However, be sure to apply this approach as and when it seems appropriate. It would be a little odd if you handed over a scented candle whilst passing the bread basket at Sunday lunch. It needn’t be stated that the gift more ideal for moments of hospitality, but many a girl under pressure has lost all grip of social norms. So save this for a dinner at their home or a weekend trip to visit his family. Flowers are good for the long stay. Chocolates are good too and are much more versatile – they’d do for an evening meet up as much as a weekend. But then it should go without saying that if you’ve heard all about her weight watcher struggles, Thorntons is a no-go. Then again, it shouldn’t look too orchestrated. If she’s lactose intolerant, rocking up with dairy-free chocolates looks a bit too keen. However, if she’s a celiac gluten-free biscuits would be a good shout. As they’re available now in most supermarkets, they will strike a nice balance between thoughtful and convenient. FOR GOD’S SAKE CONSIDER HOW MUCH YOU SPEND. Obviously you don’t want to look tight. But less obvious are the conclusions she’ll make if you rock up with Belgium’s finest pralines or a Puligny-Montrachet. Just remember that she will have heard all about your poor man’s long hours in the office and the last impression you want to give is that his hard sweat is being spent on your Harvey Nichols habit…
  2. Know your J-cloth from a scritcher. This one can be tricky to get right. If you’re meeting his mother in her home you want to strike a very specific note of practical and helpful whilst staying well clear of any tone of sycophantism. When she’s clearing the table, do get up to clear the plates, but if she tells you not to sink your manicure into the washing up bowl, take her for her word. A woman’s kitchen is her own and there’s a fine line between appreciating an extra pair of help and being bloody irritated by that person in the way. Listen to her and gage the situation before stealing her marigolds.
  3. Tap into that female intuition. Meeting the mother requires very different skills to those practised in the board room. You might be a ball-buster in the meeting room, telling your colleagues exactly what you think is best for the company and always searching for a moment to grab the lime light. Well, that ain’t gonna cut it with Mother Dearest. Arrive with an open mind, ready to listen and show sensitivity. Most importantly, know when to shut up. They’re from Newcastle while you worship all things Thatcher? Maybe keep that one quiet or at least steer clear of the subject of 1985. You may discover that she’s into fair-trade clothing as she eyes your Zara blazer with disgust. Don’t engage. Spot the potential awkwardness and move on. Equally, if you’re getting the sense of a rapport, go with it. You like Adele, she likes Adele: brilliant. What’s more, look for an opportunity to play your trump card. Her neighbour’s giving her grief about the boundary hedge and you work in corporate law – fan-bloody-tastic – get right in there girl!
  4. Keep your feet to yourself. It’s more than likely that his mother will not like to see you draped across her son as you sit down to breakfast. It might feel normal to use his feet as a footrest as you tuck into a croissant and the Sunday supplements, but it looks highly inappropriate. If you reach for his hand and he pulls his away, don’t be insulted. He’s merely conscious of being overly touchy. Equally, if you’ve been asked to sleep in separate rooms then do respect his mother’s wishes. He will no doubt be chomping at the bit to overturn her request, so it’s up to you to at least keep up the appearance of celibacy. Remember that Mother Dearest has already had to grapple with unwelcome images of you in bed with her son, so try your best not to fuel her imagination.
  5. Don’t reach for the bin. I made an uber-error on my first visit to The Boyfriend’s family home. I was struggling to apply my eyeshadow in the bathroom, so took the palette into the bedroom so that I could find a better light. I had no idea that I had dropped a chunk of brown eyeshadow onto the bedroom carpet and had been standing on it all the while. Faced with a glaring brown smear on a clean, cream carpet, one might be tempted to grab a bin, book or chair and plonk it on top to hide the evidence. Tempting though it may be, this would be very Ben Stiller-esque and very embarrassing for future get togethers. Remember that mother’s know everything-plus-more when it comes to the condition of their homes. No amount of furniture rearranging will convince her that that stain’s been there forever. So if you make an error, come clean. The Boyfriend’s mother was lovely when I told her – and very grateful for knowing exactly which cleaning product to apply.
  6. But do reach for the carbs. Probably not the best idea if you’re struggling to fit into your jeans.  The scornful look you’ll receive upon helping yourself to more mash will make your blood run cold. However, if you look like you can afford a slice of toast or two, do tuck in. The fussy eater comes with a host of connotations; now’s not the moment to be branded with a mental health disorder and she will know full well that sushi doesn’t come cheap. So look smilingly upon pastry and potatoes and don’t allow calorie counting to distract you from serving up some culinary compliments. More importantly, the starch will serve you well when the wine starts a-flowing. Enjoying a G&T on the patio? Do tuck into those crisps. It’s more than likely that after all the anxiety of hoping to impress, your blood sugar levels will be at an all time low. Without a carb on board, you might have to be escorted off the patio…
  7. Make him smile. Fundamentally, every mother wants to see her son happy. She may have thought that it would be Patricia’s nice daughter Ophelia that would put the smile on his face, but you’re there to prove her wrong. Don’t let your nerves let you forget the reason why you’re there. He cares enough about you to want to introduce you to his mother. So treat him well. It would be very easy to accidentally exert your jitters upon your man. You could easily forget to thank him when he makes you a cup of tea or you could accidentally cut him off in your haste to prove your intelligence. Be mindful. Pay him attention and remind him why he invited you. After all, he’s probably as eager to please his mother as you are.
  8. Be yourself. It sounds ever so corny, but a fact’s a fact. You will never be Ophelia. Nor will you ever fulfil every one of her expectations. The only way to win her respect is to be completely comfortable with yourself. What’s the use of pretending you cook her son Meat And Two Veg every evening when you spook at the sight of a saucepan. If you’re a more regular reader of Heat than The Times, avoid stammering when the conversation turns to the European technocracy by being honest about your political knowledge. Again, you’re there because he wants you there and if you know more about Primark than politics, tell it straight. Besides, if the conversation turns to recent inflation figures, you might receive a sudden interest in your familiarity with High Street bargains.

You have 364 days to earn yourself a seat at his Mother’s Day lunch 2013. That’s if you so wish! If so, take note and good luck – you never know, before long yourself and Mother Dearest may be ordering mimosas pour deux