Wise Guys: How to Win Over His Mother at Thanksgiving

Advice from three of EMandLO.com’s guy friends. This week they answer the following: “When a guy brings his girlfriend home for Thanksgiving, how can she win over his mother?” To ask the guys your own question, click here.

Straight Single Guy (Tom Miller): Step one: be spectacularly helpful. Nothing wins over moms like someone volunteering to do the dishes, peel potatoes, julienne carrots. Except solidarity. If your ladyfriend can show mom that she’s on her side about a few issues, even if they’re nitpicky (“I hate it when you cut your hair so short, Tom”), they will be fast friends. Unless she’s being a real kiss-ass about it. Nobody likes a real kiss-ass.

anonymous_suitStraight Married Guy (Figleaf): The best way to win over someone’s mom would probably be to ask her son about her. What’s she like. What does she enjoy doing. Where did she go to school and what did she study. What her pet projects are and her pet peeves around the house, too. What are her friends like. Does she like to do everything herself on Turkey day or does she like everyone to pitch in. Oh, and actually be interested in the answers.

joel_derfner_100Gay Married Guy (Joel Derfner, author of Swish): I’m very glad I’m the gay guy picked for this question, because I have a no-fail technique for winning mothers over. It’s actually a no-fail technique for winning anybody over, but it’s particularly good with mothers. I got it from my Aunt Suzie and, after making a few modifications of my own, I give it to you, readers of Em and Lo. You’re welcome.

The principle behind the no-fail winning-mothers-over technique is this: PEOPLE LOVE TO TALK ABOUT THEMSELVES. So, deduced from that principle, here’s Joel’s No-Fail Winning-Mothers-Over Technique.

  1. Ask an open-ended question. Nothing like “How long have you been a terrible mother?” which requires a simple numerical answer, or “Have you hated every girl your son has brought home?” which calls for a yes or a no. Stick with things like “What made you decide to raise your son with such dreadful table manners?” and “How did you choose those hideous drapes?” This will allow her to deliver an uninterrupted monologue about herself for as long as she feels comfortable doing so. At this point you…
  2. respond with either a) another open-ended question or b) a comment based on your own personal experience followed by another open-ended question. This will produce conversations like the following:

YOU: So, Mrs. Betterthanyou, what’s it like to live in such a beautiful neighborhood?

MRS. BETTERTHANYOU: Oh, most of the time it’s lovely, because blah blah blah… [and she goes on and on and then] …and to be honest I’m not sure she’s in a position to criticize but to each her own.

YOU (seizing the opportunity to allow Mrs. Betterthanyou to belittle her neighbors): But how on earth could she think such a thing? And when you say you’re not sure she’s in a position to criticize, what do you mean?

MRS. BETTERTHANYOU: Well, I heard from Mrs. Notquiteasrichasme that last year she… [and so on and so on] …and then she walked in on her husband with the pool boy and before long the divorce settlement was all anybody could talk about.

YOU: Oh, how awful for her! My next-door neighbor walked in on her husband with the pool boy and it was just tragic. Will you tell me more about the divorce settlement?

And so on and so forth. You get the picture. Having most likely exhausted her husband and her son as willing audiences for a solipsistic monologue, if you appear as a new opportunity she will fall even more in love with you than her son has.

What if his parents insist you sleep in separate rooms?
Find out what to do here…

Our “wise guys” are a rotating group of contributors, some of whom wish to remain anonymous and some of whom like the attention. Tom Miller writes the Tomfoolery blog for YourTango; this week’s Gay Married Guy is Joel Derfner, author of Swish; and our Straight Married Guy is Figleaf, the guy behind RealAdultSex.com. To ask the guys your own question, click here.


  1. I don’t try to “win” anybody over. If you just act like yourself, and you fail to win mom over, it can only mean that one of you is an asshole.

    If you’re quite sure that your comportment was appropriate and gracious, and mom still doesn’t like you, then she’s probably a nasty old crow.

    If, on the other hand, YOU are the asshole, you probably will never realize it. Assholes are bad at self-reflection. You’ll blame her for being a nasty old crow anyway.

    Personally I don’t worry about nasty old crows. Once I peg a person as being chronically unpleasant, I write them off. I’ll be nice and gracious despite her unpleasantness, because you have to be. I just won’t invest emotionally in the relationship, worry about whether she likes me, or spend any more time around her than I strictly have to. I have enough friends and loved ones without fighting uphill battles.

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