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0965 Meeting Your Boyfriend’s/Girlfriend’s Parents

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Complete Transcript
Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 965 – Meeting Your Boyfriend’s/Girlfriend’s Parents.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 965. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Our website is ESLPod.com. Become a member of ESL Podcast by going to our website. While you’re there, take a look at our ESL Podcast Blog and our ESL Podcast Store.

This episode is a dialogue between Ronny and Judy about meeting the parents of your boyfriend or girlfriend – always a interesting experience. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Ronny: Ready?

Judy: Ready as I’ll ever be.

Ronny: Try to work up a little enthusiasm about meeting my parents.

Judy: It’s not them I’m worried about. It’s me. What if I don’t pass muster?

Ronny: My parents are going to love you. They’re open-minded and nonjudgmental people. They won’t care about anything except that I like you and you make me happy.

Judy: Me and parents are like oil and water. I’ve never been good at making a good first impression.

Ronny: Then you’ll gradually win them over. Meeting my parents will be a cakewalk. They’re nice people. It’s not like you’ll be running the gauntlet meeting my nine brothers.

Judy: You didn’t tell them I’d be meeting your parents tonight, did you?

Ronny: I may have mentioned it to Mark. Why?

Judy: What if they decide to show up and ambush me?

Ronny: They won’t.

Judy: If you found out that one of your brothers were bringing a girlfriend home to meet your parents, wouldn’t you want to be there?

Ronny: You have a point there, but it’s too late to back out now. Put on your game face and let’s go, or we’ll be late.

Judy: Okay, but just don’t be surprised if I make a break for it.

[end of dialogue]

Our dialogue begins with Ronny asking Judy if she is ready. He simply says the word “Ready?” – meaning “Are you ready?” Judy says, “Ready as I’ll ever be.” When you say you are ready as you’ll ever be, you mean that you don’t feel very confident about doing something, but you have done as much preparation as you can. You are as prepared as possible. Judy says, “Ready as I’ll ever be.”

Ronny says, “Try to work up a little enthusiasm about meeting my parents.” “To work up” is a phrasal verb which here means to create a feeling or an emotion – basically, to get excited about something. “Enthusiasm” is excitement, interest in something. Ronny is asking Judy to work up a little enthusiasm about meeting his parents.

Judy says, “It’s not them I’m worried about.” She’s not worried about Ronny’s parents. She says, “It’s me. What if I don’t pass muster?” The expression “to pass muster” (muster) means to be acceptable, to meet the minimum requirements or expectations about something. To be good enough for something is “to pass muster.”

Judy is worried that she won’t be good enough for Ronny’s parents. This, as anyone who has ever met the parents of one’s new boyfriend or girlfriend knows, is a very legitimate and logical concern. Parents often think that the person their son or daughter has chosen as a boyfriend or girlfriend is not good enough for their own child. Actually, when my girlfriend, now wife, first met my parents, my parents didn’t think I was good enough for her – which, of course, is completely true.

Ronny says, “My parents are going to love you. They’re open-minded and nonjudgmental people.” “To be open-minded” means to be willing to accept and consider new ideas. “To be nonjudgmental” means to be not judgmental. “To be judgmental” (judgmental) means to be very critical about someone or something, to think something is very bad, or to consider something in a very negative light. “To be judgmental” usually means to be disapproving of someone in a way that is considered extreme or not very nice.

“Nonjudgmental” would be the opposite of that. That’s what Ronny says his parents are – they’re “nonjudgmental.” “They won’t care about anything except that I like you and you make me happy.” If that’s true, Ronny doesn’t have a very good pair of parents, does he? Parents should be concerned about more than whether the person likes them. No intelligent parent would take a look at their daughter’s new boyfriend and, after discovering that he is a murderer and a thief, say “Oh, well, that’s not important as long as he makes you happy.” Well, maybe some parents are like that. I don’t know.

Judy says, “Me and parents are like oil and water.” Notice she says “me” instead of “I,” which would be the grammatically correct way of saying that. But in informal conversation, we would just say “me” – “me and parents.” She’s referring here to the fact that when she meets parents of her boyfriends – we don’t know how many boyfriends she’s had, but apparently she had had bad experiences with the parents of her previous boyfriends.

That’s why she says, “Me and parents are like oil and water.” “Oil” and “water” don’t mix together. They stay separate. The idea behind this phrase or expression is that you don’t get along with other people. If you say these two people “are like oil and water,” you’re saying that they don’t get along with each other. They don’t have a good relationship.

Judy says, “I’ve never been good at making a good first impression.” Your “first impression” is the first time that you meet someone, the first time that you have a chance to see someone. Your first impression is your first encounter, your first meeting. We talk about “making a good first impression” because many people are unable to change their minds after they get an idea about what you are like. So, if the first time they meet you, you do something that makes them not like you, they may not like you again in the future, even though you may change your behavior and do other things.

So, making a good first impression is considered a good idea because people often keep their first impression and don’t change their minds, even though the person may act differently in the future. Ronny says, “Then you’ll gradually win them over.” “To win someone over” is to persuade or convince someone to like you, to have a good impression of you, a good opinion of you. The word “gradually” (gradually) means slowly, over a long period of time.

Ronny says, “Meeting my parents will be a cakewalk.” The term “cakewalk” (cakewalk) – one word – means something that is very easy to do. He says his parents are nice people. “It’s not like you’ll be running the gauntlet meeting my nine brothers.” “To run the gauntlet” (gauntlet) here means to experience a lot of problems, especially from a group of people, each of whom may give you problems. We learned that Ronny has nine brothers, which is, of course, a very large family. I only have eight brothers, so I come from a much smaller family than Ronny.

Judy says, “You didn’t tell them” – meaning his brothers – “I’d be meeting your parents tonight, did you?” Ronny says, “I may have mentioned it to Mark. Why?” Judy says, “What if they” – Ronny’s brothers – “decide to show up and ambush me.” “To show up” is a two-word phrasal verb that here means to appear, often unexpectedly, when people weren’t expecting you to be there.

“To ambush” (ambush) someone means to attack them unexpectedly. A surprise attack is an “ambush.” Usually, we think about several people attacking one person, or a large group attacking a small group, unexpectedly. Ronny says, “They won’t” – they won’t show up.

Judy says, “If you found out” – if you discovered – “that one of your brothers were bringing a girlfriend home to meet your parents, wouldn’t you want to be there?” Judy doubts that Ronny is correct about his brother not being there, because if Ronny were in the same situation – finding out one of his brothers was bringing home a new girlfriend for the first time to meet the parents – he would definitely want to be there. Ronny says, “You have a point there,” meaning, “Yes, I agree with what you say.” “But it’s too late to back out now.” “To back out” is a two-word phrasal verb meaning to change your mind – to decide not to do something that you said you were going to do.

Ronny says, “Put on your game face and let’s go, or we’ll be late.” “To put on your game face” is an expression meaning hide your emotions, or make yourself look stronger or more prepared than what you really are. Your “game face” would be the facial expression, literally, that you have during some sort of competition. You don’t want the other person to think that you are scared or weak, so you put on your “game face.”

Judy says, “Okay, but just don’t be surprised if I make a break for it.” The expression “to make a break (break) for it” means to leave unexpectedly and very quickly when you no longer want to be in a certain situation. If you are trying to escape someone, for example, you might use this expression: “Let’s make a break for it” – let’s try to escape from this situation.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Ronny: Ready?

Judy: Ready as I’ll ever be.

Ronny: Try to work up a little enthusiasm about meeting my parents.

Judy: It’s not them I’m worried about. It’s me. What if I don’t pass muster?

Ronny: My parents are going to love you. They’re open-minded and nonjudgmental people. They won’t care about anything except that I like you and you make me happy.

Judy: Me and parents are like oil and water. I’ve never been good at making a good first impression.

Ronny: Then you’ll gradually win them over. Meeting my parents will be a cakewalk. They’re nice people. It’s not like you’ll be running the gauntlet meeting my nine brothers.

Judy: You didn’t tell them I’d be meeting your parents tonight, did you?

Ronny: I may have mentioned it to Mark. Why?

Judy: What if they decide to show up and ambush me?

Ronny: They won’t.

Judy: If you found out that one of your brothers were bringing a girlfriend home to meet your parents, wouldn’t you want to be there?

Ronny: You have a point there, but it’s too late to back out now. Put on your game face and let’s go, or we’ll be late.

Judy: Okay, but just don’t be surprised if I make a break for it.

[end of dialogue]

Our scriptwriter shows a lot of enthusiasm about her work, and it shows in her wonderful scripts. Thank you, Dr. Lucy Tse.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2013 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
as ready as (one) will ever be – a phrase used to show that one is not feeling confident about doing something, but has done as much preparation as possible and is agreeing to make it happen

* After weeks of studying, Benjamin is as ready as he’ll ever be to take the college entrance exam.

to work up – to generate; to create a feeling or emotion; to get excited about something

* What can the public schools do to work up interest in careers in science, technology, engineering, and math?

enthusiasm – excitement; a feeling of looking forward to doing something and wanting to do it

* The third interviewee had the best qualifications for the job, but he didn’t show much enthusiasm for working in our company.

to pass muster – to be acceptable; to meet some minimum standard or expectation

* If these designs don’t pass muster with the client, we’ll have to start over again.

open-minded – willing to consider and accept new ideas and opinions that may may not be what one previously thought

* I really don’t like the idea of painting the house bright orange, but I’m trying to remain open-minded.

nonjudgmental – not evaluating other people or things; not deciding whether something is good or bad; tolerant

* A good priest has to be nonjudgmental, so that people are willing to talk about their fears and doubts.

like oil and water – not compatible; not able to get along; with many differences that make it difficult to build a relationship or reach an understanding

* Even though they’re brothers, they have such different personalities that they’re like oil and water.

to make a good first impression – to be likeable to people the first time one meets them; for others to immediately like and respect a person after meeting him/her

* The best way to make a good first impression is to dress nicely and make eye contact.

to win (someone) over – to change someone’s opinion in one’s favor slowly, over time; to gradually make a person like a person or thing

* Nobody liked the new sales campaign at first, but we gradually won over the salespeople as they saw their commissions increase.

cakewalk – something that is very easy to do; something simple to accomplish

* After taking advanced math classes this summer, algebra will be a cakewalk.

to run the gauntlet – to experience many problems or threats, based on a punishment in which a person must run between two lines of people who are hitting that person

* Buying a new house was like running the gauntlet, but in the end everything worked out.

to show up – to appear, especially unexpectedly or when one does not know how many will appear

* How many people showed up at the press conference?

to ambush (someone) – to attack someone unexpectedly as a surprise

* The deer were ambushed by the hunters.

to back out – change one’s mind and decide not to do something that one has already committed to doing

* Once we sign this partnership agreement, we can’t back out.

to put on (one’s) game face – a facial expression used to hide one’s emotions and make one seem stronger, especially when entering a competition or a difficult situation

* Make sure to put on your game face before we start the negotiations.

to make a break for it – to leave unexpectedly and very quickly when one no longer wants to be in a particular situation

* The boys stole a camera from the store and tried to make a break for it, but a police officer caught them.

Comprehension Questions
1. Why doesn’t Judy want to meet Ronny’s parents?
a) Because she thinks they won’t like her.
b) Because she thinks she won’t like them.
c) Because she doesn’t know what to talk about.

2. What does Ronny mean when he says, “Put on your game face”?
a) He wants her to stop crying.
b) He wants her to smile.
c) He wants her to stop looking nervous.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
to work up

The phrase “to work up,” in this podcast, means to generate, to create a feeling or emotion, or to get excited about something: “Try to work up some excitement about the race. It means a lot to Heather.” Or, “Why are you getting so worked up about the dress rehearsal?” The phrase “to work out” means to do exercise: “Do you prefer to work out in the gym, or outside?” The phrase “to work up” means to develop or create something: “How long did it take you to work up those numbers for the report?” Finally, the phrase “to work up an appetite” means to do something that makes one hungry: “I really worked up an appetite on that hike!”

to show up

In this podcast, the phrase “to show up” means to appear, especially unexpectedly or when one does not know how many will appear: “Sheila was really upset that Blain didn’t show up until 9:30.” The phrase “to show off” means to try to make other people admire oneself: “Nobody likes Pete because he’s always showing off, trying to prove that he’s smarter than everyone else in the room.” The phrase “to show (one’s) face” means to have the courage to appear in a place where one is not welcome and/or where one should be ashamed: “How dare she show her face here after what she said?” Finally, the phrase “to show (one’s) hand” means to stop keeping a secret and share one’s true intentions: “Their negotiators forced us to show our hand long before we wanted to.”

Culture Note
Traditions Related to Meeting the Parents

Meeting the parents of a boyfriend or girlfriend is an important “milestone” (an event with great meaning that marks progress toward a goal) in a relationship. In general, people do not bring a “romantic partner” (a person with whom one is in a romantic relationship) home to meet their parents until they are in a serious relationship with that person or believe they might want to spend the rest of their life with that person. In other words, being asked to meet the parents often means that the other person may be interested in getting married sometime in the future.

Meeting the parents can be stressful, because “presumably” (one can assume) the parents will share their opinion of oneself with their son or daughter, and that could “influence” (affect) the “course of the relationship” (what happens next in the relationship). So when meeting the parents, people are usually “on their best behavior” (wanting to behave as well as possible). They generally speak very politely, addressing the parents as by their last name, such as Mr./Mrs. Smith, unless the parents ask them to use their first name.

When meeting the parents, it’s a good idea to bring a gift, such as a “bouquet of flowers” (a group of cut flowers arranged to look nice), a bottle of wine, or a box of chocolates. In most cases, the visitor is expected to sit in the living room or dining room and make pleasant conversation, but it is always a good idea to “pitch in to help” (offer assistance), either to prepare the meal or to clean up afterward.

Comprehension Answers
1 - a

2 - c