Home for the Holidays

'Tis the Season for Sneaking Around at Mom and Dad's

The holiday season offers candy, parties, and for many of us, visits with family. Families can be an odd mix of devoted love and constant aggravation. Throw significant others in the mix and things can get dicey. Taking them home, for the first or 15th time, is fraught with tension; will they get along with your parents, or embarrass you all by getting wasted and passing out on the front lawn? Most importantly, will you two be able to get it on around the folks?

Even with permissive parents, doing it at their home can still be awkward. I've never felt comfortable having sex when my family's nearby; even if they're otherwise occupied, it's too close for comfort. Some parents make archaic rules; one dad told his daughter she'd never be allowed to sleep in the same room as a guy under his roof, even if she got married. She just laughs at this quirk, because she and her boyfriend of two years used to sneak around anyway. Others favor one sibling over the other, letting the couple who already live together shack up but banishing the others to separate rooms.

Doug Gordon (planetgordon.com), author of The Engaged Groom, has a few stories from his past. When he brought his college girlfriend home, his mom insisted on separate bedrooms, but Doug fought back. "Mom, are you uncomfortable with the idea of two people falling asleep in the same bed together or are you more uncomfortable with what might happen before those two people fall asleep?" he asked her. "Because if it's the latter, I have to tell you—stuff is going to happen whether or not we share a room." Ultimately she conceded, something Gordon's quite proud of. "I saw my chance to solidify my victory of pure logic over a mother's vague sense of comfort. I told her, 'If you want, we can fool around in one bed but go to separate rooms when we're done to go to sleep.' "

Elise Nersesian and Dan Allen
photo: Philip Stark
Elise Nersesian and Dan Allen

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  • To keep the peace, Gordon recommends deferring to your partner's parents' wishes. His wife's parents didn't let them share a room until they became engaged, which he finds reasonable: "Membership has its privileges. If you are still sleeping on the couch after you have proposed, broach the subject with your fiancée and have her take it up with her parents." He warns city dwellers to remember that the burbs are much quieter and may have thinner walls, not to mention many parents' unique ability to detect any whiff of sex. If you're not prepared for the household to know you're hooking up, hold off.

    Aside from sex, there are other concerns, especially if you're bringing home the person you believe is "the one." Jonny's bringing Long Island–bred Jewish sex educator and Playgirl columnist Jamye Waxman (jamyewaxman.com) to his tiny Missouri town for Christmas. Both are excited about this major milestone, but there's also parental pressure. "I'm both excited and anxious," Jonny confessed. "She's the first girl I've ever brought to meet my entire family. I'm 30 and, by their standards, way past the marrying-off age. They've already asked the dreaded question—'When's the date?' " They have a game plan to handle such contingencies, but Jonny's also sure his gal's in for some major culture shock. "The talk will revolve around the deer hunt rather than real estate, and instead of attending temple, all worship is aimed at the NFL playoffs."

    Differences in family backgrounds can actually strengthen a relationship, highlighting what holds the couple together. Comedian Dan Allen and writer Elise Nersesian have families that couldn't be more diametrically opposed—he grew up in trailer parks while she attended private schools; her mom's a probation officer, his works in a bait shop—but they're welcomed by each other's relatives. According to Dan, "We sleep in the same bed at both families' houses, but we don't have sex. My family wouldn't care, we just haven't. When we're at her childhood home, we sleep in her old bedroom, which is next to her parents' room. I honestly can't muster up the desire, and whenever our lust happens to manifest itself, it's quickly quieted by the squeaky 15-year-old bed."

    Meredith Broussard, editor of The Encyclopedia of Exes, also has some tips to make sure visiting the fam doesn't wind up driving a wedge between you. "If you visit pretty often, everyone will feel comfortable doing separate daytime activities and going to bed at their ordinary time, leaving you plenty of time to be licentious. However, if you don't visit often, you'll be a celebrity couple in the house. Everyone will want to spend every moment with you." She got her husband's family to replace his childhood single bed by simply asking. Now they sleep on a comfy new queen-size mattress, though Broussard suspects "there's a subtle message about grandchildren embedded" in this turnaround.

    Allison Castillo, author of The Score: The Ultimate Quiz to Test Who He Is, thinks guys need to take a backseat. "No matter how passionately you feel, 'We're adults—just like you, totally in love, and should be treated accordingly,' let your partner run interference. Remember, this is your first impression, so get to know her parents before pointing out that their views on sex have been satirized in countless Victorian novels."

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