Holigay 101: How to Bring Your Girlfriend Home for the Holidays

The holidays mean something different for everyone. For some people, it’s a time to get together with the family to play football and eat stuffing until you feel like a hot air balloon. For others, it’s when you stock up on anti-anxiety meds and slip two bottles of vodka into your suitcase and then wish you’d done the same in your carry-on.

For most people, it’s a little bit of both; a time to reconnect with your parents, cousins and whoever else happens to be invited, while trying not to stab your mother with the carving fork every time she asks you when you’re getting married.

We all know the holidays are an exercise in patience, fortitude and alcohol consumption; an already precarious time when throwing anything besides relatives, booze and gift-giving into the mix could potentially result in a red and green Chernobyl.

This is why bringing your partner home for the holidays requires extra care and consideration.  In fact, you would be well-advised to think about your trip as a special ops mission and prepare accordingly. If it is good enough to get the Marines in and out of Baghdad with minimal casualties, it might work for getting your partner in and out of Buffalo.

Plan of Attack

Obviously, the first step is to give your mission a fun name, like “Operation Deck the Halls with Homos.” This will help to keep planning light and fun and relieve the tension when your mom’s had one too many eggnogs and is asking your girlfriend if she’s ever had a boyfriend. Once you have your code name, begin strategizing. Clearly, YOU CAN”T PLAN FOR EVERYTHING. For example, your uncle getting drunk and telling everyone at the table about his love for Nigerian prostitutes, causing your Women’s Studies girlfriend to start fingering her steak knife. You can, however, plan for the fact that your mother will be stressed out about the turkey that won’t fit in the oven and your father will have too many scotches while watching the football game. Basically, we’re saying that if your family drinks as much as ours do, all bets are off.

Plotting out various scenarios and your responses will leave both you and your partner feeling calmer and more prepared, as now you at least have some OPTIONS. For instance, maybe you want to drive instead of flying because scrambling to find an earlier flight out can be expensive! Keep your ultimate objective in mind at all times, whether it’s fostering familial devotion towards your significant other or just getting out without anyone having to breathe into a paper bag.


If your parents are not yet down with the gay, MAYBE your partner shouldn’t wear a suit to Christmas dinner, or the “I Love Fisting” tshirt you bought her for Fisting Day. Just saying. It’s not that you shouldn’t express yourself, but sometimes it’s good to blend in a little. I love my jeans and I feel like myself when I wear them — I realize, however, that sometimes it’s just not appropriate to wear jeans. I’m not saying your girlfriend should put on a dress if she’s more on the masculine end of the spectrum and end up looking like RuPaul’s Drag Race: Thanksgiving Edition; however, maybe there is a happy medium. Are pantsuits still a thing? Do people wear those? Look into it.


This is essential. Imagine you are stranded on a desert island, aka a house in suburban America, and you will be interrogated and subjected to weird rituals. What do you need to bring with you? GIFTS! That’s right, nothing says “your daughter made the right choice when she decided to scissor me” like a nice bottle of red wine. Bring a gift for every member of the family, especially if this is a Christmas visit, because you better believe her mother wrapped something for you and threw it under the tree (or Hanukkah Bush, whatever). Even if she hates you. In addition, be sure to pack all other essentials:

+ A book — For downtime and to make you look smart. NO SELF HELP BOOKS.
+ Music — To drown out the sounds of her annoying cousins while you are trying to sleep or exercise.
+ A sports bra — You will probably need to go for a run so you can at least pretend you are running away from the house for 2-3 miles.
+ Alcohol — For every reason.

Emergency Extraction

It’s possible that despite all your planning and packing, something will go terribly awry that may or may not have anything to do with you. Your mother, inundated with hallucinatory Norman Rockwell visions, could short circuit and start yelling at you that you need more men in the family not more women. Or maybe your Dad has one too many and backs the new family car into a lightpost at the mall. If it becomes clear that you will not be able to make a recovery of this trip, LEAVE IMMEDIATELY. Leave with grace and make up some other reason (work emergency, girlfriend family emergency, ran out of Xanax) so you won’t start fighting about the fight, but get out of there.

Nothing can do more damage to a relationship than forcing your partner to be traumatized for days by a family that is not her own. If you perform an emergency extraction there will be a special place in heaven for you and hopefully when the situation is reversed she will return the favor. Remember, your family will always be related to you and it’s statistically unlikely that they’ll remove you from the will because of one Thanksgiving; they’ll still be there to eat turkey with you next year, lucky you! The girlfriend… maybe not. Protip.


It’s like the post-game show — you need to relive the highlights and talk about how to avert potential on-the-field disasters next time. This is a conversation that needs to happen with both your family and your lady, thanking both for their patience and grace while also maybe offering some constructive criticism if need be! Be sure to keep it respectful because while completely mental, this is your family after all. However, give her a chance to express to you how she felt about it and how she thinks you can make your next operation more successful. There WILL be a next time (unless you break up of course) in which case your next time will just be with the next one.

The holidays are a test in survival and the most magic time of year rolled up into one insane tinsel covered four week shit show. At the end of the day we are all just hoping to survive it with our dignity, and our relationships, intact. Which is why it never hurts to plan and be prepared.

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Sarah H

Sarah has written 4 articles for us.


  1. Is that the Chicago Blackhawks Ice Crew I see in the picture under “Equipment”? I strongly approve of this photo choice. Well played, Autostraddle. Well played.

  2. “causing your Women’s Studies girlfriend to start fingering her steak knife.”

    When your girlfriend is going for the cutlery instead of you I think you’ve already lost the battle, you may as well don that hideous regifted regifted sweater, consume a gigantic cone-shaped arrangement of gold Ferrero Rocher balls, and start crooning/wailing to Michael Bublé

    (also, do steak knives have identity crises when wielded by raging vegetarians, someone should do a study on that)

  3. As hilarious as this is, I am absolutely TERRIFIED to bring the girlf over to meet the fam. :[ One day…and nobody in the family drinks for the holidays, so I couldn’t even look to that for distraction…

    With that said, Shane’s ill-fitting dressy pic looks way more adorable than I remember it on the show.

  4. currently bemoaning the complete lack of alcohol available at my family’s gatherings!

    also it took me an hour to find a book to bring home that wouldn’t scream HOMO if extended family members got curious. it also couldn’t scream “liberal!” or “probable atheist!” so that was even more difficult.

  5. I’m already freaked out about the family trip the first week of January. Everyone, including a 3 month old baby, driving in one car to the grandparents. I’m going to want to kill someone or die on the side of the road from motion sickness.

    Please let there be an open thread on Thanksgiving, I’m going to be bored out of mind while everyone coos over my nephew.

    • Have you tried dramamine? It works. You can also try eating peppermints, because they also relieve nausea.

      Also, I’d suggest an ipod, because not being able to hear people talk can be a very, very good thing and an easy way to avoid awkward and annoying questions.

      • I will be highly dosed up on dramamine, which will conveniently knock me out for the majority of the 10+ hour drive.

        • Good plan. Sick people aren’t generally attacked, so you can use it to your advantage as another defense mechanism. :)

  6. “Nothing can do more damage to a relationship than forcing your partner to be traumatized for days by a family that is not her own.”

    God, yeah. Everything was downhill after the week-long trip to my sister’s house, when my sister pulled me aside for a “chat” after she observed my then-girlfriend and I brushing our teeth in the bathroom at the same time. With the door cracked.

    “I promised mom that if I let you bring your girlfriend that I would let you guys, sleep in the same bed or you know, do stuff”

    What an awful week for both of us.

  7. As my Christmas present, my dad is flying me and my girlfriend from where we live (Sydney, Australia) to my home town (Columbia, Missouri) for three weeks from December 14. We’ll be staying at his house. I’m totally out and my family is great, but they’re pretty fucking nutty. This article is very, very timely. Thank you.

    • Three weeks! Jesus. Our spirits are with you. There are also likely to be more spirits in a cupboard somewhere, look into that.

  8. I had to minimize this window about 12 times while reading it. I love holidays! Yesterday I was told that even though Prince William was married I still had a shot with Prince Harry. DEATH.

  9. Reading this made me laugh and be super-excited for the day when I:

    1) Have a girlfriend to bring home for the holidays. The closest I’ve come so far is accompanying an also-closeted ex to her mother’s solstice party. It was many layers of awkward.

    2) Am out to my parents.

    I think my otherwise very traditional Slovak-immigrant grandmother will be more okay about this eventual day than my father. One of my uncles has been out and proud for decades and she’s always been accepting and welcoming to his boyfriends.

    When I was growing up, his partner at the time was my absolute favorite family member. Uncle Larry helped me get over my aversion to peas by making up stories about the pea families living in the mashed potato fort, etc. Playing with food was highly encouraged.

    • Agreed! this = my feelings 100%, except that my grandmother is not as adorable as yours, and thinks that “the gays are an abomination” and no one in my family is gay/out, so i have that to look forward to…
      I digress, this post is definitely bookmarked

  10. The first time I brought my girlfriend to Thanksgiving, my great aunt was singing Christmas carols in the kitchen. She asked why my girlfriend wasn’t singing along and she said, “Oh, I don’t know it. I’m Jewish.” At which point my great aunt started singing Dredel Dredel Dredel and I melted into a puddle of embarrassment.

  11. This made me laugh out loud, garnering bewildered stares in the library. I have a very disruptive laugh. Anyway, great advice. Thanks!

  12. oh this is helpful, but i am seeking some extra advice. my girlfriend invited me to stay with her family for an extended New Year’s weekend. we are both 20 and in college. what do i bring? I was thinking baked goods… any other advice would also be appreciated! thanks

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