Don't try to force it...and other friendly advice for Meghan Markle as she meets Prince Harry's pals
Royal-watchers are all of a flutter with engagement speculation as Prince Harry continues to introduce his new love, Meghan Markle, to his inner circle.
In March, Markle was a guest at the wedding of Prince Harry's partner-in-crime Tom 'Skippy' Inskip. Last weekend, she attended the Audi Polo Challenge where she was introduced to more of Harry's friends - presumably Noddy, Rupert the Bear, Mountbattener, Duggle Dee and Umby Pumby...
It is said that meeting the parents is one of the major milestones of a relationship. Actually, meeting the friends is much more significant. The assessment period has passed by the time you meet mum and dad, who you can plámás with a bunch of flowers.
Meeting the friends, however, tends to happen earlier in a relationship, when the opinions of others still count. What's more, while there are only two parents to impress, there is an entire football team of friends.
Thankfully there are tried and tested ways to make sure it goes relatively smoothly.
For the person being introduced…
Don't try to win them over
Of course you want your new squeeze's friends to like you, but buying countless rounds of drinks and offering endless flattery is tantamount to telling your new girlfriend's mother that you thought she was her sister.
A cocktail of alcohol and anxiety can induce verbal diarrhea. When attempting to break the ice, don't bring up your Brazilian wax disaster, your therapy breakthrough or your suspicion that your cat is the reincarnation of your grandmother.
Don't try to force it to the next level of friendship
The evening has gone well. You and his friends share a sense of humour, a love of Game of Thrones and a deep respect for Kendrick Lamar. Great. This doesn't mean that you can question Nialler's drinking habits when he's out of earshot before suggesting an intervention or ask everyone what they are doing for New Year's (in May).
Don't think of it as a fact-finding expedition
Sure, there are questions that you would like answered, but this isn't the time to ask about your boyfriend's ex or his overbearing mother.
Don't ask what their friends thought of you afterwards
Everyone wants feedback after a performance, and let's face it, meeting the friends is a tour de force. However, asking your partner what his friends thought of you afterwards will only come across as grasping and needy.
For the person doing the introducing…
Don't choose an unfamiliar environment
Meeting the friends is challenging enough as it is so don't choose the unnatural habitat of a poker game, a rifle range or a Mimosa brunch with the ladies. Making small talk while trying to understand the basic rules of tag rugby has spelled the end of many a happy relationship.
Don't establish commonalities on their behalf
Jane likes cooking. John, you like cooking too, right? What almost always follows is an abyss of stilted silence as two people desperately try to wangle their way out of a speed dating event they didn't sign up to.
Don't prompt them to tell stories
Remember, your new partner already feels like she's on stage so don't turn her into a performing monkey by asking her to tell certain anecdotes. She'll feel like you're trying to sell her to your friends - which you are.
Don't focus on you-had-to-be-there stories
While you and your friends have built an entire world out of in-jokes, your new partner has absolutely no idea what you're talking about. If she is staring at her phone, pretending to read text messages, you know why.
Don't believe their feedback
Your friends will probably send you texts to the tune of "you guys are made for each other!". Do not believe them. They're probably sitting in a café somewhere, casually eviscerating his footwear, or wondering if her intense gaze is a sign of psychopathy.