Jamie Shupak is the Emmy-nominated traffic reporter for NY1, the Big Apple cable network that’s the end-all and be-all on all things Gotham for New Yorkers. She’s also a beautiful, single woman navigating New York’s treacherous dating scene after the painful breakup of a 10-year relationship. In her weekly column she’ll share her war stories and offer her advice and admonitions.

Dear Jamie,

I’m going to my girlfriend’s parents’ house for a few days over Christmas. She says that she already took care of the presents, but I feel like I should also bring them something just from me, for having me over. Do I need to give them a gift? If so, what are your thouhgs on making the best impression?

You have the right idea, my impressionable gifter; you should absolutely bring something to your maybe/one day/perhaps/even possibly future-in-laws. This is one case where your presence is not present enough. Just don’t go overboard. It’s easy and inexpensive to play the part of the grateful houseguest. Bring fresh flowers, a lightly fragrant candle, or even a gift card for where they get their coffee each morning.

If you excel in the kitchen, bake some cookies or brownies to show off your domestic side. (Everyone loves a homemade treat, and even better: what parent wouldn't want their daughter's mate to be a burgeoning Bobby Flay?) Or there's always the reliable standby, a nice bottle of wine or champagne. You can’t go wrong by bringing some bubbly.

Even more important than what you bring to the house when you arrive, is what you send after you leave. Sending a nice thank you note to your hostess is a must. A handwritten card is the most sincere form of gratitude, but I won’t object to a well-crafted email. Make sure to reference something that happened while you were there, and tell them that you look forward to hopefully seeing them again soon.

If you want to take it just one step further, it is always nice to send a small thank you gift. One of my favorites is to print out and frame a picture from your time there. It will not only serve as a reminder of the fun you had, but also as a harbinger of a return visit.


Dear Jamie,

My girlfriend and I have been together a few months and she just invited me to celebrate one night of Chanukkah with her and her family. I am so elated that she wants me to come, but I’m freaking out because I don’t celebrate Chanukkah. I've heard there are blessings they sing in Hebrew and special foods they eat for the holiday. I like her and don’t want to screw this up. Please help me so that I don’t look like an idiot.

It is easy to woo the Jew, my dear. The first thing you should do is tell your lovely woman what’s on your mind. Make sure she knows that you're interested in learning about her religion and traditions, then, with excitement, say, “Please teach me!” Hopefully she knows the ins and outs of menorah lighting, dreidel playing, and potato latke eating to show you the ropes before the party. If not, or if you’re just an overachiever, that’s why God invented the interwebs; Google it, my friend.

No one will expect you to sing along to every word of “I Have a Little Dreidel,” but show them you’re an aspiring student. It’s all about your attitude and open-mindedness. Just wait; come springtime you’ll be ready to lead the Passover seder.


Dear Jamie,

I’m heading to Ohio to spend the holidays at my girlfriend’s parents’ house. Here in New York we obviously sleep over at each other’s apartments, but I don’t think it’s something she openly discusses with them. It’s my first trip to their place and I’m nervous about the sleeping arrangements because I don’t want them to get the wrong idea of me. Should we sleep in the same bed? Separate beds? I want my girlfriend and her parents to all feel comfortable.

Sleepless in Ohio, my darling, no need to lose any precious shut-eye over this situation. My initial reaction is that this feels like something for your girlfriend and her parents to work out before you both arrive. That said, most friends of mine who are in committed relationships do sleep in the same bed when visiting one of their parents. It seems that in 2011 it has become more commonplace for two adults who normally stay over at one another’s places to do the same when staying at an out-of-town family member’s house.

However, it is important to respect the beliefs and traditions of your girlfriend’s parents. It helps if an older sibling and their mate have set some kind of precedent for you and your girlfriend, but if that’s not the case and the parents wish that you be engaged or married before sharing a bedroom in their home, then, when in their house, you play by their rules.

Kiss your girlfriend goodnight and as you lay alone, relegated to the guestroom, just think of how you’ll be back in New York, and back in the same bed, in no time.

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