Whether you are flying home to shovel a driveway, driving three hours to get to the east coast or hanging around Fort Myers, Thanksgiving is a time to spend with family and friends. No matter the size of your family, the odds are good that when you sit down for Thanksgiving dinner, you will also be sitting down to three or more helpings of uncomfortable questions. When you only see Aunt Kathy once a year, she doesn’t have time for small talk. She needs to know if the boy you’ve been dating for two months is the one.
Fielding these types of personal questions can be tricky, but with a combination of honesty, vagueness and strategic questions of your own, you can make it through Thanksgiving without becoming the relative everyone talks about at Christmas.
This might seem like a no-brainer. Why would you lie to your wonderful family? But sometimes, when three aunts who are all teachers ask you what your plans are after graduation, it can be tempting to say your future definitely involves teaching high school math. The problem with this is, your plans do not involve math. Or high school. Or teaching. Lying about your post-grad path to make everyone happy can result in a short-term positive reaction, but it will open up a whole jar of new questions.
“What grade do you want to teach?” “Will you get your master’s?” “Have you thought about joining that obscure summer program where you teach Italian orphans how to make pasta with English instructions and pizzazz?”
In career-related questions, it is best to be honest. If you don’t know what you want to do, say so. I bet Uncle Ray didn’t always know he wanted to be a minister. I bet once you admit you’re unsure what to do with that environmental studies degree, he could even give you some helpful anecdotes about how he found his dream job — and some stories to scare you away from whatever job your second-cousin is doing now. If you do know what you want to do after graduation, please stop reading this article. You are on an ethereal plane high above my level of advice.
So it has come up. Your relationship, or perhaps your lack-thereof. Aunt Theresa loves to ask those questions, so she can clear her calendar for a wedding. But you don’t want to talk about anything remotely romantic with your family ever. So what do you do? Go broad, and get a little boring.
“Well he’s interested in computers. Let me tell you about the specifications of the new iPhone…”
“I’m not dating anyone, but my roommate is seeing this girl who is super into making lamps out of sea shells. Here’s how she does it…”
Do not go into detail about anything romantic at Thanksgiving. At the smallest sign of weakness, you will be forced to share every detail of every relationship you’ve ever had. Your family hasn’t seen you in a year. The information you give them now will carry them forward to 2016. Do not let that information include anything you would be uncomfortable shouting at church, or anything you don’t want to discuss again next Thanksgiving.
Turning the tables
This method can work for almost any topic. When a question comes up that you are not prepared to answer with honesty or vagueness, just flip it around.
Examples: Question: “What can you do with a degree in English?”
Reverse: “Can you tell me about your college degree or first job?”
Question: “What do you do for fun in Fort Myers?”
Reverse: “What do you do for fun in Arizona?”
Some other techniques you can use throughout the day to steer questions away from you include saying you heard someone urgently ask for help in the kitchen, passing the buck to the nearest relative and asking everyone who they might vote for in the primaries.
Thanksgiving can be stressful, but it’s important to remember that this is your family. They love you, you love them, and if you have to sit between Aunt Missy’s kids at dinner, slap on a smile and do it.
Eagle News wishes everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving!