For many people, Thanksgiving evokes thoughts of turkeys, pumpkin pie, college football, and the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special. While it is seen as a food, family, friends and football-filled Thursday across America, college students recognize the day as a special kind of torture: that of seeing extended family and knowing they’ll be prepared to interrogate you on the real burning issues of the year.
If you’re going to be spending the weekend with family members you haven’t seen in a while, I find it best to come with prepared responses to the questions they are most likely going to ask. If you keep reading, you will find that I have done some of the hard work for you by compiling the three most common (with my family around a dining room table, at least), painful conversations relatives may want to have with you.
First of all, my relatives tend not to beat around the bush very much. They’re blunt, direct, and oftentimes bring up conversation topics that aren’t exactly going to make the holiday be remembered with fondness. So I guess I should never have been shocked when my (I think well-meaning) grandmother asked me when I had last weighed myself. Wow. I am fairly certain that on Thanksgiving, the day the average American consumes 2,000+ calories in one meal, nobody wants to be thinking about their weight. I chose the “smile until it hurts” tactic in this instance, while asking for someone to please pass the mashed potatoes and gravy.
Other popular conversation topics of Thanksgivings past include discussions concerning my college major or eventual career path. “What are you doing with that degree?” and “Do you really think you should be wasting money studying in that field?” are bothersome, meddlesome, and often ignorant questions. Personally, my plan of attack for them is to begin talking about some of the coursework I’ve been doing in the subject, hope my overbearing relative gets confused by it and moves on. The bigger the words you’re using are, the better. Although, you don’t want to overdo it, or you might wind up having to face my personal favorite follow-up question, “Wow. That sounds like it’s a demanding subject. Do you think your husband will be okay with you being so involved in a career? You won’t be at home to take care of your dishes, laundry, and children you know.” I don’t yet have a polite and family-friendly response to this yet, so if anyone else does, please let me know.
Finally, that brings us to the uncomfortable Thanksgiving topic I would be remiss without mentioning: politics. My tactic in years past is to walk away from the ‘adult’ conversation about political parties and elections in order to go find anyone who isn’t yet four feet tall and has no political affiliations. They tend to be a bit more fun to hang out with generally, because they usually bring toys. This year, though, I don’t feel that that tactic will work too effectively, so my current game plan is to have a mental list of less emotionally-charged conversations to propose. Yes, the election needs to be talked about, but is the one day dedicated to remembering all the things we are thankful for really the best time for that? Personally, I don’t think so. Talking about something my relatives are a bit less passionate about instead ensures that family will still be on friendly terms when Christmas comes around next month.
Well, since you’ve now read this, you’re now all ready to go out and enjoy Thanksgiving meals with family, no matter what tricky conversations may come up. But remember, if my usual tactics ever do fail you, that’s the best time to ask for someone to pass the whipped cream, and take a large bite of pumpkin pie.