It’s that time of year again! That time where family gathers from all over (or maybe in a different capacity this year with the pandemic) to open presents, have a nice dinner and inevitably end up grilling one family member about something they clearly don’t want to talk about. At one time or another, that person has been you.
First it was questions like, “now that you’re out of college what are you going to do?” and as you get older it’s prying about your love life or pressure to go to the next chapter of your relationship, whatever that may be. With the pandemic in play, the questions will undoubtedly be even worse. A family member who is just genuinely curious could accidently start a whole interrogation about when you’ll find a new job after the pandemic, the upcoming vaccine…. or worse, someone might want to talk about the election still.
The stress of this impending conversation can almost ruin the joy that comes with getting to see your family to celebrate the season. If you go into the evening fully equipped to evade these uncomfortable topics, you’ll be on your way to enjoying that family gathering before you know it. Be prepared with these in your arsenal of avoidance!
1. Strategically Spread Out Delivering Bits of “News” About Your Life
This is listed first because it’s my best weapon. When you walk in and see your cousins, grandma, parents, and everyone else for the first time in a long time they immediately are going to ask what you’ve been up to. It’s easy to accidentally let it all slip out at that moment, but seal those lips!
Rather than giving them a quick recap of everything, pick one thing and talk about it with a little more length, saving some of the more juicy stuff when things start to take a turn for the no-no topics. Throughout the night when there are lulls in conversation that might lead someone to ask about your lack luster love life, whip out one of those little bits to chat about.
This works best if you think about some things you’d like to highlight ahead of time. Get creative. Not a lot of “new” has happened this year for most people so it’s a time to talk about new hobbies you’ve tried out, books you’ve read, tv shows watched, ridiculous things you’ve seen in Walmart while shopping this year, etc.
Spreading out the delivery of good news is an extremely effective way to make it seem like you’re an open book and keep conversation flowing. The more you participate, the less likely you are to be picked on.
Food. It’s the way to many people’s hearts. Also, ends up being a great way to keep the family preoccupied. Those hard to answer questions you’re avoiding can’t be asked if everyone has food in their mouth. Bring an appetizer for people to much on. If it’s really good or unique, you’ve got yourself a conversation piece!
During dinner, keep eating. You know the food is good when the table is quiet. If you’re in charge of cooking, this fate is up to you. Having your mouth full will buy you some time to think of answer or a way out of an answer if someone dares speak up about that bit of drama you’re avoiding.
If dinner is winding down and you see that look in someone’s eye that says “You’re next” for getting grilled, then volunteer to clear the table or prompt for dessert to be served. Food is art and so is evasion of uncomfortable topics.
3. Board Games
Well, this one you have to be careful with. Some families are very competitive and board games do have a chance of bringing out the worst in some. BUT arguing over if the banker is cheating at Monopoly is still a successful evasion of your personal life!
Bring over your own board games just in case, or at least a deck of cards. If things start to slow down or you notice another family is about to get nailed with those questions they don’t want to be asked, suggest everyone gather for the new activity.
4. Have Some Memes to Share on Deck
Want to know what everyone loves? A video of cute animals. Cat memes. Toothless Kim Kardashian memes. Save some of these crowd pleasers to your phone and use them to transition to lighter topics.
“Oh, this reminds me of…” and get out that meme. Videos are great because it requires a certain amount of time for everyone to switch gears and focus on something else. I recommend finding one of those animals video where a tortoise befriends a cat and raises it as it’s own or along those lines and saving it for when the conversation starts to sour.
5. Bring Seasonal Movies/Home Movies
Speaking of videos… Bring some over to the gathering. Home movies are great to remind everyone of the good ol’ days before politics were deemed acceptable table conversation. The more babies featured in the home movie, the better.
Not everyone has home movies. That’s okay. You’re not completely out of options. Gather everyone around for a Christmas movie. You can turn into a game of sorts by sticking a bunch of titles into a hat and having someone draw what you watch. That’s almost 2 hours of time where the focus will not be on you! (Or whichever poor soul you’re saving this year from being the target.)
6. No News on TV
Maybe this should have been #1 because this is key for avoiding any political topics throughout the night. Not to say you’ll escape them entirely, but it sure helps to not let your dad have his favorite news station on in the background.
If it’s on, you should politely ask to turn it off. You can say it’s to keep the holiday spirit alive or some spin on that. There is nothing worse than enjoying a Christmas cocktail and then your grandfather overhearing on the news something old about the election and him suddenly needing to comment about it.
Turn off the TV, or at the news. But also, be prepared to just not engage. As much as you want to stick someone in their place or explain why something is incorrect, just nod and ask if they need a refill on their glass.
7. Propose a not-so-spur-of-the-moment Toast!
You’ll want to make sure everyone’s glasses are filled for this one. The ol’ spur-of-the-moment toast! Only, it’s extremely strategically placed. This one works best for you to be a third party savior for someone else. You can hope they one day return the favor.
When you see your favorite cousin getting backed into a corner they don’t want to get stuck in, take the opportunity to stand up and propose a toast! To make it more natural, you may need to leave the room for a moment and act like you don’t hear what’s going on. Walk back in with a full glass, and propose a toast to the upcoming year, the holiday season, to family, to some random piece of information you’ve been holding on to- whatever. If your family is buzzed enough, it won’t really matter what you’re toasting to.
This is kind of my last resort way to save the day. Don’t overuse it!
I think the biggest thing you have to remember is that your family loves you. They mean well even when it seems like they are so far out of bounds. Curiosity can get the best of your parents and it turns into prying, but at the end of the day they just want to know how you are. Some generations don’t understand the importance a certain political policy might rein in your life and truly don’t understand that it’s not a good dinner topic. They think debating is fun and don’t realize how it’s tarnishing their image in your mind.
Not all conversations can be avoided, but sometimes it’s nice to put it off until after the holidays. Christmas time is meant to be filled with happiness and generosity. Keep the conversation light and fun when you can, but when you can’t.. don’t be afraid to try these grade A evasion techniques. I’ve done them all and give them a seal of approval. Shhh, don’t tell my family.