How To Survive Thanksgiving Dinner With Your Family

Thanksgiving dinner can be rough, no matter how good the food is. The good news is that there’s probably plenty of wine at the table, but probably not enough to dull out your family. Getting through the meal is more than just clearing your plate. Here’s how to navigate around the conversation minefield that is Thanksgiving dinner.

“What are you going to do with that?”

“That” being your major. This can be difficult to answer for a lot of people, especially if you’re in the humanities.

If you’re having trouble coming up with a good justification for your degree, relax for a second. Your family is just worried about you. They want you to be able to support yourself. However, their worry is deeply, deeply misplaced. The fact is that most people don’t end up doing anything remotely related to their degree. There are famous actors with business degrees, CEOs with philosophy degrees, and entrepreneurs with every B.A. or B.S. out there. Your success in life has nothing to do with your undergraduate degree. Take a second before Thanksgiving dinner and Google successful people with your degree. That should put their foot in their mouth faster than they can shovel turkey in.

“What are you doing these days?”

This is the graduated form of the previous question. Now, it might seem open-ended, but don’t be deceived. They really just want to know about your job. And if you’re like many millennials that just graduated college, you’re struggling to find employment. Your relatives might want to know why you’re not where they were when they were your age, but maybe they don’t understand what you’ve got working against you.

“Did you have over $30,000 of student loan debt when you graduated?” is a good place to start if you’re feeling passive-aggressive. Explain that you’re looking for a job and that you have goals. Report any successes, no matter how minor they are. Usually, at this point, your relative will be so uncomfortable that they’ll drop it for you.

And if you have a job, and it’s just not good enough for your family, tell them Rome was not built in a day, and neither will your career. That, coupled with meaningful glares over your wine glass, should deliver the message.

“Are you seeing anyone?”

For whatever reason, families are really interested in your romantic life. Whether they want to see you happy or they just want grandkids, whatever — but this isn’t a fun topic of conversation if you’re painfully aware that you’re alone.

However, no one wants to be set up by their parents, so sidestep it quickly with a simple, “I’m not really looking right now. Focusing on me.” List off some of your hobbies, and show them you can be a fully formed person without a significant other! Perhaps they just need to be reminded.

“Did you see what _______ is doing now?”

That blank? That’s the name of some person you went to high school with, who is now the youngest Nobel prize winner ever. Okay, probably not, but the way your grandma talks about it, they might as well be.

Obviously, you know, because Facebook is a thing. Research is showing that Facebook can be detrimental to your mental health, precisely because it promotes the same self-comparison that your grandma is prompting now.

But don’t get into that. Instead, simply state that you are aware of all the amazing things that they’re doing, and then switch the topic of conversation as quickly as possible. It needs to be engaging enough that they’ll drop it, so consider some of the following:

  • Their last trip to the doctor
  • The process of cooking Thanksgiving dinner
  • Health insurance — that’ll get everyone riled up
  • As a last resort, offer to help with some tech issue they’re having. Only for the desperate!

Thanksgiving is always stressful, no matter if you’re cooking or not. You can follow the above guidelines for maneuvering around these difficult topics of conversation. Personally, I just like to drink enough to blur out everything except the food, but this style of avoidance is not for everyone. It’s just a good fall back if the above advice doesn’t work out for you.

Featured image via Gossip Girl


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