Have you ever found yourself grasping at straws for suitable conversation starters while seated at a Thanksgiving dinner between a long-lost third cousin (twice removed), and a complete stranger (your brother's serious girlfriend of two weeks)? Thanksgiving can be a great time to gather with extended family, especially the very extended type you are unlikely to ever see again. (Have you ever been guilty of saying the wrong thing at a holiday dinner, thus putting your foot in your mouth along with the turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie? I know I have. It helps to commit this faux pas around a dining companion who will probably completely forget about you the following day.)
Fear not. If you watch this short video from Mental Floss* before Thanksgiving, you should have plenty of weird and wonderful conversation starters up your sleeve:
Thus armed, you will be able to expertly steer your own (and other people's) conversation starters away from those dreaded Dangerous Questions.
What is a Dangerous Question? Here is a short list of my personal favorite Dangerous Questions to watch out for, which will inevitably veer into the abyss (and possibly start a Thanksgiving family feud that will last through the New Year):
- "So, when are you two getting engaged/married/divorced?"
- "When are you going to have a child? You're not getting any younger..."
- "You're having another child? Don't you know the planet is overpopulated?"
- "Still haven't found THE ONE, I see. Have you given up on dating?"
- "Honey, it looks like you've gained some weight...are you pregnant?"
- "Honey, it looks like you've lost some weight... have you been sick recently?"
- "You're just picking at your turkey, are you on a fad diet or something?"
- "How much money does (your new boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse) make?"
- "What on earth do you see in (your new boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse)?"
- "So I hear you lost your job this year...how much longer are you going to be living with your parents? They're not running a hotel, you know."
(...and I could go on, but you can probably continue with your own list of Dangerous Questions here.)
Now, we all know that we cannot stop well-meaning (or ill-intentioned, for that matter) people from asking us a Dangerous Question at the holiday dinner table. Sometimes we may have (accidentally) asked one, ourselves. However, just because someone asks us a Dangerous Question does not mean we have to answer it.
No, no we do not.
Here is my foolproof holiday dinner table tactic for fending off unwanted Dangerous Questions: simply shrug and smile a small, mysterious smile, keeping your mouth tightly closed and lips pressed together all the while. This is key: if you don't open your mouth, nothing embarrassing or potentially disastrous can come out of it. (You also can't eat anything with your mouth tightly closed, a tiny problem during a holiday dinner...but I digress.) Then quickly change the subject. Or, if you're in a situation where you can do so, it's perfectly acceptable to just follow your shrug & smile routine up with a polite "Excuse me, please" and move away. Quickly. Far, far away.
If you're stuck at the holiday dinner table (seated between Great-Aunt Bertha and Cousin Edgar) and getting up and leaving is difficult or impossible, however, a sample change-the-subject dialogue might look like this:
GREAT-AUNT BERTHA: "Still haven't found THE ONE, I see. Have you given up on dating, dear?"
SELF: (Tiny, meaningful shrug, accompanied by a small, mysterious smile) "Do you know what the Pilgrims ate at the First Thanksgiving?"
GREAT-AUNT BERTHA: (Momentarily distracted) "No, what did they eat?"
When given the choice, steering the dinner table conversation towards quizzing everyone on when Thanksgiving became a national holiday or what year the first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (no, Gimbels) was will suddenly seem much more attractive than discussing your relationship status. At least it will provide a (welcome) distraction, as everyone simultaneously starts yelling "Alexa, what year did Thanksgiving become a national holiday" or "Hey Siri, when was the first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade?" Ah, technology at the dinner table. Every so often, it comes in handy. Whatever it takes to steer the topic of conversation away from your new diet, right?
You'll want to be able to enjoy that second slice of pumpkin pie (with whipped cream, thank you very much) in peace later.
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