Humor Magazine

5 Thanksgiving Conversations That Aren’t Even Worth It For Pumpkin Pie

By Katie Hoffman @katienotholmes

A celebration anchored by a table full of food should be the description of the perfect holiday, but Thanksgiving can be a land mine of cringe-worthy conversations if you aren't attuned to the warning signs of an awkward or inappropriate conversation. Without presents to open, eggs to find, fireworks to shoot off, or candles to blow out, Thanksgiving is all about togetherness - which often means talking to those relatives you only recognize from the profile pictures attached to the drivel they post on Facebook. While some pleasant conversation is nice to cover the sounds of lips smacking between bites of green bean casserole and dull knives sawing through dry turkey, one wrong conversational turn can leave you left alone with Uncle Reginald while he rambles on about the latest undesirable population to move into the beloved neighborhood where he once could walk down the street with a quarter in his hand for a sodie pop.

Some conversational booby traps are unavoidable (like when your cousin Valerie asks if you like cookies and then spends the rest of the evening trying to get you to invest in the bakery she's opening called Flour Power), but others you can spot from a concerned chin rub and distressed rescue glance from across the room. Here are five phrases to look out for when you're making the rounds this Thanksgiving.

If someone leads with "So..." at Thanksgiving, it's safe to assume that they're not going to follow up with "a needle full of thread." The So You're Still conversation is probably the most demoralizing. It reminds you of when you endured this same conversation the year before and vowed on someone's grave (possibly someone in attendance at dinner who wasn't looking so hot) that you'd have some life-changing news to report next year. But here you are again at Thanksgiving, still living in the same apartment with the same marital status working at the same job.

The So You're Still conversation seems like a simple way for a relative to clarify what's going on in your life, but much more often it's a passive aggressive way for someone else to pass judgment on life choices they think are unambitious or sad. If you can't avoid this debriefing, my advice is to lie spectacularly. Tell your aunt's second husband you joined a free love commune, blew your savings on a rare musket, and plan on traveling the world on a Galapagos tortoise and hitting up every hot air balloon event along the way.

Any conversation that begins with a determiner like "that" or "those" should sound off an alarm in your mind; it is almost guaranteed that something racist, politically incorrect, or factually inaccurate is going to follow. Examples include:

-That Donald Trump, he really makes a lot of sense.

-Those transgenders... [incoherent grumbling]

-That ISIS would've been no match for Reagan.

-That pizza rat is a millennial.

It's difficult, but you must resist the urge to use your phone to create a works cited page that proves everything your woefully-informed relative just said is about as reliable as Uncle Barry's gluten free prune pie. These relatives aren't interested in a lively, nuanced discussion-they just want an audience willing to be a dumpster for their garbage thoughts. There's always a wind up to the That/Those remark. Look out for anyone setting their napkin down with a sense of finality and beware of anybody taking a long sip of their drink like they're preparing for a Thanksgiving filibuster.

    "I saw you posted ______ on [social media platform] and [bizarre assumption only a family member stalking your social media would arrive at].

As if friending and following certain family members on social media doesn't already feel like an NSA level invasion of privacy, the Social Media Blast is the Thanksgiving conversation sabotage you never see coming. You'll be absorbed with building Mashed Potato Mountain (elevation: 2.5") when suddenly distant cousin Darlene will interrupt with, "Oh that reminds me! I saw that picture of you on Instagram the other day. Who's that cutie you were holding hands with?" Ah, yes. That "cutie" is someone you've been seeing whom you'd describe freely as bae among your friends but who doesn't need to meet your family yet. "That was one big margarita too! Did you drink that all yourself? Hope you didn't drive home..." You did drink it yourself, but you got an Uber. It had been a long week, okay? "What was that me-me you posted about work? Do you not like your job? Are you high right now? Do you ever get nervous?"

Unless you posted something problematic that you regret in hindsight (like a hormone-fueled review of Adele's new CD), don't apologize for your social media use. And because the holidays are a great time to remind people of your boundaries, don't forget that your social media accounts are your accounts for to be used for your own self-expression - not a family newsletter - and blood doesn't always mix with content. If people are following you for family gathering fodder (#FGF), they gotta go. Block them. Post all the "me-me"s and middle finger emojis that you want.

If you're the baby of the family, or if anyone in attendance at Thanksgiving has ever changed your diapers, you're in danger. The Look At You remark is a one-way conversation during which your relatives will enumerate every single thing that's changed about you since your birth as if your entire existence is like Kylie Jenner's lips. In fact, if you've changed in any way, don't even go to Thanksgiving. "Changed" includes things like growing up, getting a haircut, dying your hair, losing weight, gaining weight, adding tattoos, removing tattoos, piercing new body parts, losing your hair, getting cosmetic enhancements, etc. Don't show up being who you are now. Are you crazy? Who told you that you're allowed to change? Remember when you liked Barney and ate cottage cheese? Remember that time you went poo poo in the potty before you got that nose piercing?

If you go to Thanksgiving and you've changed, you're walking into an ambush, because your family will want, nay, need to know the complete psychology and decision-making process that explains why your hair now has purple highlights or why your hairline has receded so much since last year.

If your house has a self-destruct button, you should definitely press it if you hear someone take a deep breath and say, "When I was your age..." You may not be aware of this, but whether you're 25 or just turned 50, you're living your life differently than someone else did at that age, and it's crucial that everyone in the family be made aware of it. When Ruth was 25 she already had two children and a three-bedroom house! When Robert retired at your age, he received a handsome pension and bought an estate on 10 acres in Arizona! Uncle Mickey came out of the womb with a millionaire dollars saved, a coveted job with potential for exponential growth, a key to a sensible SUV, and the deed to a lovely home.

Family members that caught up in when things were done in ~their day~ typically don't appreciate that the world is a very different place. To them, the things you haven't accomplished on their timeline - or the things you've decided to pursue before other things - aren't seen as the result of an evolving society that increasingly champions self-determined priorities, but are viewed instead as portents that your life is unfulfilled. Though sometimes well-intentioned, the When I Was Your Age assault is sometimes used as a Get Out Of Accountability Free Card, because what defense is there to use on someone who's been there and done that? If you can't get out of this lecture, just remember that when your great aunt got married at 21 and had a baby by 22, women did not have careers the way they do today. When Paul bought his house before 30, it cost $10,000 and predated the housing collapse by a half century. That small fortune your dad accumulated? He did it without having student loans, a cell phone bill, and an Internet and cable bundle.


If someone starts comparing your life to the Unfortunate Family Member everyone uses to warn people, build yourself a rocket ship and blast off into outer space. The fact that you're not married yet doesn't mean your partner doesn't love you, like old Phyllis's no-good high school boyfriend who got her pregnant and moved to Nova Scotia. The fact that you're not yet in a career you love doesn't mean you're following in Todd's footsteps, some relative who lacked direct and started out in an entry level office job, began using heroin, pawned grandma's Faberge eggs, and hasn't been heard from since. No doomed family member has ever been in the exact same situation as you, and if you can't get away from being told about all the ways you're on the path to become the next cousin Myrtle or Uncle Brad, try your best to tactfully marvel at the fascinating Family Logic at play when a relative finds preposterous similarities between your circumstances.

Happy Thanksgiving!

5 Thanksgiving Conversations That Aren’t Even Worth It For Pumpkin Pie

Katie Hoffman is a writer living in the suburbs of Chicago. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @bykatiehoffman.

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