Well, it’s that time again. Time to pack the family in a car, travel to see the in-laws and have an awkward, gut-busting meal courtesy of Auntie Carol and her dog Speckle, who may or may not smell like mothballs, which may or may not be what the entire house smells like.
Hopefully, you were able to find a photography studio in your area and came packing family portraits and photos of the kids – because if there’s one thing relatives like, it’s pictures of all the nieces, nephews and grandkids.
But even if you’ve done everything right, let’s face it: conversation may not be exactly fluid. There are, however, a few things you should definitely not say in an attempt to break the awkwardness and scare up a chat this holiday season:
1. “I’m a vegetarian.”
Good for you. But no matter how against meat you are, no matter how healthy it may be to not consume animal protein, this is just one of those things you don’t say as a guest, especially while celebrating a holiday that’s visually represented by a cooked turkey. This is more for your sake than those around you. Saying you’re vegetarian brings with it a litany of questions you will have to answer. “Don’t you miss meat?” “What do you eat then?” “Cows are dumb anyway, why not just eat them?” The list goes on and on. Eat a big lunch and casually stick to side dishes without making a fuss. You’ll be spared the third degree, and you won’t run the risk of offending your hostess.
2. “How’s the divorce going?”
If one of your in-laws or family members is going through a divorce, it might seem polite and compassionate to bring it up, but it’s a huge mistake. The holidays stir up a lot of emotions and there’s just no way to know how someone will react to this question. They make think you’re being hostile, or condescending or even judgmental. Also, you’re potentially subjecting yourself to a day-long tirade, in which you get to hear every detail of the person’s epic failed marriage. Don’t do it.
3. “I got this from the store.”
If you brought something from the store, don’t say it aloud, silly. Pretend you made it! A potluck Christmas is supposed to be communal celebrations of cooking, not admissions of consumer laziness. Unless someone starts throwing up from it, don’t cop to your contribution being store-bought.
There are endless examples of how Christmas can turn into the most awkward day of the year. Take measures to train yourself not to say the thing that results in you being the root cause.
Smile, say thank you, complement the hosts’ home and hair, chew your turkey, ham, or tofu substitute with your mouth closed, and try to get you and your family out before you’ve consumed 3 trillion calories and made someone cry.