9 Thanksgiving Conversations Anyone in Their Twenties is Likely to Encounter & how to Dodge them

Thanksgiving is upon us! It’s a time for getting together with family, eating delicious foods, and being thankful for the good things that have happened this year. Thanks to COVID, this Thanksgiving is starting to look a lot like an all day Zoom get together featuring early Christmas decorations. Although this dumpster fire of a year may have not given us exactly what we wanted, there are still a lot of things I’m thankful for.

But there’s one thing about Thanksgiving that I’ll never be grateful for. Something that, TBH, might as well be a Halloween tradition; the dreaded conversations. Yes, you know those conversations where your Aunt Judy has to butt in with her opinion, and it turns into an argument or a full-blown nag session. Luckily, I’m an expert in these types of conversations. My parents hosted Thanksgiving at our house for 10 years, and I’ve seen my fair share of these conversations over the years. Whether you’re having a small family gathering or flocking to Zoom, here are nine of the most controversial topics that may arise this year, and how to deal with them.

pumpkin pie on table, fall meal Photo by Element5 Digital from Stocksnap

1. The school talk

The school talk iss sure to show up for every student, and trust me when I say it’s always been a nightmare to talk about. When you were 5, it was easy – you could talk about how you’ve made a new friend and learned your ABC’s. When you’re twenty, it’s all about the path to graduation and everything you’ve accomplished this year.  

Whenever the school talk comes up, dismiss it by saying, “Everything is going well, I believe I’m on track for a bright future when I graduate.” Reassuring your family that you’re doing well and learning what you need to will give them the ease they need. After that, they should drop the topic and move on to something else.

2. The job talk

It's very common to experience the job talk straight out of graduation. While this one might not happen a lot this year because of layoffs and record unemployment, don’t let your guard down; the one thing about these Thanksgiving talks is that you should always be ready for them. You may get lured in with, “How’s the job search going?” or, “Now that you’ve graduated, where are you looking for a job?” What you can do to avoid this conversation is simply say, “I’m currently looking at opportunities, but haven’t found one quite yet,”  “Times are tough right now but I’m trying my best to look for something,” or, “I’m working on building up my network and looking for opportunities out there.” These responses can help deter the conversation from going on too long, but you may also get advice from the other party you’re talking to if you want. It’s a win-win situation.

The job talk can also lead into another dreaded conversation… the future talk. While today isn't the day you want to talk about what comes next, it could double as preparation for a job interview when they ask, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” But if you just want to relax and have a fun time during Thanksgiving, rather than be drilled with that question, that’s fine. All you have to say is, "I’m not quite sure where I see myself yet, but I’m doing my research and thinking about it." Even if it's not on your mind yet, at least they'll feel reassured that you're on the right track. 

3. The moving out talk

This conversation is one that your parents may passive-aggressively join in on, or they may defend you over. It depend on where they stand with you living with them. This is an easier topic to wiggle yourself out of, because you can use COVID as an excuse if your parents don’t defend you. You can easily tell your family that you’re saving up, but because of the state of the world right now, you prefer to live with your parents so you have peace they’re okay. You can also point out that many people are living with their parents during these times because it’s hard to go out there on your own when the world is so uncertain. Your family and parents should respect your decision and drop the subject.

Now when you bring up saving for an apartment, it could fuel questions about your finances. You’ll encounter these confrontations when you start taking on important decisions, like buying a new car or paying off your student loans. While this subject offers advice for those who want it, some people may want to learn to deal with their finances alone. Dismiss this conversation is by saying that, yes, you’re acquiring a lot more responsibilities in life, but you’re taking care of them perfectly fine. Mention how this is a new and exciting experience you’re taking on yourself and that if you ever need help, you’ll reach out. You’ll get your relative off your back, and you’ll know if you ever need help, you have them.

4. The relationship talk

If you have to experience this conversation this year, don't worry, because you and I are in the same boat. Questions about your relationship status are inevitable, whether you're involved with someone or not. If you're living the single life, your family is sure to dig in and see if there’s anyone you’re crushing on at the moment. You’re entering relationship talk territory if someone asks you something like, “Have you met anyone special?” “Did you join any dating apps recently?” or if you’re really attached to your phone they might ask you, “Who are you talking to?” Basically, any kind of prying means they’re trying to get into your dating business. The best way to handle the situation is to kindly explain to them that you haven’t found anyone special yet but are currently enjoying the time you have to yourself.

It’s a whole other side of the spectrum when you actually have an SO for them to ask about. You’ll hear, “How's so and so?” “When are we meeting so and so?” or “Why is so and so not here today?” If you encounter this situation, kindly explain they couldn’t make it today and that when things get better, they’ll come and spend time with the family.

If you can survive COVID as a couple, then you have a solid partnership. To avoid the marriage questions with your anxious family, you can simply say, “We’ve talked about marriage and we just don’t see that happening in our changing lives right now. We’re embracing where we currently are and enjoying the time we’re spending together during this quarantine.”

5. The baby talk 

If you’re married, you’ll definitely find the topic of conversation flowing into the baby talk, which is one of the most dreadful conversations to ever experience, especially if you're in your twenties. The best way to avoid this conversation would be to say that you two just got married and are trying to navigate life as a married couple. You have goals you want to accomplish before you bring another life into the world, especially during these times. Or if you simply don’t want to have babies, you can say that babies aren’t on your minds right now and that you two will talk about that option when you start to mature as a married couple. That way your family thinks you’re thinking about babies and you can break the news you don’t want one after the holidays.

6. The COVID talk

New this year, people are almost guaranteed to ask if you’ve had COVID, how it’s been affecting you mentally or your job, or about the new reality of masks. Worst of them all, that crazy uncle who tells you that COVID is a hoax (yes, those people do exist) is going to throw in his two cents. All essential workers will cringe about it, especially if you look at the numbers nowadays. The best way to go about this conversation is to say, “COVID is an absolutely terrible tragedy that’s shaped our lives this year, but it’s something I prefer not to talk about right now,” or if you’re an essential worker, “I’m an essential worker and I deal with this every day. Today I prefer we take a break from this dim reality and not talk about it.” You can also dismiss yourself into a different room if you don’t want to face it head on. 

7. The political talk

The scariest – and most known – of Thanksgiving talks, the political conversation is one you don’t ever want to be caught up in. Instead of coming together and being thankful, this conversation can divide even the closest knit families. 

Some signs that the political talk is impending include hearing political names being dropped, talk of current events, or the word “corrupt.” If you’re listening but not involved in this conversation, keep doing whatever you’re doing to avoid getting involved. 

But if you do get dragged in, don’t panic! Tell the other person that you think they need help in the kitchen, and go see if they need help, or try to twist the conversation based on your surroundings. Pretend to drop a fork, get a refill on whatever you’re drinking, or if the house has an adorable furry friend, bring the attention to them.

8. The football talk

Considering I’m a sports fan, I’m never nervous about this conversation. I understand the people who aren’t invested in sports are always scared of the ridicule that it tends to come with. Thanksgiving football was always a big part of my celebration. The people in my family who cared about football would go into the living room and watch what goes down, while the people who didn’t care about football would help my parents or do their own thing. If you happen to be surrounded by people who love football and they ask what you think about a play or who you’re rooting for, it's okay to be honest and say that you’re just getting to know the sport, or – if you have no interest in learning it – that you just wanted a comfy place to sit with people.

9. The thankful talk

This is a conversation that always comes up while eating. “What are you thankful for?” While this year was tough for many, I’m sure you can find at least one positive thing in your life that you’re thankful for. If not, think about what you’ve learned this year, because your knowledge could be something you’re thankful for. I recommend that you sit down and write down all the things you’re thankful for, because it can really open your eyes. However, if you don’t feel comfortable sharing at the table, you can say, “I’m thankful to be surrounded by my family today.” This will surely get an “Aw” out of them.

With my Thanksgiving Survival Guide, you can confidently spend the day with your family and know what to say. Either that, or you can fake a bad connection on your Thanksgiving Zoom call, now that they’ve removed the forty minute limit! Whatever you’re doing this Thanksgiving, I just hope that the food is delicious, the company is welcoming and that you enjoy your feast!