How to Handle the Family Interrogation Over the Holidays

The holiday season is a great time to relax and reconnect with your family after spending months away at school. However, the relaxation part doesn’t always come easy when some of your family members start getting a little too nosy. We’ve all been asked the “harmless” questions like: “Why are you still single?” “Have you gained weight?” “How are your grades?” “What are your plans after college?” The list goes on and on. Although these questions are well intended and come from a place of caring, it can be very uncomfortable to answer. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve spent some holidays crying in the bathroom after the interrogation. Life is complicated, and as a twenty-year-old woman I don’t have my entire life figured out yet. Here’s some responses to help handle the personal questions for a more enjoyable holiday.

  1. 1. “Why are you still single?”

    We’ve all heard this before. This question is a good one to combat with humor. You could laugh it off and say something along the lines of “I’m waiting for Zac Efron.” Hopefully the crowd will chuckle and you’ll slide out of that question easily. If humor isn’t your thing, this is an easy question to steer in a new direction. For example, saying something like, “I’ve just been too busy with my [insert interesting class you’re taking here] to meet anyone. It’s actually really interesting, did you know [insert cool fact from your class here].” Changing the topic to something you’re more comfortable talking about can help avert the awkward situation.

  2. 2. “Have you gained weight?”

    This one just hurts. Surprisingly, it usually it comes from a place of love. Your family just wants to be sure you’re remaining healthy while away at school. Sometimes it also stems from body insecurity from the family member asking. Either way it’s not fun to have your insecurities out on display during Christmas dinner. Comedian, Claudia Michelle Wallace, has a pretty savage line to respond to this question. She said, “I don’t know, every time I step on the scale it says ‘Perfect.’” You can also just shut this question down with a simple “No” or “Enough.” Everyone else at the table probably noticed how inappropriate this question was as well, so it shouldn’t lead to any follow up questions.

  3. 3. “How are your grades?”

    This question might not be awkward if you’re a stellar student, and if that’s the case, you should be proud of your success, but for those who are struggling this semester, it can be a sensitive subject. Relatives may tend to hold you to a higher standard, especially when your aunt’s co-worker Susan was recently bragging about her daughter at Harvard who has straight A’s, three majors, and is a star student athlete. I know that lying is wrong, but honestly, this question is just easy to brush off with a little white lie. Your relatives will probably never see your transcript or log into your LionPath to see your final grades this semester. Just say, “I’ve been doing pretty well.” Your grades shouldn’t be anyone else’s business, you know what you need to do for next semester to get your grades where you want them to be. 


  4. 4. “What are your plans after college?”

    80% of Penn State freshmen enter college in the Division of Undergraduate Studies. It’s perfectly normal to not have your entire life planned out yet. Even if you’re past your freshman year and still deciding or considering switching your major that’s totally fine too. No matter the case, this question always seems to arise. Thinking about the future can be scary and uncomfortable to talk about when you don’t have it all planned out. An easy answer is, “I plan to explore my options.” This sounds like you’ve got your life together, even if you’re just in the dark as your family for this question. Or saying something like, “I plan to work in the [insert your major here] industry.” This is true and valid and sounds specific enough to fool people into thinking you know what you’re doing.


Don’t take this article the wrong way, it’s always okay to be honest with your family. They’re only trying to look out for you. On the other hand, if any questions are asked about touchy subjects and you don’t want to start bawling at the table, hopefully these responses can help. Good luck and Happy Holidays!!