- Do you have a significant other?
This question is a trademark of inquisitive family members. They all want to know when you’re planning on settling down and popping out a few cute kids, so they can swoop in and babysit every once in a while. You’re guaranteed to get some form of this question: if you’re dating the pariah you know Grandma doesn’t like, she’ll ask how things are going with a glint in her eye. If you’re dating the one who talks to your Dad about baseball — maybe even more than he talks to you — Dad will ask when he’s coming around, secretly praying nothing terrible happened during your last date night. Then, of course, if you’re single, everyone wants to hear about who you’ve been snuggling up with during cuffing season.
My #1 tip to answer this question: keep it simple. If your relationship doesn’t have a label, it’s not worth painstakingly explaining your relationship status, what it means to be “together” or “a thing.” As for follow-up questions, give as little information as possible and change the subject as soon as possible. When your relationship is serious enough, your S.O. can sit for the interrogation themself.
- What classes are you taking?
This isn’t the question your relatives really want to ask (see #3 below). This is just a gentle precursor designed to lure you in. Your hedge-fund owning great-uncle has you right where he wants you — he knows you think he’ll be oh-so-excited to hear about that super invigorating seminar on Ancient Greek feminism you took this semester. Spoiler alert: he won’t.
- Follow-up to #2: Is a class on *insert random humanities sector* really going to get you a job?
Ahh, here she is! The real question Uncle Howard wants to ask is not really a question at all: it’s a panic signal. Howie wants to know what you’re planning after graduation, and he’s concerned that you are (god forbid) taking advantage of the opportunity to learn for the sake of learning! And hey, it doesn’t hurt that said class was an easy A for the GPA. For this one, I recommend avoiding a committal answer at all costs. If you commit to, say, medical school now, you’ll open yourself up to a barrage of questions when you inevitably switch your major for the fourth time. A nice, vague answer like, “something interdisciplinary” will do the trick. Now, take a bathroom break or bring up politics to avoid any tough follow-ups!
- Are you going to get a real job this summer?
This one is for all my summer camp ladies. You all know the look on Grandpa’s face when you say you’re going back to camp…again. You get a sarcastic “How cool!” in response, and end up trying to hide from the shame of his glare. But this doesn’t just apply to a summer camp job; there’s a chance that no internship is good enough for your family. It doesn’t matter if you’re grabbing coffee for the president or writing briefs for lawyers. So, try not to take this question too personally, and don’t retort with a resume-worthy explanation of why your job or internship is worthwhile. Instead, deflect with something bound to please the whole crowd like, “I can’t even think about summer yet with all these finals I have coming up to study for!” Now, you sound so studious that they’ll totally forget your prior transgressions.
- What a cool new piercing/tattoo!
I know, I know. You’re all saying, “This isn’t a question, Rachel! I’m reading this article to prepare for questions, not statements.” I hear you, I do! But bear with me — this one actually is a question. This is a statement of panic about your morals, and what your family member is really asking is, “Have you been corrupted? Are you still the sweet girl you were when we sent you to college?” Of course, the answer is that the new double helix tattoo you got last Saturday night is the least “demoralized” thing you’ve done since you started college, but they don’t need to know that. All this question warrants is a tight smile and a “Thanks!” Then, as always, the next step is to run before they can ask anything else!