Thanksgiving 101: How to Answer Awkward Questions

With the opportunity to go home for the holidays, no one is really thinking beyond the excitement of getting a nice long break and getting a great home-cooked meal for the holidays. It’s sometimes easy to forget that Thanksgiving dinner also comes with family conversation, and that usually includes questions that can feel like a personal attack. To help make sure that you can get through the meal just carving the turkey, this article is going to give you an idea of what questions to expect and how to answer them.

"Are you afraid you’re going to regret that?"

Maybe they won’t phrase it that way, but it is certainly written all over their face when they first see whatever “that” is. In my case, it was the fact that I finally got to dye my hair red. In other cases, it might be a tattoo, a piercing or maybe some life decision that you have decided to share. 

At first, it stings a bit to hear something like that, so the first thing to do would be to take a breath. That is going to be the first thing to do when you hear any of these questions. Don’t jump on your first instinct, because it might not be the best thing to do. 

The best thing to say to this question is, “Maybe I will. But I would rather regret the things I did than the things that I didn’t do.” This is a good answer because it maybe shows that you are considering what the person asked. The rest of that answer allows room for logic in the decisions that you have made.

"What happened to so-and-so?"

This seems to be a question that is asked as a filler, and with a lot of people, this question might not grate our skin like a cheese grater. However, when they ask about an ex or a friend that you had a bad falling out with, it’s hard not to get sensitive about the situation. 

Again, breathe, smile and don’t throw any shade in anyone’s direction, especially because you don’t know if your family runs in the same social circles as the ex or the ex-best friend. You might no longer care about being on good terms with this person, but if they somehow hear that you’re talking about them, they might unnecessarily try and get back into your life. Not to reunite and apologize, but to confront you, and who needs to open old wounds again?

So, instead of defending yourself or throwing shade, the answer you give should follow the lines of, “It’s so nice that you remember them, Aunt Sherryl, but we realized that we didn’t have a lot in common and have decided to go our separate ways. I’ve met some really cool people while I’ve been at college, though, and I would love to tell you about them.” Just remember that this is a family event, and there’s no need to tell Sherryl about Becky at the bar who held your hair back when you were throwing up at Pub. 

"You know, your cousin is engaged now. Have you found someone special yet?"

My mom throws this question at me at least once a month now, because about 75% of my cousins are in long-term relationships, engaged or married. I’ve perfected my answer at this point. But the thing about this question is that it is one in a chain of questions: finding someone special is first, to when they can meet the special someone, to when you'll be engaged, to when is the wedding, and then when you'll have kids. It's an endless cycle. 

Anyway, the answer I advise goes like this, “The truth is, I have so much going on that I’m still working on developing into the person that I want to be. Before losing myself in a relationship, I would like to know who I am so that I don’t become something that someone else needs.” 

"Do you have plans for once you graduate?"

This one causes some anxiety, only because we all ideally have some idea of what we want to happen, but we don’t have much control over it. Yes, we hope to get our dream job, or get into graduate school or get married and have a family. Or the opposite might be true, and you might not have any idea what you want in the future. 

The way to answer this question if you know what you want after college, you tell the truth. While you think that might jinx everything, the better way to think about it is that you are manifesting your future, and the people who love you want to be there to support you.

If you don’t know what you want, it’s okay to say that too. Honestly tell them, “I know that I’m in college, but I have some time before I have to figure out what is going to happen in the future. What do you think? You’ve known me for a while. How do you picture my future?” It might give you some perspective, but if you don’t really care, then it’ll keep some people talking while you finish your food. 

"When are you going to get serious?"

This might be the result of answering “I don’t know” to the last question, or one of your cousins sharing your Instagram feed. Either way, this question is phrased in a way that is so accusatory that your first instinct might have been to go on the defensive. Don’t do that, because life is not a race, it’s a marathon, and everyone will cross the finish line in their time. 

The answer to this one is a bit trickier. I would say not to engage if it could be avoided. But if you really must, I would answer like so: “I know that it doesn’t seem like I’m taking life seriously, but life isn’t all about work. I’m trying to make sure that I enjoy these years too.” And then I would try to change the topic.

"Are you sure you want or don't want that slice of pie?"

With some people, any sort of comment on a diet is like a minefield. We’re all trying to lose weight, or gain weight, but we really should be trying to be healthy. The reason anyone would be critiquing eating habits is if we looked unhealthy. If you want another slice of pie and you get asked this question, maybe offer to split it in half. If you don’t want another pie, maybe offer to eat a little bit of something else, so that you can lessen the worries from those that care about you.

"Why don’t you call us or visit more often?"

If it’s your first Thanksgiving home, this question is one that you’ll hear more than once when you come home. It might be annoying, but realize that your family misses you, and while you’re out living your life, your family has to figure out how to live theirs without you. The best way to answer this is to say that you’ll do better, and really try better to keep in touch with them. 

While hearing these questions might not be fun, remember that they are asked by people who love us and only want the best for us. Since it is Thanksgiving, it is best for us to enjoy dinner the best we can and be grateful for good food and people who love us.

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