Table Talk

‘Tis (almost) the season that entails good food and good company, but perhaps mediocre, frustrating, or fiery conversations. Going home for the holidays is a unique university experience no one necessarily anticipates having to prepare for, so Lifestyle is here to give some conversation tips and tricks for navigating small talk around the table. Especially now, as home is geospatially torn and time is shared between here and there, it can be difficult to navigate conversations ‘round the table peppered with questions like “What are you doing post-grad?” to which many responses may include, “I don’t know, it’s only been seven weeks into my first year; but now I have unnecessary anxiety before my more immediate midterm next week, thanks Aunt Jane*.” Or maybe gathering is better spent in silence, holding the tongue back from berating the current sociopolitical climate, lest home-cooked meals are something to be casually tossed aside.

Granted, each pilgrimage experience is different, and this article does not aim to suggest that every migration back home looks a certain way. But there can be a communal breath of anticipation held on the long road home, only to be released in relief after the break has passed with no mention of GPA scores, questions circulating pending relationship statuses, or any situational tension. But alas, if that breath of relief might not come, take the moment to embrace a crash course in “Navigating Communication Through Any Means Necessary.” Though family and friends might have the intention of checking in with love, it can turn into a space of aggressive commentary misguided by miscommunicated questioning. Nevertheless, blow pestering friends and family away with active listening or productive questions, staying calm and responding well while reasonably expanding on or validating points of view.   

But, if all attempts at rationality should fail, here are some ideas to at least go down swinging — albeit ridiculously, but there are times, to fight fire with the absurd:

Use Netflix to Help Chill  

Facing a preposterous post-grad question? Politely and discretely reply with a spoiler from “Stranger Things 2”. Use it as an allegory to show how, no Aunt Jane, nobody likes spoilers; just like I don’t want to spoil what will happen to me in the next few years, but thanks for asking. Cue a segued transition into turning on Netflix to then watch the series together instead of answering a plethora of questions we all know no one has the answer to.  

From Stalking to Spotting

Is Aunt Jane back at it again? Scrolling through Facebook and mentioning how everyone seems to be getting jobs and a nice suburban home with two Toyota Priuses in the front driveway, all the while making commentary on the latest news? Kindly redirect her to friendly digital community group, Dogspotting. Have a refreshing conversation of whether or not to use “smol” or “doggo” instead, a dialogue that is both intellectually stimulating and a considerate move to expand Aunt Jane’s view of millennial culture.

Black Friday Budgeting

Alas, in expanding Aunt Jane’s view of millennial culture, she’s made a snide comment on how the millennial generation is ruining the economy with avocado toast and $38 cappuccinos. What better time than now to remind Aunt Jane that living on a budget is actually something college students know how to navigate well  — not always wisely, but can navigate nonetheless. Toss in a few Best Buy coupons and Amazon daily deals to show off financial savvy and engage in Black Friday preparations. Pose a few questions about how there should be a focus too on a different perspective, like how consumerist tendencies might actually be capitalizing on the consumer.

Turn Up the Volume

And if it all hits the ceiling, casually turn on Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” to optimistically indicate a merrier season ahead.  

*A fictional character. Apologies for misusing the name if you have an Aunt Jane who is actually a very pleasant person.