The 6 Awkward Conversations You’re Dreading, And How To Deal With Them
November 23, 2015 8:07 PM   Subscribe

This time of year, many of us will make a pilgrimage to see our families. Halls will be decked, candles will be lit, and ancient stories will be told. Hopefully everything for you will be hugs, warmth, light, and reconnection with the people you love. But if you are dreading dealing with that one jerk relative or bracing yourself for an onslaught of intrusive questions and and awkward topics, here’s a guide to keeping your cool and choosing your battles when everyone around you is making it weird.
posted by sciatrix (100 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
Ooh, I read that earlier today. I really liked how she had two sets of instructions, the "Here's how to drop the hint that you don't want to talk about it" set and the "Here's how to escalate your shut-down if they're not picking up the reasonable hints" set. And the reminders that if shutting down rude people feels awkward, it's their fault for being rude, not your fault for shutting them down.
posted by jaguar at 8:17 PM on November 23, 2015 [15 favorites]

That said, I am extremely extremely extremely grateful that most of my holiday gatherings will likely involve people with whom I enjoy discussing politics, because "What about that Trump fellow?" has, among us, only one real response, phrased in variously colorful ways.
posted by jaguar at 8:20 PM on November 23, 2015 [8 favorites]

When accosted about politics, I ask, "Do you vote regularly? Do you donate to candidates? Do you volunteer for political campaigns?"

Once I get a response of no to at least one of the questions, I say, "I only discuss politics with people who do all three of these. So we have to talk about something else." Works every time.
posted by narancia at 8:32 PM on November 23, 2015 [28 favorites]

Not a bad start. My Grandpa, being the condescending patriarch that he was, when someone said something he disagreed with (you shouldn't drink whiskey before dinner/have you considered taking an aerobics class/it's the late 80s and I have heard investment banking is really taking off!) he would arch a brow, make eye contact, and dryly say "I'll take that under consideration, and get back to you on it." Everyone knew this was code for STFU. So now, I carry this tradition on in his memory. I'm not sure how cool he would be with it being used to reject people telling me to vote Republican, but he's dead and I'm not worried.

The phrase that works on my east coast family is "that's really none of your business", repeated as needed. However, there is a reason I live in the other coast, so...

I find it is important to always have a drink in your hand that is almost empty. Not an alcoholic one, but just something to hold. Then, as soon as The Awkward happens, you can leave to refresh your beverage. But when you do, only give yourself a tiny bit! Then you are prepared for the next escape.
posted by Mizu at 8:34 PM on November 23, 2015 [62 favorites]

Thanks, sciatrix. I'm definitely putting "It's hard to say" in my folder of non-commital comments, right next to Just State the Facts ("You're getting married!")
posted by straight at 8:38 PM on November 23, 2015 [12 favorites]

my friends i assure you the answer is simple: benzos
posted by poffin boffin at 8:47 PM on November 23, 2015 [44 favorites]

Mizu, that's genius. I will absolutely be using that phrase in the future.
posted by HypotheticalWoman at 8:47 PM on November 23, 2015

Well, I'm lucky we only have the one Republican, and even she isn't into Trump. For the moment, anyway.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:05 PM on November 23, 2015

I'm a big fan of:
*long pause*
"So anyways, about [completely different topic]."
posted by angelchrys at 9:13 PM on November 23, 2015 [12 favorites]

Yeah, and once other allies are in the know about "I'll take that under consideration" you can use it like a call for assistance. When my little socially atypical 14 year old first cousin once removed said it kind of loudly and made eyes at me across the living room, I could swoop in to his rescue from our horrible aunt who believes in the power of The Secret. I was so proud of him that day!
posted by Mizu at 9:14 PM on November 23, 2015 [37 favorites]

My brother told me several years ago that since Muslims want to kill us all, that this was part of their religion, we should nuke Iraq.

I told him that this was not only inaccurate, it was monstrous and un-Christian (a thing he claims to be) while I was also struggling with the mental disconnect of knowing him all his life and having a hard time believing he really would do that, would push that button and kill innocents. The conversation ended badly and we have avoided politics since then. I think about that conversation, the banality of evil, what fear encourages people to do, and so on, every now and then. But he's my brother, as I told myself at the time, he lives in the middle of nowhere, there are no Muslims around for him to nuke, he wouldn't really do it. I make excuses.

I'll admit; I pushed that feeling of horror away. He's my brother. And yet he said that thing. Did he mean it? How would I know? He's never raised a hand to anyone, never hurt anyone. Never uttered a racial epithet that I've heard.

And yet, he said it. Is he going to say it again? I don't think I should push it away this time. Will I have to stand up from the dinner table, tell him that he's taking the side of people no better than Nazis, and leave? I don't know. Maybe it won't come up at all.

Not really looking forward to Thursday.
posted by emjaybee at 9:14 PM on November 23, 2015 [27 favorites]

"Why do you ask?"
posted by sallybrown at 9:20 PM on November 23, 2015 [8 favorites]

One of the good things about being of crone age, is that people come to my house, and i have a firm no politics, no body policing, no bullshit rule. People who ignore the truce don't get brownie cake with chocolate ganache, and I am not afraid to banish people to the football room with a TV tray if they misbehave.

That said, come Christmas with the in laws, where I'm the only liberal in a sea of faux news, I've leaned that a Xanax can make the day go a lot smoother.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 9:23 PM on November 23, 2015 [18 favorites]

Sometimes when someone says something off-putting I just stare blankly at them until they figure it out. It is the absolute laziest way to do things, but it works.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 9:26 PM on November 23, 2015 [8 favorites]

Good, but this is probably a more realistic take on it for me:

A woke guide to winning the annual familial debate “Thanksgiving”
posted by koeselitz at 9:34 PM on November 23, 2015 [13 favorites]

Sometimes when someone says something off-putting I just stare blankly at them until they figure it out. It is the absolute laziest way to do things, but it works.

Not at all lazy. It takes fortitude to maintain eye contact and to not visibly react. It took me years of therapist training to achieve that.
posted by jaguar at 9:34 PM on November 23, 2015 [25 favorites]

"Really? Why do you think so? Oh. Did you know my dad has been perfecting his turkey recipe? Let me tell you about it."

It's not fraught for me, in fact it is my favorite holiday, and the above works for me usually, but if the weekend is not as easy to navigate for you, I wish you a happy Thanksgiving regardless, and hope you can find the tool or tools that help you get through it.
posted by notyou at 9:36 PM on November 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have been known to troll my somewhat reactionary grandfather in such circumstances. I would treat it as a game to see how far I could get him to go, and having him say annoying but not actually offensive things about politics distracted him from saying personally offensive things to other members of the family about their life choices. He's mellowed somewhat in recent years so there's less need for it now, but it's a tool I keep in my back pocket.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 9:36 PM on November 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

My version of everybody had matching towels' method goes like this:


*intensify awkwardness*

"HA!" Or "hmmm" depending on vibe of the situation

*locate nearest snacks/drinks table*
posted by threecheesetrees at 9:52 PM on November 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

I had a therapy client a year or so ago who liked to present impassioned, stupid, FoxNews-generated arguments against Muslims and Islam as a way of avoiding talking about his own feelings. As one of the issues we were working on was how he tended to lecture/berate his (much less racist) wife about these issues, I would often let him do his thing, and then challenge him in the ways his wife wouldn't, to see if we could generate something workable; he was used to thinking of himself as the smartest person in the room, but he wasn't that smart, so I think I was one of the first people, let alone women, challenging his thought process in realistic ways and/or not allowing him to bully me. I wouldn't argue back, really, just not let him steamroll me, not agree with his "logic," and point out the holes in his arguments.

Once I started that strategy, he quit therapy pretty quickly. I've been thinking this week how glad I am that I'm not having to bite my tongue even that much. My heart really goes out to people having to deal with such shit this season.
posted by jaguar at 10:00 PM on November 23, 2015 [22 favorites]

different Captain Awkward comes out. Green. Strangely muscular. With shredded purple pants where my clothes used to be.

My new holiday dress!
posted by anadem at 10:38 PM on November 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

My strategy this year is to have Thanksgiving at my Mom's on Friday. My bother will be at work, so my step-daughter and I will get to visit with my mom while we work on dinner.

The conversation I'm dreading is how I tell her that my wife and I are (totally agreeably) splitting up.
posted by Jefffurry at 1:09 AM on November 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

If your family does the go around the table and say something you're thankful for thing, you could say you're thankful for your amicable split. Make sure you go last and then start shoveling food into your mouth.
posted by Mizu at 1:16 AM on November 24, 2015 [20 favorites]

Related: A family supper, a classic cartoon from 1898. (1.Above all, we must not talk about the Dreyfus affair!. 2. They did talk about it...)
posted by elgilito at 2:01 AM on November 24, 2015 [22 favorites]

The answer to Question Number One is simple: "I do not believe in celebrating the holidays-any holidays. Or taking time off from work. Or socializing. I only eat Soylent. If you wish to annoy me with conversation, catch me during one of my fifteen-minute nutrition breaks."

Works like a charm.
posted by happyroach at 2:28 AM on November 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Two things:

1.) "Captain Awkward"? She stole my superhero identity!

2.) I could have used this article back when I was spending the holidays with my then-girlfriend's family. It would have saved me a lot of stress-induced headaches from grinding my teeth when her sister's mother-in-law started her horrible (and deeply confused) "Israel is a terrible place, and Jews are the real suicide bombers over there" lectures.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:26 AM on November 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

My brother's the one hosting Thanksgiving this year. He, a couple cousins, and I are the biggest libbies amid aunts and uncles in various sets of conservative (one uncle: religious conservative, one aunt - Tea Party, etc.), and even our father, who's usually pretty dove-ish, recently said "maybe we do need to go in there and bomb the shit" out of Syria.

I emailed my brother a few days ago and offered to get myself arrested just to give the whole family something else to talk about.

....I mean, I was kidding, but you have to admit it'd work.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:28 AM on November 24, 2015 [15 favorites]

Useful tips, although the biggest secret is coordinated teamwork and strategy.

Also, "How’s that dissertation going?" is the nuclear option of party conversation; avoid at all costs, unless you want to send your interlocutor into a quiet spiral of shame-drinking in the corner. It's up there with clueless but well-meaning advice on the academic job market, such as: "Why don't you just send your resume to school X?", as if departments that aren't even running ads are nevertheless going to perk up at receiving my fresh-out-of-grad-school CV and decide to create a brand new tenure-track position just for me. Your wildly misguided faith: it burns.
posted by informavore at 4:38 AM on November 24, 2015 [19 favorites]

Sometimes when someone says something off-putting I just stare blankly at them until they figure it out.

Many years ago when my wife (then girlfriend) was attending school to get her Massage Therapist's license, we spent Thanksgiving at her grandmother's house. Her second drunken idiot uncle overheard some discussion about this, and found it the funniest thing in the world. I was actually standing right near him at the time as he started in with the rude jokes. In fact, I was nearer him than anyone else.

This was in the mid nineties, maybe, and he clearly had never heard of people getting a massage, apart from the stereotype of places that serve as a legal fiction for sex work. Also, he was drunk, so I guess maybe he didn't realize who I was? Or maybe he was just so far up his own rural Nebraskan ass that it didn't occur to him that sexist bullshit wasn't guaranteed to fly in every context. Whatever.

But even though I was furious, somehow the anger pushed into this very focused, still frame of mind that enabled me to land on the only response that would put an end to it. And it was exactly what you've described: to just stare directly into his eyes, without blinking or otherwise moving, for a full thirty seconds. And then, I just said in a very quiet but unmistakably sarcastic voice: "That's funny. That's really funny."

I'd never, to that moment, come remotely close to provoking a fight. And I'd also never backed someone else off from a fight non-verbally, let alone doing it while simultaneously risking starting it. And I'm pretty sure that the flat, dead eye contact and calm demeanor was what made it possible.
posted by Ipsifendus at 5:13 AM on November 24, 2015 [13 favorites]

clueless but well-meaning advice on the academic job market, such as: "Why don't you just send your resume to school X?", as if departments that aren't even running ads are nevertheless going to perk up at receiving my fresh-out-of-grad-school CV and decide to create a brand new tenure-track position just for me

That's what's wrong with your generation! You expect a tenure-track position that you can apply for to just be handed to you! You gotta get out there and pound the pavement.
posted by thelonius at 5:18 AM on November 24, 2015 [11 favorites]

These are actually pretty great. I appreciate them a lot.

Right now I'm dealing with the stress of having invited my mom and her husband into our house until next Saturday. I've mentioned elsewhere that I came out as a trans woman a few months ago. We obviously asked them to start using a new name and correct pronouns. Months ago. Well, they've decided to just.. you know... not.

So! Thanksgiving with deadnaming and misgendering constantly in my own house! Fan-fucking-tastic.
posted by odinsdream at 5:23 AM on November 24, 2015 [18 favorites]

God, odinsdream, that sounds so fucking hard. I know families and situations vary wildly but imo not even making an attempt at the right name and pronouns would be grounds for insisting they get a hotel, at the very least. I hope over the next couple of days with you they come around, and that you have lots of people to go to for affirmation and reinforcements.
posted by Mizu at 5:38 AM on November 24, 2015

Thelonius, you made me giggle out loud in the midst of all my job related angst! The best holiday present of all!
posted by ChuraChura at 5:42 AM on November 24, 2015

The increasing number of articles (and lamentably, now "listicles") about how to deal with the neurotic horror of family gatherings just makes me wonder why people seem so afraid of the natural solution to those problems—don't go.

Me? I hate weddings. Well, that's an understatement, because what I really do is hate hate hate hate hate hate hate the fucking wretched stupid repetitive money-wasting drunken idiotic droning churchy obligatory ritualistic moron parties we call weddings, and I figured out a few years ago that I really don't actually need to attend any. The pressure's there, if it's family, and I consider many of my friends family, too, but I don't go, and it's like swiftly removing a bandage—hurts at first, then you heal.

I was annoyed when marriage equality went national, because my best dodge went away—"Oh, I've made the moral decision not to attend any weddings until all people have the right to marry." Then…oh, for fuck's sake.

"Thanks so much for the invitation. You and Earl make such a lovely pair. Of course, I will be unable to attend."

"But, but you have to come! It's going to be so fun!"

"Have any older relatives been involved at any part in the planning process?"

"Well, just my mom and aunts an—"

"—Sorry, let me save you the time. As much as I adore you and Earl, the tragic reality underlying my reticence is that I fucking hate weddings. I'm sure you'll have a lot of fun, though."


And the thing is, this will mark you as a killjoy, a curmudgeon, and possibly a jerk, but ultimately if you're really not any of those things, the people who truly know and love you know you well enough to be patient with your weirdnesses like you are with theirs will forgive you or at least understand. Parameters can be set, too. If you had twenty-five or more years of engagement before your wedding because our ass-backward country didn't allow you to marry, and if I can be assured that a substantial fraction of the wedding party will be dancing wildly to Eno's "The True Wheel" as the reception goes all blurry and fun, I'll be there. If any part of your wedding will look like something one might see in a made-for-the-Hallmark-Channel movie starring Andie McDowell, of if you think putting twine around a mason jar for your country kitsch reception is still okay, well, c'mon—I have to protect my immortal soul, after all.

Of course, Thanksgiving is, for me, my highest holiday of all holidays, so I have trained like a professional boxer until I can step in any conversation glistening with baby oil and hot sweat, but I float like a butterfly and save the stings for another day. If one is able to exist on the internet, and to read a comments thread without surrendering to every troll, one is ready to be in a room with people whose politics are less than rational. My usual Thanksgiving meals are in a wonderful old Georgia house with high ceilings and low undercurrents, and if the surviving matriarch/patriarch wants to say a prayer that goes on at length, I can remind myself that fortunately, church comes for me but once a year.

When the firebrands on the left want to challenge the trolls on the right, I can produce stories that dazzle, distract, and defang, and I've identified all the other raconteurs in my gene pool who I can tag when I'm flagging and all the little nostalgic anchor points that will send the whole party lurching over the falls into a torrent of recollections and in-my-day moments. The thing about trolls is that they invariably lack eloquence, but me? I've read Wodehouse from the beginning of his career to the end and have seen Auntie Mame a thousand times. I've got je ne sais quoi I haven't even used yet, baby, and we haven't even gotten to my heart-melting sweet potato pie.

But that's me, and I've spent the twenty-nine years I've been a nominal adult driving twelve hundred miles round-trip from Maryland to Georgia cultivating the thing I love about my family idyll and working out the tools to make the less desirable aspects just…fade. The relative who tried to shame my dad for raising his boy gay? Dead, but I cut him dead long before that. The one who would wax romantic about Reagan? Dead, but even alive, who cares? Reagan's dead, too. The in-laws who say "nigger" without irony? Local color, and old, so…

Many of the elder fellows and lovely ladies whose stories I treasure and plan to sell off like artisanal hotcakes one fine day are gone, too, and the tradeoff for learning to navigate is that I missed fewer stories. As a kid, I'd leave supposedly liberal, modern, embracing Maryland where I was bullied every day and fall into the arms of drawling grown-up cousins with a few allowances required, who'd sit and listen to my stories like I was a grown-up, too, and that's why I learned how to drift away from the side of the porch where the men exiled from the kitchen's heart would talk about dead things, like sports and politics and church and American cars.

Had it all been toxic, though, and if I dreaded going there every year…I just wouldn't. Family gatherings aren't like a colonoscopy, where you have to do it, lest you end up with a fast-moving cancer. If they bring you more pain than pleasure, let 'em go. Take your mother out to dinner some other time, and just smile pleasantly as she tells you you're gaining weight. Drive down to visit the spinster cousin on your own, just for the stories and intolerable mugs of Sanka. We live in the world of the future, where we've learned from a hundred years of faggotry that the family you're given isn't the only family you can have—so build for yourself a family that feeds your head and your heart, and trim away what will never give you those things. We're not stuck with the old holidays unless we want to be, and we're not stuck with bad family unless we want to be.

And when you need strength, just whip out your mighty Wodehouse, put Auntie Mame on the TV and watch every little withering dismissal and detail and pause and wicked side-eyed glance until it soaks into your bones, so that, when you're drenched in the dullness of everyday nonsense at a family gathering, you can go out into the backyard, peer furtively around, take off your Diana Prince glasses, and spin your burly bearded construction worker bulk around until KA-BOOM, you can own this party. Be kind to yourself first, and the rest will sort itself out.

And you really should try a piece of my pie. It's Rosalind Russell-approved.
posted by sonascope at 6:02 AM on November 24, 2015 [30 favorites]

All of you dreading Thanksgiving, please skip your plans and come to my place. Bring a bottle of wine and your favorite nibble to share. I promise, you will feel welcome and happy, and the closest we get to upsetting discussions is the husband good-naturedly poking Elder Monster's father in-law about being a Buckeye fan.

We stopped spending holidays with upsetting people decades ago, when packing up the Monsters was a big production that I was not willing to undertake to spend the day miserable. Instead, I started hosting dinner for anyone needing to escape. Elder Monster's in-laws come, Extra Kids that I have known since they were 5, friends who are either too far from their families or too unhappy with them.

Come on over. Laugh a lot. Take your turn in the Soul Calibur tournament. Get your face washed by the Boxer and your lap squashed by the Pitbull. Life is too short to put up with unhappy holidays.
posted by MissySedai at 6:10 AM on November 24, 2015 [13 favorites]

It is a revelation to me that I can just say "I disagree." I am so used to making polite noises so as not to make someone else feel awkward and then feeling super dirty that I let them believe I agreed. Thanks for posting this.
posted by CMcG at 6:14 AM on November 24, 2015 [5 favorites]

well let's see. last thanksgiving I ended up accosting both my father and grandmother about their stance on gun control and their racism, ended up talking to a seriously-pro-football uncle about how terrible the NFL is w/r/t domestic violence and concussion cover-ups, and somehow managed to "out" myself as being asexual to like half the family (I still don't know how this happened) which in fairness a lot of them seemed happy to quietly sweep under the rug and wow that was an awkward conversation but at least it didn't end up going into the whole gender thing

I've learned I'm really, really bad at just letting horrible things go. but I'm having nightmares about what islamophobic stuff might roll 'round so all of this might help this year go a little more smoothly. or I can just come in this thread later and feel comforted that my experience probably hasn't been the worst.
posted by suddenly, and without warning, at 6:16 AM on November 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, "How’s that dissertation going?" is the nuclear option of party conversation; avoid at all costs, unless you want to send your interlocutor into a quiet spiral of shame-drinking in the corner.

... I defend on december 4th. I will literally be working on my presentation when I'm at home. I've been trying to forget about these conversations all week.
posted by suddenly, and without warning, at 6:24 AM on November 24, 2015 [8 favorites]

My younger brother has gotten into Alex Jones in recent years, to the point that he not only asked for some Alex Jones DVDs but commandeered the TV with them on Christmas. He also had less-than-kind words (some of which started with the letter K) for a synagogue who took their time paying for his contracting crew. I hope this Thanksgiving doesn't kill me.
posted by pxe2000 at 6:39 AM on November 24, 2015

The holidays in summation:

Dante: You hate people.
Randal: Yes, but I love gatherings. Isn’t it ironic?
posted by narancia at 6:57 AM on November 24, 2015 [12 favorites]

My solution is to get a cold around the holidays, which will usually clog up at least one, if not both, of my ears. This renders me somewhat deaf, and means that I do a lot of smiling and yelling, "I'm sorry! I have a cold! I can't hear!" and walking away. Or I ask people to repeat themselves a few times. Trust me, someone yelling, "I SAID, we should BOMB THE SHIT out of SYRIA!" makes them feel a little foolish after they realized they just yelled that to the entire room.
posted by sutel at 7:03 AM on November 24, 2015 [5 favorites]

When a parent tells you that Thanksgiving is for family and you ought to visit more often, let them know that that is why they have had two families.
posted by Postroad at 7:04 AM on November 24, 2015

"Have you heard about Completely Fact-Free Event Made Of Lies?"

Yup, every damn day.
posted by crazylegs at 7:10 AM on November 24, 2015 [5 favorites]

this year i have a choice between 1) the you-really-ought-to-quit-hanging-out-with-Methodists -and-get-into-a-more-fundamentalist-church brother, 2) the coke-snorting-seizure-having-amnesiac brother, or 3) the wife-is-painfully-insecure-and-perpetually-drunk brother, with a side of dementia-addled-mom-who-can't-remember-your-name. i'm going with door number 3, bob.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 7:12 AM on November 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

and the closest we get to upsetting discussions is the husband good-naturedly poking Elder Monster's father in-law about being a Buckeye fan.

You know, I've heard an Ohio State University isn't going to make the playoffs this year....

(Serious. That "an" is the trolliest troll to OSU fans....)
posted by eriko at 7:37 AM on November 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

Whatever! My boyfriend just bought me a Buckeye Storm Trooper t-shirt and I'm going to wear the hell out of it on Saturday, so there! twitches at Eriko
posted by ChuraChura at 7:40 AM on November 24, 2015

I tried a new approach when my aunt and uncle stopped in at my father's house on a recent evening. I walked in, saw that they were there, sat down on the couch, and closed my eyes. I wasn't asleep or pretending to be. I was simply incapable of dealing with their mean-spirited conversation, so I didn't.

Whenever the conversation turned away from "let's say cruel things about people", I would contribute, eyes still closed.

It was probably very rude! But it worked for me, so that's my suggestion: pretend that closing your eyes makes you invisible whenever people say horrible things.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:40 AM on November 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

Everyone in my family remembers the year I was a freshman in college and, as the conversation about Iraq continued to escalate, I threw down my plate and stormed out of the house. Solved the problem for decades.

This year, I'm spending the holiday with a bunch of in-laws from Florida I barely know. I'm bracing myself, but I think I have a winning strategy. My wife and I both have a lot of direct experience day-in day-out with any social issues that might come up and it should be easy to come up with humorous anecdotes that serve as counter points to backwards ideas. Still, foreign policy and the presidential race are bound to come up and if none of these tricks work, I can go play Xbox with the kids.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:40 AM on November 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

Also, "How’s that dissertation going?" is the nuclear option of party conversation; avoid at all costs, unless you want to send your interlocutor into a quiet spiral of shame-drinking in the corner. It's up there with clueless but well-meaning advice on the academic job market

Yes yes all of this. Thank heavens Thanksgiving is just with my parents, who have pretty much learned to never even bring up the topic of grad school in general.

Seriously do not even ask about the dissertation
posted by pemberkins at 8:02 AM on November 24, 2015 [5 favorites]

... I defend on december 4th. I will literally be working on my presentation when I'm at home. I've been trying to forget about these conversations all week.

Me too! December 4th defense buddies! Let's never speak about it to anyone.
posted by pemberkins at 8:03 AM on November 24, 2015 [8 favorites]

Wodehouse absolutely helps me get through family events. I pretend that my family are characters from the Jeeves books (which doesn't actually take much imagination, truth be told).
posted by culfinglin at 8:34 AM on November 24, 2015 [6 favorites]

right there with you, pemberkins. good luck in a vague, nebulous way not referring to any particular upcoming event!
posted by suddenly, and without warning, at 8:44 AM on November 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think one of my own issues was going into family gatherings with a chip on my own shoulder, preoccupied beforehand with political and social differences I knew set me apart from my parents and other relatives, dwelling on it, letting it fester, even indulging unhealthy feelings of superiority because of it.

Over the last couple decades I've come to understand I cannot convince my elderly CNN/Fox News-watching parents how wrong I find much of what they believe, and the minor trolling my dad used to do toward me has ebbed away over the years I think in part because (long before Buzzfeed was there to offer the advice) I did my best to deflect the possible arguments with as much diplomacy and kindness as I could muster (kindness I guess because I've come to understand a little how painful disappointments and frustrations and so on go into someone believing strongly the political things they believe).

Honestly, I realized my own anger and resentments at various social injustices and conservative leaders fueled the disharmony as much as their own misinformation; my elderly long-retired middle-class but raised in poverty parents are victims of the system too in many ways and, honestly, at their stage of life it's not like they can really affect anyone else or society very much. Taking the bait and fighting with my dad or various cousins will not change the world. Punishing them is essentially attacking a victim suffering from Stockholm syndrome.

I feel fortunate that my deflections of disagreements over the years did turn into an unspoken truce, and now I have the chance to enjoy a little time together with my parents in the few years they have left - parents who raised me with kindness and care, no matter what their political beliefs, and whom I continue to love. I mean, there are plenty of other things to talk about, such as the latest news on their physical ailments, road construction, their cats' wacky antics, their flower beds, or the doings of more distant relatives I haven't seen in years, and of course shared memories of loved ones no longer with us but whom we all miss - again, regardless of politics.
posted by aught at 8:48 AM on November 24, 2015 [12 favorites]

One circle of friends has adopted the "Ow! My leg!" defense. When successfully performed you will draw attention away from the offender and offending remarks, possibly change the topic to injuries others have suffered, and take the opportunity to limp away to get some ice or whatever it is will help whatever you've decided has happened to your leg.
posted by Spatch at 9:00 AM on November 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

10 Excuse me, I need another glass of wine.
20 Goto 10
posted by Splunge at 9:01 AM on November 24, 2015 [11 favorites]

So many horror stories here.

I guess I grew up lucky. "Don't talk politics, religion, or money at the table" was a cardinal rule, along with no hats at the table, no tv during meals, and did you wash your hands first young man?

We still found plenty to fight about, but without the trauma I'm reading here.
posted by kanewai at 9:14 AM on November 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

"Ah, but you see... Oh, wait, you don't have an active security clearance, do you? Never mind, then. So, how about that local sports team?"
posted by Etrigan at 9:21 AM on November 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm hosting an Orphan's Christmas this year.
Partly b/c I love my various friends that can't get home for Christmas, but also partly in the hope that the hangover/afterglow will keep my from punching my brother in his stupid mouth until the stupid stops coming out of it the next day.
posted by Kreiger at 9:25 AM on November 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

"So how's that whole depression thing going?"

"Well... could be better..."
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:31 AM on November 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

My mother's a racist, my brother's a Christian fundamentalist, and my father's managed to inherit the worst parts of conservative libertarianism.

I used to have pretty good luck shaming them by taking the stance that their views aren't atrocity-laden and conservative enough, but I'm pretty sure Trump's ruined that for me this year.
posted by mikurski at 9:37 AM on November 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

I've been dreading the subject of politics coming up with my dad again this year, especially after the refugee stuff. I had been crafting my response to what I assumed he'd say in my head (which is totally unfair and unprovoked on my part since we haven't even mentioned it to each other) and it was eating away at me a bit as I kept revisiting and revising it. So I finally just generalized my thoughts and posted it to Facebook so it'd be out of my head, he could read it if he wants, and if the subject comes up I'll try my best to just not engage. And my aunt is always reading the newspaper while I'm there, so if she starts into something I plan to ignore it or at least take a walk. I'm just done fighting with people I think. It never does us any good.
posted by downtohisturtles at 9:56 AM on November 24, 2015

Sorry, guys, but this is all amateur stuff. You want to talk about awkward holiday gatherings, let me tell you about the time we had both my mother-in-law as well as my traditional Jewish parents over for Christmas dinner (I'm in a mixed marriage, they happened to be in town the week of Christmas and I didn't want to leave them out) and my mom overheard my MIL tell a story about trying in vain to sell her car but "people kept trying to Jew me down on the price".
posted by The Gooch at 10:07 AM on November 24, 2015 [5 favorites]

kanewai: I guess I grew up lucky. "Don't talk politics, religion, or money at the table" was a cardinal rule...

Also at work. And at Boy Scouts. Actually, everywhere but the voting booth/confessional/bank teller window, and also (of course) the barber shop.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:12 AM on November 24, 2015

It's not just the holidays either, for instance last weekend for me. I can't be the only person in the world who thinks that advocating the genocide of all Muslims at a 1-year-old's birthday party is, at the very least, tacky. But instead of saying anything, because not only was I outnumbered but I was also a little tipsy, and smashing my beer bottle on the floor and yelling "What the fuck is wrong with you people?!" was equally inappropriate, I just went in another room and played solitaire on my phone. Sometimes just walking out of the room can say a little bit of what you want to say without getting yourself lynched.
posted by jenjenc at 10:19 AM on November 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

Since I have just come out as trans and queer, every conversation is going to be awkward. My therapist has given me permission to make a scene, to leave in the middle of dinner, or threaten to spend Christmas in Fiji if they can't use the right name & pronouns.
posted by desjardins at 10:32 AM on November 24, 2015 [43 favorites]

Best of luck, desjardins.
posted by emjaybee at 10:37 AM on November 24, 2015 [12 favorites]

What the hell is wrong with people. "Sure, it may not be 'politically correct' to say so, but Vlad The Impaler had some pretty good ideas. Please pass the cranberry sauce."
posted by thelonius at 10:55 AM on November 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

The word "Oh" is one of the best tools 'o the season. If the conversation is too painful to listen to, say oh, rub your temple slightly and go. To the kitchen, bathroom, TV room or outside for just the amount of time it takes to exhale, smile to yourself, regroup and avoid the next conversation. Three convincing ohs and you can go to some other gathering, or drive along the river, or down some road, or ride the subway home with strangers you like better. This is if for whatever reason, you attend the ghastly gathering, to support a relative who needs someone real in the nexus of disturbing duh, or to hold the hand of a treasured elder.

The other strategy for either the ghastly or the medium tolerable, is to bring something delicious, and make it all about the food. Look at people you love, or like and say this is delightful about some food stuff, and deliver the approval to them. Stick to the food, discuss the food. Reply to political trolling with comments about the pie. (Isn't the recipe and food talk thing an accepted metafilter tic?)

Being nice will make it nicer, but one meal will not heal the misdoings of, or the misunderstandings of a lifetime, only burnish some reasonable relations, and give examples of grace for the young ones present.

Oh yeah and you don't have to do it at all. I used to either make a feast for associates or fast for Thanksgiving, either way it is just a day or it is a tradition that accepts the lowering of the light in approach to Solstice. I will not allow anyone to hurt the mother of my children (me) on my nickel, or in my time.

You are not responsible for other's wretched ways, or emotional illiteracy. It is not your job to fix anything on Thanksgiving. Make sure the day goes well for you and yours, by being where that happens.

Thanksgiving is an absolutely artificial construct like true love, or fairness, so it is entirely possible to define the events of the day personally, and make it what you want. Just don't wear your flak jacket, take a rifle, and unbound sucking wounds, to dinner with the enemy, and expect to have a good time.
posted by Oyéah at 11:02 AM on November 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

Over the past few years of sporadic contact with my family, I've really come to enjoy not spending Thanksgiving or Christmas with them. This year I actually forgot that this week is Thanksgiving until just a couple of days ago, and I'm really tempted to find a way to stay home by myself on Thursday... I think I can actually pull it off, no one knows I have Friday off so I can claim that I can't do the family gathering that is 20 miles away and never starts until after 6pm no matter what because they don't ever wrap that shit up until midnight and I have to be to work very early the next morning. And then I can stay home in my comfy pants watching MST3K, which is really the only way to celebrate.
posted by palomar at 11:03 AM on November 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

when people complain about obama just be like "yeah, i regret voting for him, fox news promised me he was going to enslave all the white people and yet look around, where are they?" and everyone will just be like "uh" and you can go eat your pie in the sunroom with the dog
posted by poffin boffin at 11:43 AM on November 24, 2015 [41 favorites]

My brother's clutch of in-laws hold a number of views that are not rooted in fact. But that hasn't deterred them from having very strong feelings about the sanctity and inviolability of these views. These views are so sacrosanct, in fact, that the mere presence of someone who might question them is cause for them to defend their opinions with aggression and vigor.

I love a good exchange of ideas when everyone's participating in good faith, but this is not it.

And so I found that my survival tactic was to say brightly, "Of course you do!" any time someone opened with, "Well, I THINK ..."

Fortunately, circumstances have made it so I no longer have to accommodate my brother by enduring his wife's relatives. But "Of course you do!" -- said with a guileless smile and perfect cheer -- is a wonderful way to disengage without giving anyone the dignity of believing their position has any merit at all.
posted by sobell at 11:43 AM on November 24, 2015

Oh fer God's sakes, don't bring yer emotional IEDs to Thanksgiving dinner. If you are getting a divorce, discuss it at another time, if your colonoscopy revealed a colony of aliens do not discuss this at Thanksgiving. Holy shit if your axe is dull, get it ground at a shop after the holidays. Do not bring two suitcases, a carry on, three handbags, and a box of tissues to Thanksgiving dinner. Do not take your gallbladder in a jar, do not discuss the fact...if you aren't in shape to endure a meal, make sure your resources will get you through the day. I'll tell you this, I celebrate January 2, like I won the quiet lottery somewhere in my heart, looking preferably at snow sparkle, water, sky, and blue tree shadows. My year starts at the first signs of thaw.
posted by Oyéah at 11:43 AM on November 24, 2015 [6 favorites]

I've always heard this was a thing, but I haven't really experienced it, either within my own family or my in-laws (or among the friends that tend to do a pre-Thanksgiving "friendsgiving" turkey dinner).

A former co-worker (right wing) seemed to get his blood pressure every holiday up because his niece would sharing lots of opinions (presumably left wing) that she'd learned at college. But he was also the biggest "oversharer" of his own opinions in the workplace.

It's possible that my family and friends are all just blandly centrist in our views and don't hold any controversial opinions. Or maybe we know that our more extreme views won't go over well in groups, and so stick to more crowd-pleasing topics like sports, "gonna be a cold one this winter", and the relative merits of different pickup trucks.
posted by theorique at 11:52 AM on November 24, 2015

I think the key thing to remember when topics come up is this:

You will never never never never never change their mind at a meal, no matter how earnest, informed, prepared, or patient you think you are. No—seriously. You may think it's a matter of being smart and subtle and finding the right angle, but—you will never never never never never change their mind, either in a million meals or in one.

For me, it's the best possible fuel for tonglen meditation on the spot, when I look at sputtering, difficult people and my internal monologue says "Thank goodness I'm not such a dreadful, fearful, selfish, unpleasant person," because my most primal instinct is go for blood, and honestly and unhumbly, when someone brings discourse to the battlefield, they're coming at me with a pointy stick and I have this array of satellite-borne laser-guided atomic MIRVs and there will be no survivors…but I don't want to be that guy anymore, because he's not that far removed from the trolls, and because I'd rather save my linguistic talents for esoteric one-man shows where I tell stories to an adoring audience who want to shower me with cash at the merch table afterward.

There are people in my life who have been toxic and hung up on the joy of pulling my strings, like all the bullies did to me in my school years, when it was easy to find the meat to catch those hooks and make me dance to their dance, and some of them are people who are hard to avoid, so I took up the practice of time travel. I look them in the eye and go way back to when they were just babies with sparkling, undimmed eyes staring out into the world in wonder and awe and uncertainty, and take a little pink hand in my paw to remind myself that, for even the cruelest, most unhelpful, ungiving people in the world, there was a moment like that for them, when all they wanted was to explore and play and love and give and be loved and wanted—and when I come back from the past, I have to remember that that life is still in there, buried under a lifetime of hurt and confusion and abuse and bad information. It doesn't mean you have to be abused or goaded, yourself, but it does give you a handhold up to the notion that escalation and engagement only feeds that broken thing in the other person that makes them crave a blood sacrifice, and you, as a time-traveling meditator honing one's skill at གཏོང་ལེན་ in this gathering place, can be the one to take the nobler path.

Plus, you can do the worst thing that one can do to a troll, which is to just be a good, lovable, unflappable person and an example of how all the stupid shit that people claim to be true about people like you is not only wrong, but very, very wrong. I brought my then common-outlaw husband to our smalltown Georgia Thanksgiving on and off for years, and even after we'd amicably gone our moderately separate ways, and we'd laugh to ourselves when "the gay thing" would occasionally come up, because yeah, the gay thing is right in the room and you've been talking to the Boo Boo of the pair about hunting rifles, properly cleaning squirrel, and college basketball and talking to Yogi about maintaining four-wheel-drive transfer casings and sorting out the tracking problem in your bandsaw without realizing that the greatest threat to all of democracy, freedom, and Christendom was handing you a plate of venison and congealed salad. A bit of seeing yourself in others goes a long way to make even the most determined bigot scratch their head and think, "Huh, come to think of it, I really don't know what business is it of mine" in a way that you counter-punching every little shot just…doesn't.

When my conservative Republican Navy lifer cousin messaged me on the day that the biggest barrier to marriage equality fell, telling me he was really happy to see the change, I knew I'd done far better with example, posing the very occasional question, and otherwise just being a person like all the other persons at the table, doing my thing and living my life with decency and dignity, than I could have done if I'd just gone for the jugular or bailed out entirely. You won't change anyone's mind in an argument, because that's not how arguments work, but be fully engaged with who you are and fully aware of your worth and the slings and arrows tend to miss their target.

It gets easier, of course, when you start to fall into insulin shock from the sweet tea and Watergate salad.
posted by sonascope at 12:19 PM on November 24, 2015 [21 favorites]

P.S. The problem with the family and one's new name when one has a new name reminds me of the fact that, at least in Southern families, it may not be so much a political thing as it is just the simple fact that the first name you're called in your family is a very, very hard thing to shake, which is why my father's first cousin, Jane, was always "Boo" to him, because she was a crybaby when she was 8, or why my father was still "Rabbit" to some family, "Rat" to the kids he ran with after high school, or "Jones" to everyone else, because "Cleveland Jones Wall" was his father's name and you can't call a boy and his father the same name!

My cousin "Little Barbara" was still Little Barbara until she'd outlived almost every other Barbara, and my cousin Barbara (non-little) spent twenty years erasing an ill-chosen "Babs."

Me—I'm still Joe-B with family and old neighbors, which was just my name until I was ten or eleven, an embarrassment from eleven to twenty, a historical curiosity from twenty to thirty, and then one of those infantile comforts that still works wonders when the miseries of adulthood are kicking in right up to the present day, when an old childhood friend calling me "Joe-B" can make a whole lot of the intervening years less meaningful. Sometimes, your family is being obtuse and difficult, and sometimes it's just inertia, because they knew you one way for an awfully long time and suddenly (to them) there's this new information. Just be glad, I think, that you're not trying to escape Babs or Rabbit in the low country.
posted by sonascope at 12:32 PM on November 24, 2015 [8 favorites]

Ugh. I am dreading Thanksgiving. Me and 5 politically active republicans - several FoxNews addicts & one whose license plate is GOP*[first name]. They like to use me as their liberal focus group. That is until enough alcohol has been consumed at which point they'll try to convert me.

"You're so smart! We just don't understand why you wouldn't see that XXX is the way."
"Um, perhaps it's because I'm smart and not watching Fox News" (note: this is not the right answer)

The plus side, this year, is that they aren't all for the same candidate. I may try to get them bickering amongst themselves over the relative merits of Kasich or Rubio or Trump. That could be entertaining. At least until they tire of that and remember that OMG WE HAVE A LIBERAL TO INTERROGATE!
posted by imbri at 12:35 PM on November 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

A few years ago, I was living in the US, by myself, and dreading being invited to a co-worker's Thanksgiving dinner, (which is apparently a thing in the US because they don't want you to be alone on Thanksgiving, which is sweet but also stupid because why would a foreigner give a fuck about Thanksgiving in the first place?), because the only thing more boring than your own family is other people's family.
I was renting a room in a guy's house, who had similar misgivings, so we decided that if anybody invited us to a Thanksgiving dinner, we'd say we were celebrating it in the house, which was complete bullshit.
So a co-worker invited me to Thanksgiving at his wife's aunt's house, which like OMG, I was so happy to have worked out an excuse beforehand.
So basically, it was the nuclear-meta-stategy to avoid ALL Thanksgiving conversations, awkward or not.
posted by signal at 1:28 PM on November 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

And next year, my girlfriend (now wife) had moved to the US with me, so we made up some story about celebrating with friends (again, BS), and went to dinner at a Korean / Sushi place.
posted by signal at 1:30 PM on November 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

A few years ago, I was living in the US, by myself, and dreading being invited to a co-worker's Thanksgiving dinner, (which is apparently a thing in the US because they don't want you to be alone on Thanksgiving, which is sweet but also stupid because why would a foreigner give a fuck about Thanksgiving in the first place?)

I can totally relate to this. As a Jewish person, I always looked forward to Christmas since it was a free day off of work that I didn't have to request PTO for and a day where I was free to lounge around my apartment in sweatpants vegging out in front of the TV with no expectation that I should be doing anything more responsible since pretty much nothing is open on Christmas day. When well-meaning friends, assuming that I was going to be lonely and depressed on Christmas, would invite me to join their families for Christmas dinner, I never knew the polite way to say, "Yeah, thanks and all, but I have a previous engagement with some frozen burritos and pro wrestling videos, so I won't be able to make it"
posted by The Gooch at 2:33 PM on November 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'm lucky, in that pretty much everyone in my family is basically of the same political stripe, and when there's a family gathering that includes one of the few conservative family members, everyone (liberals and conservatives alike) tends to avoid discussing politics because it would make folks angry, and that's not why we're gathering.

That said, at (non-family) gatherings of adults, when political conversation gets heated up, I've seen people just use "I don't want to talk about it, because we disagree strongly and it'll just turn into a fight" to great success.

suddenly, and without warning,: "[I] somehow managed to "out" myself as being asexual to like half the family (I still don't know how this happened)"

I'm guessing it happened suddenly, and without warning.
posted by Bugbread at 10:24 PM on November 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

I guess we all should ask ourselves who are the Indians and who are the English and carry on from there.
posted by notyou at 12:10 AM on November 25, 2015

Adam Savage said something once that may speak to why it can be so hard sometimes to avoid these kinds of arguments even if you tell yourself you're not gonna get into it -

"Your family doesn't just 'know how to push' your buttons. Your family INSTALLED your buttons."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:29 AM on November 25, 2015 [13 favorites]

I'm actually kind of agog that people discuss politics ...over dinner mixed or unknown company. Politeness demands you keep everything trival and light hearted! Racist uncles only get outbursts after several brandy and waters post dinner! Main table conversation is limited to weather, how long it took to get there, the cuteness of present children, sports, and how good everything looks.
posted by The Whelk at 9:45 AM on November 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

"Yeah, thanks and all, but I have a previous engagement with some frozen burritos and pro wrestling videos, so I won't be able to make it"

I am appalled at your blatant attempts to lure good Christians away from the fold.
posted by Etrigan at 1:52 PM on November 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm actually kind of agog that people discuss politics ...

We (me & the 5 Republicans) just had the first event, cocktails & appetizers. It was going well. A fun discussion about Survivor. And then...

rep1: "This is all so stupid! Why are we talking about it? imbri, what do you think about Trump? Did you hear what he said about seeing the muslims..."
me: "What's really interesting about Survivor is..."
rep2: "he may be a liar, but he's saying what people want to hear"
rep3: "especially about immigration!"
me: (aww screw it) "You know, I just read a decent piece comparing Trump to pro-wrestling and the rest of the field to boxers. He's all show, everyone knows it, but the story is engaging. Kinda like Survivor. There's a game to it, but the producers are selling a story."
rep2: "definitely right about immigration!"
rep4: "no! that article rep3 sent the other day made a good point, we need people. More people. We're short on labor."
rep1: "just not Muslims. How are we going to stop the Muslims?"
me: "Survivor? It's... it's a good tv show...."

Trivial and light hearted is just so... trivial!
posted by imbri at 4:07 PM on November 25, 2015

Imbri, this is why, as I pointed out, the topic of that thread up above is so useful. Imagine the next conversation going as so:

rep1: "just not Muslims. How are we going to stop the Muslims?"

Metafilter! Good for the internet, good for the Thanksgiving table!
posted by happyroach at 4:11 PM on November 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

*steeples fingers* Traumatic insemination, why external scrotums exist in some species but not in others, estrus cycles vs. menstruation and why humans and elephant shrews gotta be weird, multiple genders/mating strategies within a sex and how and why individuals choose what to develop into, sexual conflict as mediated by seminal fluids... Thanksgiving's gonna be interesting at chez Sci's this year. (Although we're staying home. Fortunately my partner appreciates a good rant about animal genitals.)

(Incidentally, humans aren't the only mammals that lack a baculum. Ungulates like cattle and horses, whales, marsupials, and monotremes--among others--haven't got 'em either.)
posted by sciatrix at 4:23 PM on November 25, 2015

Ughhhhh so it turns out my mom & stepdad never told my aunt & uncle (who I rarely speak to) that I am trans, so I get to do it tomorrow! The most awkward conversation of all.
posted by desjardins at 4:25 PM on November 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

Oh god, yes. Outing conversations are the worst. At some point I'm gonna have to introduce my (nonbinary, we're passing female for now) partner to my extended family and that's totally going to be the special hell. I hope your awkward conversation goes smoothly and with a minimum of failboating, desjardins. "some point" I mean "this July when my sister gets married," so that's extra fun!
posted by sciatrix at 4:27 PM on November 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, most of the conversations in this thread are relatively abstract issues to the conversants, even if people feel strongly about them. (Unless someone here is a Syrian refugee or converted Muslim or undocumented immigrant.) It's much harder when the stupidity is directed at you personally.
posted by desjardins at 4:46 PM on November 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

Yeah--I think I mentioned on Twitter, but the emotional labor of dealing with coming out and managing all the fallout from that while also dealing with your own emotions about coming out can be really especially exhausting. So can dealing with the microaggressions that family members will sometimes sling your way. Those are really draining and it's often not as easy to side step them as just saying "OKAY BROS LET'S WATCH YOUR POLITICS LIKE A TV SHOW."
posted by sciatrix at 4:49 PM on November 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

I wish I had a sonascope in my family whose mastery of life and language I could quietly bask in.
posted by Taft at 1:26 AM on November 26, 2015

Oh. My. God. Thank God for penile bones and cloacas. I was joking before, but as a conversational dodge it actuality worked.

Racist tear by relative about smelly Asian markets lead to argument, was not permanently stopped by direct request to change subject. But suddenly mentioning penile bones and cloacas vs vaginas diverted the conversation long enough for the people involved to forget. I win peacemaker award.
posted by happyroach at 1:19 AM on November 27, 2015 [7 favorites]

So, does anyone have a report? I'll give mine. My brother who wanted to nuke Iraq before said nothing about that. Instead we had the following conversation (*note: brother lives waaaaay out in west Texas, off of unmarked gravel roads outside a town with a population of 120 people).

Him: What do you think about ISIS?
Me: They're a group of terrorists.
Him: Don't we have the right to defend ourselves?
Me: I'm pretty sure we do/would?
Him: I meant individually. with guns? Are you worried that you're going to look out and see an ISIS group running through your back field?
Him: Well... (long discussion about how he knew "some officials" who said the highway corridor which he lives south of is "vulnerable," also "High school football games are easy targets!")
Me: Nobody is going to invade your back field, except maybe meth dealers. I mean, it's possible, but they'd attack a larger city first. There aren't enough people out here to make blowing them up worth ISIS' while.
Him: ... well, should we just blow them up?
Me: Well, the problem is we've done that, it hasn't worked, and we kill a lot of innocent people. If we could cut off their funding, that would be better.

This seemed to not go over too well, but then the conversation moved into a really bizarre one about education. Still pretty sure he thinks bombing the entire Middle East is some kind of solution. Wondering who the "officials" are.
posted by emjaybee at 6:34 AM on November 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

This was a no-travel year for me, because the Georgia relatives involved in the planning and preliminary work of organizing our huge reunion Thanksgiving in Sylvania, Georgia are not as young as they used to be and the younger end of the family all seem devoted to reproducing and are thus stuck with traitorous split family allegiances (for the record, this is why I prefer to date older dudes whose families are mostly dead, scattered, or estranged), so the annual event is transitioning to an every-few-years event.


What this means, of course, is that the smaller family group in Maryland goes a little peculiar and feral, because we all pretty much agree on everything and therefore can devote our party energy to less managed interactions.

This year, we spent a fair amount of time enjoying rousing spontaneous a capella renditions of the THX crescendo (or the minor works of György Ligeti, if that's more your speed), had animated conversations about bacterial cell wall structures over mountains of food, watched a single cat expertly traumatizing my dingo from across the room, went for a long Volksmarch in the empty pedestrian infrastructure of Montgomery County, and threw a pumpkin off the eighth-floor deck of a deserted parking garage [highlights].

Now, of course, since it's Black Friday, we're all going to sneak into a closed streetcar museum in order to take a photograph of a particular antenna, and we may go out looking for the ruins of a former suburban nuclear missile launch facility behind a shopping center for a fun family photo op.
posted by sonascope at 7:46 AM on November 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

My Thanksgiving was utterly non-political.

Lots of "great to see you, hope you've been well, congratulations on {starting a new job, quitting your job, getting married, retiring, having a baby, etc}" and "I love the {sweet potatoes, turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, etc}.

Quite relaxing and friendly.
posted by theorique at 12:14 PM on November 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

We've got a tradition now on Thanksgiving day of going for dinner at the dining hall on the submarine base. It's for the single sailors with no family in the area and nowhere else to go, and the moms with kids whose husband is out at sea on the boat. It's the day they let all the retirees come in and have a meal with the active duty people. The food service staff goes all out making a huge spread and making it feel inviting, friendly, and cozy, not like a cafeteria. It's pretty great. Those people I've never met feel just as much my family, and nobody talks about politics.
posted by ctmf at 3:02 PM on November 29, 2015

So, does anyone have a report?

Despite having come out as a trans woman months ago and directly asking for them to use the correct name and pronouns, my visiting mom and her husband refused and misgendered and deadnamed me for 5 days in my own fucking house. So. That's my report.
posted by odinsdream at 3:27 PM on November 29, 2015

Well, shit. I'm sorry to hear that and sorry your mom and her husband are being rude assholes. I hope you're finding small ways to be kind to yourself?
posted by sciatrix at 3:33 PM on November 29, 2015

I'm really sorry, odinsdream. That's extremely shitty.
posted by desjardins at 3:38 PM on November 29, 2015

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