With the holidays approaching, you may worry about what will serve as conversation fodder during Thanksgiving dinner and which subjects will turn Aunt Stacey against Cousin Steve in the annual Thanksgiving brawl. Though you may want to discuss the political climate and current affairs affecting the world, you never know how Uncle Lou and Aunt Jennie will react. Avoid these subjects during Thanksgiving dinner to prevent outbursts, awkward moments, and potential fights.
You should never mention anyone's weight at any time — especially not at a dinner where several plates of food fill the table. One reason to avoid speaking about weight is to prevent anyone dealing with eating disorders from experiencing discomfort at the family gathering. Another reason is to avoid discussing any medical issues that caused someone to gain or lose weight. Plus, who wants to discuss weight while eating all the turkey and tofurkey you can?
2. Future Kids
You never know who wants kids, who doesn't, who has tried, who is trying, and who can't have kids. Speaking of future children could evoke heartache, tumultuous table talk, and secondhand embarrassment. Having children and adding to the family is a beautiful part of this life. However, not everyone shares the same wants, needs, or capabilities to do so.
In schools, boards advise teachers not to discuss politics in the classroom, and the same goes for extended family dinners. If Aunt Shelly brings up her opinions on the current political state, you could go from happily devouring sweet potato casserole to trying to hold Uncle Mark back from jumping at Aunt Shelly. Most families have members with differing political views, so don't bring up the ballot at the dinner table.
4. The Food
Say Aunt Shelly invited your extended family over to her house for Thanksgiving dinner, and she cooked everything by herself. The turkey's rich taste pairs well with the buttery mashed potatoes, yet the stuffing is too bland for your taste. Do not bring up the quality of stuffing to Aunt Shelly. She worked hard on the meal and invited you into her home. Be respectful.
So, you've been enjoying the new lifestyle routine preached at your gym. Great! Maybe don't prattle on about that in a scenario where food, extended family, and people practicing different lifestyles attempt to coexist. Maybe the routine works for you. What you might not know is Cousin Lucy wants to get into a fitness routine, but her car accident from last year has lasting effects, so the most physical thing she can do is physical therapy.
6. Child Advice
Do not parent a kid who is not your child. This goes for any occasion. Maybe little Billy is throwing the stuffing at Uncle Steve, and Aunt Shelly is letting it happen. Do not step in with your thoughts about the quality or type of parenting or offer unsolicited advice about how to parent. You don't get to parent them if they aren't your kid.
7. Relationship Status
Let's face it: someone at the shindig will show up single, newlywed, newly divorced, or engaged. Let it happen. Bringing up past, future, or nonexistent relationships harms self-image, stirs negativity, and isn't anything to talk about over turkey and stuffing. Focus on the present and who is seated at the dinner table.
This should be common knowledge, yet I know how family is around the holidays — even non-family members undertake a weird interest in prying into how much money you make. You don't need to know how much money Aunt Sue's social work career brings to the table, and you don't need to insert advice about anyone getting a more lucrative job.
Practice and preach on your terms and time, but do not try to enlist others into your congregation or use family gatherings as a gateway to spread your sermon. If you choose to, ask to say a general blessing before eating or ask if you can step away to say your graces before eating, but do not stand on a pedestal and speak about your religion or anyone else's.
10. Interior Design
Remember when Aunt Shelly invited all 60 of your cousins into her home for a good old-fashioned get-together? She's from the 50s, and her tastes in interior design differ from your bohemian chic layout. Don't mention if you think a green backsplash is outdated or how a modern look would fit her personality more. Just smile and thank her for the invitation.
I know someone who never fails to speak on the price of every item she sees. When I buy a concert ticket, she'll ask how much I spent; when someone buys her a present, she'll look up the cost. And when she grocery shops, she makes sure to pinch every penny on the cheapest (almost expired) meat. Speaking about the cost of living at every moment you have makes others writhe and want to abandon the gathering.
Again, please do not speak about how much money someone makes or voice your opinions on their job. You always have that one family member determined to outshine others and that one content with their life as it is. Do not bring up future or past jobs, as someone may have lost or cannot find one. Avoid hurting others by speaking about something other than careers.
“So, are you and Mark going to get engaged this year? You've been dating for how long, and he still hasn't put a ring on it?” This babble occurs at family dinners, placing an invisible layer of unease over the gathering. Perhaps Mark never wants to get married, or he has proposed, and the partner said no. It is not your business.
Grades can be a touchy subject for those in grade school, middle, high, and college. In my family, we have an equal proportion of those who despise school and don't make an effort and those who became valedictorians and journeyed to college. I've made the mistake of speaking about grades as a middle schooler, and my aunt chewed me out.
This is a trickier subject to navigate when alcohol is offered or present at the function. I have a few family members who struggled with alcohol addictions in the past and others who have allergies to the ingredients, so we avoid speaking on the topic as much as possible. Those who drink grab their drinks and sit down.
16. Mental Health
Steer clear of talking about mental health for the same reasons you avoid speaking about alcohol. You don't know who is affected, who needs help, who is getting help, and who has had a negative experience in the mental health field. Granted, multiple people with diverse backgrounds show up to your Thanksgiving dinner, which means that people will bring their opinions on the matter with them. You may experience those who don't believe in mental health, those who think you need to imbibe essential oils to eradicate depression, and those who think therapy is a hoax.
17. Physical Health
Just like mental health, physical health is not a great conversation starter. Someone will always be in better shape and better health, and on the opposite end, someone will always experience declines in their health.
18. Current Affairs
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we lived in an age where we could speak about the wars raging through the Middle East without one side of the family labeling you as a snowflake liberal and the other calling you a radical Republican? Yes, but that isn't the state we live in, at least not in my family or friends' families.
Now, why would you want to foster a reputation as the family member who criticized little Tommy for his dreams of becoming an actor? When Timmy becomes that actor, he won't have anything nice to say about the aunt or uncle who tried to bribe him with medical school, and he may take a careful route when inviting family to his award shows and his mansion.
In Ukrainian culture, we honor our passed relatives with a place setting for them before we begin eating. This is a sincere, respectful way to recall our relatives no longer with us and avoid hurting anyone's feelings. Please do not speak about past, upcoming, or possible future deaths or ceremonies relating to the deceased. I am always the one who ends up crying.
Remember the fight between Uncle Nick and Uncle Frank three years ago? One spent the night in jail, while the other hoped to file a restraining order. Let's say Nick and Frank overcame their disagreements and want to sit next to each other at the table. Don't rekindle buried demons. Trust me.
My friend leaves Thanksgiving dinner each year after her dad brings up the amount of weapons he stores in his vehicle's glove compartment. She grows red in the face and shouts at him as he pesters her to buy her own weapons for her car. She tries to explain her side of the argument, knowing that he could have a weapon on his person. You don't know who stands for weapons and who stands against them, nonetheless who carries one on their person at all times, so don't dip your toes.
23. Embarrassing Moments
Remember when Cousin Hannah fell off the seesaw in third grade? All her cousins and friends shared a laugh, but to this day, she suffers lasting pain from that accident. A golden rule for any moment is that if someone else's expense is compromised, it isn't funny. Sure, watching Hannah stumble over the wooden playground ride sparked a few giggles, but if she didn't laugh, neither should you.
24. Future Plans
Why worry about the future in the present? Stay away from inquiring about future plans, especially for kids still in school or in new relationships. Everyone changes and should have the freedom to navigate their lives without judgment or advice from their extended family. Plus, someone may keep their future plans a secret so they can reveal them when they're ready. Don't nag them.
25. Plastic Surgery
My girlfriend has a knack for detecting when people get work done. She looks at one picture of her friend and spots their lip filler, cheek implants, and so forth. She never brings this up to the individual in the picture, but she whispers to me if someone she knows or a celebrity got work done. For family, it's the same. Mutter about it to your partner after the dinner; do not bring it up during, as you never know who got a cosmetic procedure and who needed medical surgery.
What Can You Speak About?
After reading 25 things you shouldn't touch at the table, you may wonder what you can voice during dinner. Focus on each person, why you're thankful for them, other things you share gratitude toward, and favorite traditions. If you need more icebreakers, use the trustworthy internet or compile a list before the feast. Happy holidays!
Source: Daily Meal.