Please Don’t Bring These Things Up at the Dinner Table

Please Don’t Bring These Things Up at the Dinner Table
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Hopefully, we all know to avoid politics and religion at holiday social occasions where guests of varying ideological and spiritual leanings have gathered, for a good, festive time. But there are plenty of other verboten subjects and lines of questioning from which you should probably steer clear — that is, unless you want a reputation as the one who ruined the holiday dinner.

Are you dating anyone?

If there’s anything a single person likes more than attending family functions solo, it’s being cornered about their love life in front of everyone. Whether their current dating landscape is non-existent, en fuego but they don’t want to jinx it, or somewhere in between, give them a break from the scrutiny. They may be trying to forget their lack of partner, or perfectly happy alone, but not game for justifying it.

So, when are you gonna pop the question?

Who doesn’t love pressure to hustle their intimate relationship along more quickly into the institution of marriage? Couples that have been together for a while but remain unhitched also deserve to keep their personal lives under wraps. Don’t put them on the spot simply because you can’t deal with their timeline. (P.S. You can always get the scoop from someone else later, when they’re not around.)

Are you pregnant?

Oh, how this question rankles, let me count the ways. It may be spurred by a woman’s lack of drinking, her refusal of certain foods (like soft cheese), or by a burgeoning midline, all of which are the wrong reasons to ask a woman if she’s pregnant. Because do you know what the right reason is? Trick question, there isn’t one. Even if she looks like she’s carrying a basketball under her shirt, thou shalt not ask if a woman is pregnant (or when she is due) ever, unless she has verified she is, in fact, growing a human.

Why aren’t you drinking?

In a culture that celebrates and encourages social drinking, it’s understandable to be curious when someone abstains. But unless the sober person is your ride or die, it’s not your place to ask. It could be for reasons of religion, health, addiction — or something else they don’t want to share with the room. (Relatedly, refrain from asking “How’s recovery going?” at an event drenched in wine.)

Did your kids get the COVID vaccine?

By now, most of us know whether the adults in our families have gotten the COVID vaccine (or we wouldn’t be gathered together in the first place). The next frontier of vaccine-based family argument starters is the one for kids age 5-11, which was approved for emergency use by the FDA in late October. While this is a worthwhile question if your kids will be in close proximity with other children, a festive holiday meal is not the time to bring it up. Anything that will influence your comfort level in attending should be asked before you arrive.

Controversial news stories

Nothing can cast a pall on congenial group conversation (and set a Thanksgiving host on edge) like someone asking, “How about that Kyle Rittenhouse verdict?” In a room full of people who may not agree, avoid introducing topics centered around the highly-charged issues of race, gun violence, or abortion, to name a few. This is a day intended for us to be thankful for our families, not wondering how we ever associated with these people.

So, what can you talk about?

We know, it can be tempting to veer away from “safe” topics if you’re angry about the state of the world, allergic to being fake polite, or honestly, just bored. But the host has spent hours, days, perhaps weeks, planning so that everyone can have a pleasant time. Out of respect for their hard work, stick to innocuous, lighthearted topics like sports, your latest and greatest Netflix finds, movies, music, any upcoming or recent travel, or new exercise or health trends people might be dabbling in. We heard pickle ball is the new sport of 2022. Discuss.

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