Ah, Thanksgiving: a day of gratitude, binge eating, and togetherness. Unfortunately, that whole “togetherness” thing doesn’t always go so smoothly. We all know to avoid inflammatory topics like religion and politics when convening with far-flung family members, but what happens when seemingly innocuous subjects cause tempers to flare and awkward silence to follow? To help you prepare for the worst, here’s a list of seven neutral conversation starters to try this Thanksgiving — and what to do if things turn bad…
You say: “Nice weather we’re having.”
Your aunt says: “Enjoy it while it lasts. Climate change will kill us all.”
Your grandpa says: “Climate change is a myth propagated by the liberal media.”
How to save it: Switch gears slightly and confess that you have a crush on the local weatherman.
You say: “This green bean casserole is delicious!”
Your grandma says: “No it’s not. I overcooked the beans. I’m sure no one will miss it when I die, which could be any day now, you know.”
How to save it: Eat more green bean casserole.
You say: “I’m really enjoying Michael Buble’s Christmas compilation.”
Your cousin says: “Michael Buble is an overrated hack.”
Your aunt says: “It’s waaaaaay too early to listen to Christmas music. You’re so impatient, just like your mother.”
How to save it: Put on one of Michael Buble’s non-Christmas albums. No one can be mad while listening to Michael Buble. Mildly annoyed? Yes. Sleepy? Definitely. But not mad.
You say: “I’m thinking of joining a badminton league.”
Your mom says: “I’ll believe that when I see it. If it’s anything like karate, horseback riding, and every boyfriend you’ve ever had, you’ll lose interest within a day or two.”
How to save it: Do not take the bait. Smile and eat more green bean casserole.
You say: “Camels have three eyelids.”
Your uncle says: “Are you high?”
Your grandpa says: “Of course the family stoner would ask such a helpful question.”
How to save it: Push through it with more animal trivia. (Female koalas have two vaginas! Spread the word!)
You say: “Did you know Steve Jobs studied calligraphy in college?”
Your brother says: “Steve Jobs was like a father to me.”
Your father says: “Thanks a lot.”
How to save it: Tell everyone that Steve Wozniak was like a daughter to you.
You say: “My foot hurts.”
Your grandpa says: “In my day our feet always hurt but we didn’t complain about it incessantly.”
How to save it: Ask your grandpa why his feet always hurt, which should queue up a “walking 10 miles in the snow” story. Then eat more green bean casserole.