How to Avoid Having that Same Conversation Over and Over at Thanksgiving

Illustrations by Jori Bolton

There are few constants in this world. Thanksgiving, however, delivers quite a few. There will always be turkey (unless you’re a vegetarian, in which case kudos to you), stuffing, potatoes, and gravy, the Detroit Lions will always have a game, there will always be some tension in the kitchen or at the dinner table, and there will always be that same handful of people that you have the same conversation with year after year after year. “Are you still living in whatever place you’re living in?” “Do you still work at that job?” “Are you seeing anyone?” Or, if you’re someone like me who tore their ACL back in 2006, “How’s your knee doing? Have you recovered from that?” (I have.)

Nobody likes answering these questions and nobody really cares about the answer. Otherwise, Uncle Tim would have remembered that you moved out of Chicago back in 2015. The good news is that you have the power to avoid the monotony of it all. Just follow these tips, and if all else fails, go hide in the bathroom.

Help out in the kitchen

We don’t suggest you go straight to basting the turkey, but the role of the sous chef is an important one. It’s quite sought after though, so the early bird gets the worm here. It might be worth texting the chef now and calling dibs on that job. Nothing will make it feel more like Thanksgiving than lending a hand with the meal. If you want to be an overachiever, volunteer to bring one of these recipes. If you’re busy in the kitchen, nobody will ask about your new job.

Go on the Offensive

You can be the captain of these otherwise tedious chit-chats. Steer them in the direction you wish. This is a great opportunity to get to know everyone a little deeper. If you want some thought starters, just go look at those prompts they give you on the dating apps. Or maybe bring up their ex. (Kidding, do not.)

Play with the kids

Just because you got the boot from the kids table doesn’t mean you can’t hang out with them. This is one of those rare win-win-win scenarios. The kids win because they get to hang with the cool older relative, the parents of the kids win because they get a break from the kids, and you win because those kids really don’t care what you’ve been doing for the past year so they’re not going to ask. Just avoid making any of the minors cry and you’ll be golden. If there aren’t any kids at your Thanksgiving, play with the pets. No pets? Maybe it’s time to start asking relatives when one of those things is going to change. Normally goes over quite well

Google some obscure facts about Thanksgiving

Did you know that baby turkeys are called poults? Did you know the first Thanksgiving meal took three full days to eat? Did you know you can tell the ripeness of a cranberry by the way it bounces? Did you know the average person gains 1.3 pounds from Thanksgiving? I bet you didn’t. You know who else didn’t? Your relatives that are dying to hear all this tasty trivia. Rattle off a few of these and they’ll leave you alone.

Offer an invite to that friend of yours that doesn’t have family nearby

Everyone wants a home cooked meal on Thanksgiving, so give that friend whose family lives on the other side of the country a call and invite them over (with your host’s blessing, of course). Everyone will be so busy asking your friend about themselves, they won’t have time to ask you about anything. Don’t have any friends like this to invite, but still want to spice things up? Get back on that dating app you just downloaded for the last tip and start dishing out those invites!

Introduce (or re-introduce) some classic board games into the mix

Time to dig into the depths of the game chest of yore and dust off a couple classics. We’re talking Scrabble, Chess, Sorry, Monopoly, Risk, Cribbage (there’s a board involved, ok?), and our personal favorite, Backgammon. The adults will feel the nostalgia of yesteryear and the youths will get to see what fun was like back when people walked to school barefoot in the snow uphill both ways. If you opt for Backgammon, we highly recommend you get the betting die involved, because what’s Thanksgiving without having a family member owe you money by the end of it?

Find your oldest relative and ask them all about their life

You’ve likely known this person your entire life. They’ve known you as a child and watched you grow into the person you are today. They, however, lived most of their life before you were even able to walk, and chances are that there’s a lot about them that you don’t know. This is our favorite tip, and ultimately what Thanksgiving is all about. Snag your oldest relative, a couple adult beverages, saddle up by the fire, and get to talking about their life and times. What was their childhood home like? What was the first thing they bought with their own money? What about their first job? How’d they meet their significant other? Some of their answers may surprise you, and all of them will enlighten you. 

Run in the Turkey Trot

This will only buy you so much time, but it’s still a great way to spend part of your Thanksgiving. You’ll also feel a lot less guilty about the mountain of food you’ll later shove down your gullet. If the usual Thanksgiving 5K isn’t enough for you, try hitting a couple different runs in the adjacent towns. Do some research and check the local start times, triangulate the route best for you, and run like the wind!

Talk about Politics

It’s your funeral.

You may not avoid every last one of the dreaded repetitive questions, but if you try one or more of the above, you should at least be able to avoid Uncle Tim and his sloshy glass.. After all, it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving unless you were simultaneously overcome with immense feelings of fellowship while hiding in the bathroom checking your phone for the next bus back home. Be thankful for what you got.