Thanksgiving Day is upon us, and for those who celebrate the holiday in a traditional manner, that promises three things: family, food and freaking awkward conversation.
Don't get me wrong; sharing a meal with loved ones is a wonderful and cherished experience. But for those relatives or acquaintances who are either distant or weird, it can take the stuffing out of your turkey when you get embarrassed/confused/vengeful during sketchy small talk.
So if you happen to find yourself in this prickly spot during the Thanksgiving season, here are some tactics that can help turn the (gravy) tide in your favor:
1. First of all, DON'T try to hide.
Literally. No, literally. If your mother didn't already arrange the seating, make sure to plant yourself next to or across from someone with whom you're comfortable. As the saying goes, "Location, location location." Your social interaction with your designated peeps will effectively "blend you in" with the rest of the table. In the same vein, keep your favorite foods within arm's reach. Should you deign to ask your strange relative to "pass the quinoa," you'll be flying right in their sights and they'll go all Red Baron on your (baked and lightly seasoned) butt.
Also, don't try to figuratively hide. Any adult can see this tactic a mile away. Staring down at your plate, not conversing or laughing at the public jokes will expose you indefinitely. Then, Creepy Uncle will shout out a "How's it goin' down there?" All eyes will turn, and then you're (Texas) toast.
2. Get backup.
This is dependent upon your parents'/close relatives' prior knowledge. If y'all know who the weird ones are, then the parents can screen them with the standard questions (e.g. age, location, college/job status, "Yes, he really has grown") to get them off your (roasted pig) tail.
However, some parents have the wool pulled over their eyes (e.g. "What do you mean Aunt Eldridge is strange? She loves you and you should be thankful!) so this may possibly prove ineffective. Yeah, it's lame (cranberry) sauce.
3. Ask THEM questions.
This is last-resort, because it means they've already sought you out and you have no choice but to engage. In a conversation, the power always lies with the one asking questions. Assuming they aren't introverts (not the case because they're talking to you and won't shut up), weird people love to hear themselves talk: use that to your advantage. The best way to go about this is to ask them to tell a story. Get them rambling on about their last trip to Walmart or have them regale you with their review of the latest episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. While a move of desperation, if executed well, this tactic is as smooth as (I-Can't-Believe-It's-Not) butter and will surely buy you some time.
Using these techniques, mixed in with visits to the bathroom and helping with dishes, should keep your Thanksgiving peaceful and enjoyable for all!