Happy Holidays, guys! What are you doing right now? Avoiding your family? Why, are they all too eager to spar with you on IMMIGRATION REFORM? Or is it that school district in Maine passing out birth control pills to eleven-year-olds — when they're not even allowed to bring their own aspirin! — they're just DYING to talk to you about? What about the improvements in Iraq the liberal media refuses to acknowledge? Does every supper feel like it should be the last?? Yeah, this doesn't really sound like MY family, whom I love and actually agree with on a NUMBER of critical issues. More to the point, I lack all self-control, especially when I am drinking, which is always, and even more than that when family holidays are in session. And so, my holiday meals have all too often been marked by raised voices, loud stomping, and that all-abiding sadness over the fact I have not at all matured since the last time I lived here. (17!) Thankfully, my friend Lindsay Robertson has matured — and learned to make peace. Her fail-safe conversational survival guide to getting through Red State family dinners, after the jump.
I used to joke that the only two topics I could discuss when I went home to visit my evangelical Republican family were "the weather and food." I guess I didn't give enough "thanks" to the intact polar ice caps, because ever since Global Warming came along I've lost "weather" as an option. So how are those of us with family members who get their news from Hannity and the O'Reilly supposed to fill the silences without resorting to an ill-advised "meaningful discussion" destined to end in tears, slammed doors, and most tragically, the potential forfeiture of six varieties of pie? Here are five topics that, if you follow the rules, are guaranteed to lead to the blandest, least provocative family dinner conversation possible. (You'll notice sports are absent from this list. Have you read about the drugs those insolent thugs have been pumping into their bodies? Stay AWAY.) Anyway, follow this guide, and your most willfully ignorant cousins will think you're so dull they'll believe you when you claim your "normal bedtime" is 8:30 pm.
1. The Disappearing Bees
Opening Gambit: "Did you hear about how the bees are disappearing?"
Point of Guaranteed Agreement: Bees are good! What is happening to the bees? I know some things about this topic. It is scary, but the scientists are working on it. We won't know until Spring. Let's all cross our fingers. We shall see.
Do Not Mention: "Bee AIDS", Global Warming
2. Poor Little Madeleine McCann
Opening Gambit: "Did you hear about that little English girl who went missing in Portugal? So sad."
Point of Guaranteed Agreement: It's not good to leave small children alone in unlocked apartments, but it is sad that a child is missing and her parents are being crucified by the press.
Do Not Mention: The underreporting of the child abductions of minorities. (Really, I mean, "duh." You will be tempted, but seriously, that will only lead into some discussion of sex slaves and homosexuals and the evils of pornography and you just really don't want to think about poor Uncle Gary's "wide stance" if you can help it.)
3. Fancy People Pay Outrageous Prices for Gross Food
Opening Gambit: "You guys will love this - I have friends who call themselves "foodies" who eat the most disgusting things and pay so much money for it!"
Point of Guaranteed Agreement: Foie Gras is gross.
Do Not Mention: "Oh, my god, and the worst thing is? They force-feed those poor little ducks. No, I really, it's CRUEL, I watched a whole documentary on it..." Or anything to which they could say... "And speaking of documentaries..."
4. Find Something Low-Stakes That You Are Actually Sort Of Conservative About
Opening Gambit: I think teachers should be paid much more money, but that we should be able to fire them if they do a bad job. (Or something you're secretly conservative about.)
Point of Guaranteed Agreement: Teachers should be paid much more money.
Be Sure to Mention: Your stoned tenured high school teachers.
Do Not Mention: Actually, if it's a hypothetical enough topic, you can actually have an "argument" about it and not raise anyone's blood pressure! You can even pretend to be "convinced" by their argument. As in: "you know, now that I think about it, vouchers may simply be society's surest form of 'harm reduction' when it comes to keeping kids with well-meaning parents off the streets. It's sort of like, needle exchanges and methadone maintenance for intravenous drug addicts..." Ha ha ha, just kidding.
5. 'Remember When' Tony Soprano called it "The lowest form of conversation?" I call it "Communication that does not involve the Iraq War."
Opening Gambit: 'Remember when' I was little and I said cute things?
Do Not Mention: Anything that could lead to a "Those days being better days than these days, in which little girls dress like prostitutes and everyone shacks up" conversation. Not that your fifteen-year-old cousin's miniskirt isn't begging everyone to go there already...
And if those don't work, at least every season of Little House on the Prairie is now on DVD!