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How to Deter Holiday Questions from People Who Are Far Too Invested in Your Personal Life

November 27, 2013

Here in the U.S., we will spend tomorrow honoring the English Puritans who weren’t even the first Europeans to set foot on the North American continent and who definitely weren’t the first to cross the sea, period, by loudly and publicly declaring our thanks for our existence by that one relative who actually gets all teary-eyed over that sort of thing, while those of us with less of a spiritual bent squirm uncomfortably and cross our legs nervously while we try to plaster convincing gratitude onto our faces and voice boxes.

And many will find that the day, and all those other biggies to come (did you know that tomorrow also marks the first day of the minor Jewish holiday that only celebrates eating fried foods and not giving presents, or at least didn’t up until some marketing manager realized how close the festival was to consumer-friendly Christmas and thought, “Hey, Jewish people tend to be financially secure. CHA-CHING!”? And if not, what rock have YOU been hiding under, and can I come join you if I promise to bring beer?), to be a veritable minefield of plastering convincing…something or another as we grin and bare teeth through a hailstorm of leading questions about how much sex we’re having and what the end result will be.

Yep. For those of us in that magic marketing demographic between 18 and 45, there will be intensely concentrated surveying of our intentions as relevant to whatever step we’ve reached on the road to creating a sufficient number of future Consumers of America. At this time last year, I was still with my boyfriend, although it was well-known throughout the family, perhaps even better than it was to me, that he was more like my ex-boyfriend-to-be, so people delicately tiptoed around the entire conversation.

But outside my closest family members, the standard questions would have included: “So, when are you two getting married?”

This year, I’m almost (but not quite, so this ain’t showing up at the dining table tomorrow) thankful that I’ve gone back to the phase of Invasive Personal Questions that are more along the lines of: “So, are you seeing anyone right now?”

Had the boyfriend and I still been together and finally made everyone but ourselves happy by tying the knot, I would have expected: “So, when are you having your first?”

And had we made everyone but ourselves and the miserable mix of maybe mutancy that was our purely hypothetical fleshy germ bag happy, somewhere in the future, it would’ve been: “So, when are you giving Li’l Pweshus a sibling?”

There are numerous varations on this theme, of course, but understand that it basically boils down to: “So, who are you screwing, and when can we expect the proof?”

None of which is anybody’s goddamn business. I’m very fortunate that most of the dinner guests will be my close family members who would know if I planned on taking down the “Not” on either descriptor in my blog title and also know that it will never progress beyond a still-completely-hypothetical variant on, “So, are you dating anyone?”

But there are always a few new faces. And not everyone is so fortunate as I. So here, based on my experiences in recent days avoiding the men who wanted to change my projected negative response to the above question to a breathless, “Yes!” (more on that in a future post–I might not flirt, but I can still tease!), here is the one solid method for shutting down the entire line of inquiry before it even gets off the ground:

The Bitchface.

Caveat here: this is probably not the best technique to use with relatives or anyone else you might actually, like, want to talk to ever again. But if you rather relish the idea that you can shut down Second Cousin Sylvester’s pushes to make you drink the damn Kool-Aid already as well as his enthusiastic dissection of how much better his bowel movements were after this juicing regimen he started, all you have to do is meet his eyes, scowl, and hold until he scrambles away.

Those you do want to keep in the roster of Christmas Cards Receivable but don’t want to get ideas about you are a little harder, but you simply need to keep one concept in mind, one that will be familiar to these starry-eyed parents of onetime, future, or perhaps current toddlers:


It might not be a flat-out no, as it would be for my answers to the questions on dating. It might not be a similarly single-word answer like “Never” as it would be for my responses regarding marriage and children. For you, the answers might expand out to two words: “Not now.”

But the overarching idea is to keep the answers as terse and close to monosyllabic as possible. If nothing else, people love juice, and not just for cleansing, so if you launch into an epic explanation of your views on relationship- and childfreedom, that will only be grounds, no matter how solid your argument is, for why you’re a stupid idiot who’s only going to change her mind in a year or two, as far as your interlocutor is concerned. So don’t give any ground. The less responsive you are, the less interesting you’ll be as a target.

And if neither technique ultimately succeeds, at least you’ll have a built-in conversational escape this year: “I have to go. My Menurkey is engulfed in flames.”



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  1. i beg to differ, in kenya its different

  2. Amber permalink

    I’m thankful that I’m now in my late 30s, so Those Questions are becoming much less common. But on the rare occasions that someone does spout them, I too have found that short answers are the most effective. Cuts them right off. And why are people more concerned about my romantic and sex life than I am? That’s just weird.

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