6 easy ways to diffuse awkward conversations at family parties

Stephanie Haines, Reporter

It is a Hollywood myth that families reaffirm their love for each other during the holiday season. If you are at all a normal person, spending the holidays with your family should make you want to stick candy canes in your eyeballs or stick your head in a gas oven.

Here are a few phrases that may incite family angst at holiday gatherings.  There are a few ways you can respond to them without starting a family feud.

1.  How do you expect to get a job with THAT major?

Unless you are an engineer, all Northwestern students face this crisis question at several points in their college career. Or, in Midwestern circumstances, if you aren’t a business major, you don’t have a real major. The best way to respond to your snotty aunt or drunk uncle who asks this question is to smile and say, “I am so glad you asked!  My major opens a door to a lot of careers that I am considering. Let me tell you about them…” Also, turn the question on them and ask, “If you could go back to college and major in anything you want, what would you study?”

2.  Why don’t you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?

Inevitable. I will also argue that there is an inherent double standard with this question; more girls are asked this than guys. However, either gender and all sexual identities can respond with this: “I’ve been more focused on making great friends, getting involved and getting good grades. Having a significant other in my life would significantly slow me down.”

3.  You have some interesting pictures on Facebook!

If you are an idiot and don’t have your profile customized very privately, you may be faced with this question.  Respond with a polite joke. “Come on, Grandma, I bet you had more fun than I did in college … !” This turns the table on the person who asked. Hopefully, you won’t get stuck listening to a horribly boring story.

4.  I see you voted for Obama/Romney.

Be prepared to defend your vote to any self-proclaimed political expert at your gathering.  Instead of getting into a heated argument about gay marriage or tax cuts, dwell on the fact that this was your first experience voting in a presidential election. Say, “Now I really feel like a participating citizen. What was your first time voting like?”

5.  You will be forever in debt with THAT tuition at your school.

Yikes. This is often asked by a cousin, aunt or uncle that attended or had their children attend a bargain state school. Money is a tough topic to battle over hot chocolate and candy canes. So, to prevent comparing family salaries, focus on how you are taking advantage of all NU has to offer. Recite lines such as, “I really enjoy my small seminar classes about very nuanced topics; I feel like I am getting individualized attention that will help me focus on my major and career.”

6.  It looks like you put on the “freshman 15!”

Both girls and guys, and not exclusively freshmen, could put on a little weight during Fall Quarter. There are plenty of valid excuses: “We are stressed with school,” “We are drinking” and “Our primal instincts are preparing us for a long, arduous winter.” Blame it on the late night studying. “All those long hours at the library … I have to keep myself awake somehow!”