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How to Dodge Your Relatives' Questions: A College Student's Guide

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Students, Thanksgiving is a day stuffed with family time, so if you're not confident that you can control information so tightly as you did in high school, these tips could help. You have to talk much more this year than ever before to show everyone how you're a blossoming young adult. It's better, nevertheless, to approach this big dinner day with tact and a strategy. While it's best not to lie to adult family members, you're within your rights to dodge certain questions entirely. Because your tax returns and origin story are uncontroversial at this stage in your life and because your mother won't bring up that mysterious debit card charge until tomorrow morning, here are some topics to embrace and avoid until she does.

Topics to Avoid:

Partying: Imply that there is plenty to do while avoiding specifics. Maybe your debate skills are honed around the beer pong table instead of in the Oxford Union, but it doesn't make a broad statement that your school's Quidditch team is ranked third in the Northeast any less true. Who cares if you're actually a member? Allow the conversation to naturally shift to Harry Potter and an explanation of Quidditch that's so long your family may be disinclined to ask any more questions.

Love life: MYOB, family. Since I'm sure you don't ask about your parents' sex life or your grandmothers' they don't get to ask questions either. If you're single, best to simply make up someone who sounds standard but promising. Moms love female STEM majors. Say she's from Oregon but not from Portland (what else is there?) and that you met her a month ago, but "Mom, you know how crazy mid-terms can get."

Roommate: Family members love to blame your shortcomings on people other than you and themselves. All mountain-sized problems start from molehills you mention in casual conversation or self-important bitch-fits. If you don't want your mother to call your R.A. in a tirade about all the blissful sleep you need before your super-important creative writing workshops or to give your roommate the side-eye at graduation because you had to pay $100 to dry clean your comforter this fall, best not to say your roommate is a bit of a party animal.

Major/Future Job Prospects/Graduate School Plans:
"So what are you thinking for a career/graduate school?" This is the type of question that is often brought up by a relative who doesn't know you. As if to say, "Have you never thought about your future before? Ever?" What a good conversational opener! Don't get freaked out! Just talk about how time is like a river and you are going to paddle down it.

Topics harder to avoid:

On Grades: It's pretty hard to fake performance when it's recorded and calculated in a G.P.A. for your parents' perusal. So, to avoid derailing the conversation or at least bringing up a stressful conversation in front of the whole family, own up to "having a hard time adjusting, and say you're "trying out better study skills in December." During the holidays, it's more about showing that you're trying than pretending you're perfect.

Anything Concerning Transferring: If you're not in the right place, maybe they can talk you through it. Here is a place where an older, longer-compass perspective. There are over 6,000 colleges and universities in the country, so its fair to say some people just pick the wrong place for the wrong reasons.

How's the food there? This comes up constantly, but it's more polite than important when a distant family member is the questioner. But be aware of this -- it's likely that the food an older generation ate in college was much worse than the sushi rolls now available. Get into specifics here. If you have a favorite meal, drop it right in the conversation. If your go-to place is actually off-campus, say you "sometimes" go to this place. Avoiding general statements does not impugn the value of your meal program (keep those precious swipes) and mentioning your favorite off-campus place gives the impression that you're not a pathetic, socially inept hermit crab.

There's enough shame-eating on this holiday -- best not to have to eat your words too.