You know the ones, they leave you feeling uncomfortable, possibly even violated. I get it, after years of dodging, “When are you getting married?” (I’m not!) or “When are you having kids?” (also not!), they’re annoying and sometimes triggering.
To help, I’ve pulled together 11 common questions, what may be meant by them, a better way to ask it, and tips on how to respond. May they help you navigate those awkward moments around the Thanksgiving table.
1. “What did you do to your hair?”
A family member may be trying to imply that your new look is unbecoming or they may love it and wonder what was done so that they can get the same technique or color. If it’s because you don’t like it, forgo asking. If it’s because you love it, another way to ask would be, “I love your hair! What did you do differently?” For a response, try, “I cut it off and/or went platinum. Loving it!” and move on.
2. “Have you been to the gym lately?”
A family member may be trying to imply that you’re looking heavier and this is their indirect way to ask it. The family member may also wonder if you’re still doing the regular workout routine you shared at the last holiday. If it’s weight related, best to skip the question. If it’s exercise routine related, another way to ask would be, “How are you enjoying your workouts at the gym?” For a response, try simply “yes” or “no” without reading more into their question or feeling a need to elaborate.
3. “When are you getting married?”
A family member may be trying to imply that you’re too old to still be single or that you and your partner should settle down. Unless there’s a public engagement, best to skip this question. For a response, try, “Nope and happy to be on my own (or partnered without papers) right now.”
4. “When are you going to settle down?”
A family member may be trying to imply that you’ve been single too long or that your alternative lifestyle (living in your van, working remotely while traveling, moving cities often) isn’t traditional enough. Another way to ask this is, “You travel a lot, do you ever long for roots?” For a response, try “I love the freedom that comes with my lifestyle, thanks for asking!”
5. “Are you sure that’s a good idea?”
A family member may be trying to imply that your decision to quit your job, travel the world, freeze your eggs, call off the wedding, etc. is not a good idea. Another way to ask is, “I’m sure you’ve thought about this, but what about health insurance, the side effects, your mortgage, etc.” For a response, try “Thanks for your concern, I’ve though this through and know I’m on the right path.”
6. “You’re going back for seconds?”
A family member may be trying to imply that you’re overweight and seconds aren’t a good idea. Unless they’re asking because they want to join you or they’re your diet accountability buddy, best to skip this question. For a response, try a nod and smile or ignore the question altogether. When you return with another slice of pumpkin pie, they’ll get their answer.
7. “You’re changing jobs again?”
A family member may be trying to imply that you’re career isn’t stable or that you’re never satisfied. Another way to ask is, “You’re moving on to a new company? Tell me more about it.” For a response, try, “Yes, and I’m excited about the opportunity.”
8. “You’re still together?”
A family member may be trying to imply that they don’t approve of your partner or they’re surprised you still have a partner. Best to skip this one unless you have something positive to say or you know the person well and have concerns for their well-being by staying in the relationship. For a response, try a simple “yes,” “no,” or “it’s complicated.”
9. “You’re voting for who?”
A family member may be trying to imply that they don’t like your politics. Another way to ask is, “Tell me more about your leaning toward X candidate.” For a response, share what you appreciate about the politician without getting in the weeds. It’s often best to skip politics, religion, and financial discussions around the table.
10. “Why wouldn’t you eat X?”
A family member may be trying to imply that they don’t understand why you wouldn’t eat meat/gluten/sugar, etc. Another way to ask is, “What led to your decision to cut out meat/gluten/sugar and what have you noticed?” For a response, try, “I’ve found it feels best for my body.” If you want to elaborate, educate the family member on the horrors of factory farming, why cutting out gluten has helped, and/or how sugar is more addictive than cocaine.
11. “When are you going to have a baby?”
A family member may be trying to imply that they want a grandchild or assume it’s the next step in your life because it was in theirs. Another way to ask is, well, just don’t. For a response, try, “I’m not” or “To be determined.”
Whew, of course, this list is non-exhaustive, but hopefully a useful start! If you find yourself triggered or overstimulated during the holidays, mindfulness may help!
Consider these go-tos:
Name what you’re feeling to help calm the amygdala—responsible for emotional responses. Reflect on what the question is bringing up for you. Avoid assuming the worst. Stay present by connecting to your breath and body. Surrender expectations and go with the flow. Yep, even with those darn travel delays and weird comments by Aunt Betty. Stick to your routines as much as possible. Breathe, walk, and stretch to move your body and your energy. Skip those hot topics. Hello, politics!
Let’s navigate this magical (and stressful) time of the year with grace and kindness—especially toward ourselves. You’ve got this! Bisous. x