What Not to Talk About at Thanksgiving Dinner (Slideshow)
November 15, 2013
Avoid these tricky topics at your holiday table
Few topics are as polarizing as politics. "Politics are part of those three things never to bring up in mixed company (along with money and religion)," says Tutera. "Dinner table conversation on any day, and especially on Thanksgiving, should be light and easy. Steer clear of anything that could get heated, even if you're all just yelling in agreement with each other." Whether you're batting for the same team or not, it is best not to engage in a political discussion at the Thanksgiving dinner table. Chances are, someone's ideals will be questioned, tempers will flare, and at least one guest will leave the table in a huff. In other words, avoid this topic for the indigestion alone.
As a general rule, most people with a basic understanding of Manners 101 know that discussing money matters is considered uncouth. And while you may feel comfortable around your close friends and family, the same rule applies. Discussing the somewhat grim state of the economy is one thing, but comparing personal account balances is another. "The holidays are a financial burden on everyone, no matter how you slice it. We all know how much we've spent with all the gift purchasing, party hosting, and vacation taking, and no one likes to be reminded of how skinny their bank accounts may be looking. Just avoid the topic to stave off any buyer's remorse," says Tutera.
3. FAMILY FEUDS
No family is exempt from the occasional overblown argument. Whether this means a brief disagreement or a years-long battle depends on the brood. In either case, it is advisable to forego rehashing old fights. Put past differences aside and focus on how fluffy and delicious Mom's mashed potatoes are instead, unless of course it is a funny memory now. "Some past squabbles are OK to bring up, as long as both parties can now laugh about how silly they had been," says Tutera. "The holidays are a time for sharing great memories, and the story about Aunt Sue and Aunt Donna wrestling over who was going to get the last slice of pumpkin pie is a good one!"
4. THANKSGIVING PARTICIPANTS PAST
In the spirit of shelving past indiscretions, it is never a good idea to bring up the ghosts of Thanksgivings' past. Basically, if your brother has a rotating list of Turkey Day dinner dates, keep it under wraps, at least for the sake of the arm candy du jour. "Gauge your audience here — if your brother is now happily married and your sis-in-law can take a joke, it's OK to bust some chops (or gobblers). But make sure to keep it light so no one's feelings get hurt," advises Tutera.
TURKEY TALK — NUTRITION FACTS
It's no secret that green bean casserole, creamy mashed potatoes, and candied yams clock in pretty high on the caloric scale. Talking about the nitty-gritty nutritional value of the menu's offerings can be off-putting. "Thanksgiving is the one day a year where dieters everywhere toss their journals, calorie counters, and points out the window. There are much more interesting Turkey facts to comment on, such as which farm the honorary guest once gobbled around, how you finally unearthed Great Grandma's famous stuffing recipe, or who stole all the crispy skin," says Tutera. While you may have taken the time to do a little research into exactly how many calories are packed into your deep-fried turducken, keep those gut-busting stats to yourself. When all have gathered around the Thanksgiving table to shamelessly indulge in seasonal comfort food, no one's asking for an extra helping of guilt.
6. POP CULTURE
Indulging in a bit of celebrity gossip may seem harmless enough, but beware the course this conversation can take. There's no shame in discussing last week's episode of Glee, but keep the pop culture references PG. It's doubtful that Grandma wants to hear a play-by-play of Miley Cyrus's most recent antics. "This is one of my least favorite topics on any day of the year," Tutera agrees. "Thanksgiving is a time for keeping up with your own family, not the Kardashians!"
7. BLACK FRIDAY (AND CHRISTMAS IN GENERAL)
Thanksgiving bears the burden of being overshadowed by the flashier holiday of the season. By the last week of November, the Christmas season is already in full swing — twinkling lights appear on neighbors' houses, freshly cut trees find temporary homes indoors, and the endless commercials have already gotten on everybody's nerves. Don't let Thanksgiving chatter give way to talk of Black Friday sales. "To give Thanksgiving the time that it deserves, save the Santa-isms for when dinner's plates have been cleared and dessert is making its way to the table," says Tutera. Enjoy the company of loved ones for the evening; you can get a copy of their yuletide wish list later.
8. 'THE TURKEY IS DRY' AND OTHER CRITICISMS
The head turkey chef in every household deserves a round of applause. Scratch that; a standing ovation is in order. After baby-sitting the bird, perfecting side dishes, and prepping the table, the host probably feels like taking a long nap. So don't dare speak ill of the feast they've prepared. "Your hostess/chef/loved one put a lot of work into making the holiday perfect, so keep the comments positive," says Tutera. "And anyway, isn't the dry turkey part of the tradition?!" If the turkey is dry, ladle on the gravy with a smile and give thanks to your host. Keeping any minor menu imperfections to yourself is your best bet.
9. TALKING SHOP
There's nothing wrong with taking pride in a successful career. After all, most people spend a large chunk of their day working toward the almighty paycheck. But talking shop at Thanksgiving dinner may not be the best idea. "I'm OK with sharing some fun, interesting, or moving stories from work at the table. But make sure to know your audience, and know when you may be losing them. Keep your anecdotes short and sweet so everyone can get in on the conversation, and you don't monopolize the spotlight," says Tutera. Most guests at the table will likely be rolling their eyes as you yammer on about the most recent office scandal. Save that topic for another time, as everyone else is trying to enjoy his or her long weekend away from the office.
10. POST-GRADUATION DRIVEL
"Everyone knows that the job market isn't at its best at the moment," says Tutera. "The holidays are a time to be joyful and happy, so don't bring the conversation down by reminding your college-age relatives how easy it was for you and how difficult it will be for them to find their place in the workforce… keep the energy and the mood positive."
There are few things as terrifying as the prospect of graduating college and entering the current job market. And there are even fewer things as annoying as answering the same boilerplate questions about post-college plans. If you have a soon-to-be grad in the family, spare them the agony of having that dull conversation for the millionth time. If you are curious about your niece’s plans for the future, let the discussion happen organically. If she has some exciting prospects, she will be eager to share. Otherwise, spare the young adults the third degree.