Useless facts, distracting clothes and A Star is Born: Navigate holiday parties with these tips
If you are anything like me your holidays are merry and bright, but also fraught with tension. I'm overspent, under-slept, and expected to socialize with people I've barely traded a "How's it going?" or a "happy birthday" Facebook message with.
This time of year visions of office Christmas parties, reunions with old friends, and awkward family get-togethers dance in my head.
This leads me to spiral: What if I get trapped in a conversation I can't get out of? What if I can't think of something to say to Dave from accounting? Worse yet, what if Aunt Brenda gets into the wine again? Should I just stay home? Is Ho Ho FOMO a thing?
Like death and taxes, awkward conversations are unavoidable. Therefore, I have compiled the following list of conversation tips to help navigate the perils of these situations. I hope they can bring you solace.
Be a rolling stone, and just as one of those gathers no moss, a moving target gathers no awkward encounters. While exhausting, doing laps of a party seems the lesser of two evils compared to being trapped beside the seven-layer dip while a coworker asks me what my hobbies are outside of work.
Wear something jazzy
"You like my belt?" I say. "Thanks. Beyonce has the same one. I bought it online when I took too much Melatonin and had a glass of chardonnay." Boom — another successful interaction with my cousin's girlfriend.
Choose dogs over kids
Asking about kids always involves complicated math. (Is 86 months the same as seven years old? Can a three-year-old talk? Can I make a joke about them partying yet?) I have a hard time understanding the milestones of small humans. But dogs? Dogs, I get. Do you have a dog? Tell me their name. Don't have a dog? Let's discuss you getting one. Seen any good dogs lately? Describe them. The most hot-button question I can ask is "Is he a good boy?" and even if they've just destroyed a couch, the answer is most definitely "yes."
Why did I spend $30,000 to get an art history degree? I did it to learn exactly three art facts, which I have trained myself to artfully weave into any conversation. Do I want to gain common ground with my niece now that she's vegan? Leonardo da Vinci was a vegetarian. If I feel like I want to impress my amateur photographer office crush, I drop the fact that surreal artist/photographer Man Ray invented airbrushing. And when I want to feel particularly witty, I reference American Gothic, painted by Grant Wood, while the family gathers for a group photo in front of the Christmas tree.
Bring up A Star is Born
The real gift this Christmas is the common ground I've been granted thanks to the near universal adoration people have for this movie. I can easily spend 20 minutes talking to my dearest friend's new boyfriend while out for Christmas drinks and not even break a sweat. Gaga can act! Bradley can sing! It's a true Christmas miracle.
Did you hear that?
I find that if I am stuck in a conversational rut, the chances are high they are feeling just as panicked as I am about having to endure it one moment longer. That's why, at the exact moment when the awkwardness is reaching its crescendo, I like to pick out a sound — anything, from a line of a Christmas carol being hummed, to the crash of a roaster lid hitting the floor — and say "Did you hear that?" Then, I'll add "I better go check that out" and excuse myself to run to bathroom to check my phone.