Words by: Ruby Ellam Art by: Natalie Tran
The spirit of listicles that tell you what not to say in different circumstances (say a date, or meeting the in-laws, or, in this case a family dinner) is often used as a means of placating your familial audience.
“Just don’t upset your father” and “Grandma just doesn’t get it, she’s from another time!” I think this underestimates the empathy and intelligence of your relatives and older people in general. While you should always prioritise the safety of yourself and others, avoiding political conversations just because “they don’t get it” can be as damaging as it is lazy.
Have hard conversations.
With that in mind, here are ten things you actually shouldn’t say at a family dinner:
Any boyfriend/girlfriend/significant others? Why are you still single?
No, Aunt June, I don’t have time for a boyfriend! Not between work and study and exploring my own sexuality and identity. I’d rather not pin my existence on another flawed, young human being, making each other responsible for the inevitable shifts in our maturation.
(To a couple) Are you trying for children?
The only thing this confirms is whether or not your family member is being actively splooged into.
Haven’t you had enough? Someone’s hungry.
Shut up. Let them eat. Fat shaming is so last decade and even if you genuinely worry for your loved one’s health, embarrassing them in front of others does NOTHING to help. Don’t grab at plates before the knife, fork, and napkin are neatly and purposefully piled onto the scraps, indicating that they have finished eating.
Wow, aren’t you very… Melbourne-y!
Okay, this one is kind of personal but if you are an expat like me, you know what it’s like to hear Melbourne used as an adjective. Come back with dyed hair? A new style? Less racist views? It’s because of Melbourne — Melbourne corrupts Queenslanders.
Grandma, have you seen the WAP video? Let’s put it on!
Actually I take it back. That’s hilarious. Every- one on that side of the family is there because of her WAP, so show some respect. She might be a certified freak, seven days a week.
Is that a toupee?
It is, leave it alone.
I’ve bought a tight fitting bowler hat.
My friend told me to add this; he insists it is a universal experience and while I wish I could confirm, alas, my head is a weird shape and hats look bad on me. Also, I don’t really feel like getting him a meaningful Christmas gift so if I get this published then I can buy a small costume hat and call it a day.
I have little to no time to indulge in this intergenerational cycle of trauma. So, no, Mum/Dad/Partner/Child, I will not get into a wine induced fight with you about how you were/are emotionally distant.
I feel like this is pretty self explanatory but I’d like to add that while emotionally charged conversations can be incredibly healing, holi- days and family events with high expectations can goad you into conversations you aren’t ready for. Allow yourself the clarity of thought before engaging in potentially triggering heart-to-hearts.
I’ve recently discovered essential oils! I can heal cousin Tammy’s (insert ailment that can definitely not be cured by essential oils)!
If patchouli was the real cure for my chronic pain then the government would be doling it out for exorbitant amounts, not allowing it to be collected by middle aged white women stuck in pyramid schemes to push on Facebook. I wish I could relieve my depression with minion memes, but alas, here we are.
So what are you grateful for this year?
This is a trap. Everyone knows you should say family and everyone knows it’s usually not the case. I’m grateful for not having to answer these questions.