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Posts Tagged ‘Conversation’

Safe Topics for the Holidays: Stick to the Turkey

November 22, 2011 7 comments

People are evidently nervous this time of year. I’m seeing a myriad of “How to Survive the Holiday” topics in the blogosphere, and #StuffBetterFast is trending on Twitter. North America is buzzing with hints and tips on surviving this time of year, when we are stuck inside with no choice but to engage our extended family in scintillating conversation.

This can be a terrifying prospect, wherein the only solution can be found in the bottom of a bottle, be it ruby red or palest garnet. I, however, have been handed an extended family which frowns upon such liquids which might put a hint of joy in an otherwise morose day. My sober state has paid off in spades however: I’ve learned how to talk about absolutely nothing with ease, and at length.

If you, too, want to navigate the holidays free of catastrophe, stick to the following topics:

1. The cooking of the turkey. Is the white meat moist, while the dark meat still falls off the bone? Bonus points! This will always vary from holiday to holiday, so bears mentioning, and will allow you to explore the meals of holidays past, wistfully or otherwise.

2. The texture of the turkey. Is it gamey? Bland? Does it melt in your mouth? This can be explored while the gravy is being passed around, and don’t forget the cranberry sauce in the event of an overdone bird.

3. Where did the turkey hail from? Usually good for a tale involving lineups and holiday frenzy. Beware the temptation to sojourn into the topic of organic, free-range turkeys, however, as this can lead to polarization from one’s relatives. Ahem.

4. The turkey accessories. Do the carrots complement the dinner? What is the consistency of the mashed potatoes? Is the gravy perfectly lump-free? Is the group assembled pro-brussel sprouts or con? (For some reason we share a collective forgetfulness with this issue, so need to revisit it each occasion, but it never gets old.) The turkey accompaniments can provide you with minutes of frivolity; play around a little and have some fun.

5. The temperature of the meal. Is everything bubbling hot? The water ice cold? This can naturally send you into another blissfully safe topic to round out the meal: the weather.

Now, if you sail through these topics before second helpings are distributed, or Aunt Betty’s apple pie is polished off,  you can always revert to my standby: round table bets on how many dinners will be gleaned from leftovers. Add a quarter to the pot to add excitement and intrigue.

Generally, if you stick to the above conversational points, being sure to lean on the positives of the meal, while downplaying the negatives, you should be able to navigate your way through the entire meal without offending anyone, and you can retire to your football game stuffed, but otherwise intact. (Or in my case, a scene out of 1950, where the men retire to the football game and the women clean up the mess.)

It goes without saying that politics, greenhouse gases, the deficit, the euro crisis, whether fighting in hockey should be banned, ‘who is Kim Kardashian anyway?’, Glee, and anything else that could be considered remotely interesting, are all potentially hot topics which could leave someone in tears. Engage in these controversial subjects at your own risk, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. Easter will be here before you know it.

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Eavesdropping on Suburbia

February 4, 2011 8 comments


I can hear you...

One of the many things I like about traveling, besides the obvious being transported to warmer climates, is observing people in airports.

To the untrained eye, it might appear that I am absorbed in my book, but really my bionic ears are listening to every conversation within a stone’s throw, and I’m watching every movement out of the corner of my beady eye.

And if you sit down beside me and have a conversation on your cell phone, it is not a private discussion: I am hanging on your every word.

A man sat down beside me at the airport last week and we had a lovely chat with his wife on his mobile. It was so stereotypical I could easily decipher – probably verbatim – what her responses were, despite not being on speakerphone (really, how rude!).

We talked about the Vancouver weather – balmy compared to where they resided (Chicago? Denver?). We all agreed traveling is extremely tiring, and the food sucks. We discussed his daughter’s basketball game, and whether or not her play stood out from the rest of the team’s, and how that Ashley girl is overrated. We talked about his wife’s paycheck, and how it was so small it didn’t cover the cost of her work wardrobe, and although we all chuckled, she was secretly annoyed that he keeps bringing this up. We segued into his wife’s friend for a bit – trouble on the horizon in her marriage, what are you going to do? And then, finally, could she pick up his dry cleaning and kiss the girls for him? He loves her and will see her tomorrow night.

Two things came to mind as he snapped his phone shut: are we all so predictable? And secondly, what will his wife serve for dinner tonight?