This week: Safe TopicsEdited by: Robert Waltz
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At first, they'll only dislike what you say, but the more correct you start sounding the more they'll dislike you.
― Criss Jami
Within any important issue, there are always aspects no one wishes to discuss.
― George Orwell
'Controversial' as we all know, is often a euphemism for 'interesting and intelligent.'
― Kevin Smith
The holidays are coming up fast -- Thanksgiving in the US, and then Christmas -- and, in defiance of reason, logic, common sense, and science, a lot of people are getting ready to travel to see their families, friends, and casual acquaintances.
Not only is there still a pandemic going on, but this year has seemed more politically charged than ever, and it's a sure bet that at least some of the folks you'll see on your journeys will have different strongly-held opinions. So I decided to put together this guide to sticking to safe topics of conversation that won't end up with Aunt Alice in tears or Uncle Joe throwing a dead bird across the dining room.
1. The weather
This has always been a great, safe topic of conversation. "Sure is cold out there." "Boy, is it windy!" "Hotter than usual for December, isn't it?" These discussions may be shallow, but they have the benefit of not being about politics or religion, so...
Oh, wait. Anytime you bring up weather these days, someone inevitably makes a comment about climate change. This creates strife and leads to tears in the mashed potatoes and a happy dog who just discovered a turkey on the floor. So, not weather. Okay...
Everyone seems to love talking about sports. Even if you're a Washington fan and someone else at the table likes Dallas, or vice-versa, it usually results in a bit of friendly ribbing and maybe a low-stakes bet on their next game. Or if you're not into American football, you might prefer to talk about hockey or basketbase or whatever (I don't know much about sports).
Oh... the Redskins dropped their name earlier this year for, presumably, something less racist. The name was controversial, to be sure, but dropping it only shoved a wedge into the divide between those who think they should change it and those who think they shouldn't. So that will eventually come up. And don't even mention Gritty if anyone at the table is of a different political persuasion, or you're liable to get a fork in your hand. Okay. No sports, either. (And for non-Americans, people have been known to come to blows over which soccer team is best, and gods help you if you're an American among people of different nationalities and call it "soccer.")
3. Your new car
This should be safe, right? Lots of people love cars, and I'm sure your friends and family can't wait to gush about how great your new ride is!
But depending upon your political persuasion and/or thoughts about the environment, said new car is either a) a gas-guzzler or b) one of them newfangled electric things. The discussion will turn political in a heartbeat, and the dog will once again be happy. So keep your wheels to yourself.
4. Someone's illness
We all feel empathy when some friend or family member falls ill, and we can commiserate about it with the people at the holiday table because, well, everyone has known someone who's been sick. It's a great way to bond with...
Oh yeah, this will inevitably lead to a discussion about healthcare in the US, which will quickly get political. And if the illness happens to be COVID-19, that's only going to turn the response up to eleven. No, if someone you know is sick, best keep it to yourself.
Everyone wants to know what you're doing to make money. This is natural, and it's a safe topic of discussion because everyone works, or has worked and is now retired (I'm counting stay-at-home parenting as work here). With kids, you can talk about school. So you should be...
But a lot of people are out of work right now, and more people are working from home, and as soon as you mention that, the discussion will turn to the pandemic response and BOOM! Happy dog, sad aunt.
6. The food
Everybody eats, and the central activity for most holiday get-togethers is sharing the feast. And it's just good manners to compliment the cooks. So surely you can at least praise the green beans and pumpkin pie and...
Oh, wait, there are both vegans and omnivores at the table. Mention food, and someone's going to get a little testy, which will inevitably lead to a fight. Sure, vegans are probably too weak to be effective in a battle, but there are other things they can do to ruin your day. Steer clear of mentioning food.
7. What you did this summer
People love to hear about others' adventures and experiences, so of course this is always a good topic to bring up...
...except this year, when "staying at home" and "going somewhere" has become a political issue. See above re: political fights.
Well. Maybe there are no safe topics of conversation, after all. My advice?
Some comedy to read while you stay home:
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Last time, in "Out There" , I talked about a common three-letter word.
WakeUpAndLive~No cig for me! : Loved this newsletter. With all the definitions of "out", Google translate found 29 of them, I think your newsletter will not easily be antwacky, which means "out of date".
Thanks for featuring my stand-up introduction!
Great! I'd hate for it to fall out of favor.
☮ The Grum Of Grums : I like Michelle Obama's quote. But do remember that, while eagles soar, weasels don't get sucked into jet engines!
Or spit back out.
Quick-Quill : Our word usage is one mess up language ha ha
Yep. And I covered "up" a while back; check it out
Prosperous Snow writing poetry : Strung out
Aren't we all?
So that's it for me for November. Avoid all people, and I'll see you next month! Until then,
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