Christmas: a time for eggnog, the perfunctory sounds of Michael Bublé, and ginger bread cookies that would be better if they were literally any other kind of cookie. 'Tis the season of small disappointments.
Sure getting together with relatives and receiving their refundable gifts has its perks, but at some point you will have to talk to them. Those conversations will be garnished with arguments about federal politics and the barren wasteland that is your body. There is no escape. Social convention has dictated we can't just spend the day eating ham in peaceful contemplative silence.
But don't worry, we've prepared a cheat sheet of conversation starters, fillers, and finishers to carry you through to December 26.
This is your time to shine, token millennial. Regardless of your relationship status, prepare for an onslaught of questions about smartphones, sex, and all the evils that accompany them.
Your aunt and her new eHarmony boyfriend will nod thoughtfully as you explain the difference between Scruff and Grindr in family-friendly terms. It doesn't matter if you use sex apps or not, to anyone over 40 you're the oracle of Gen Y dating. Meanwhile, your high school-aged cousin will smirk into their Samsung phone with the knowledge they know more about this stuff than you ever will, despite being legally still a child.
If you haven't managed to drag along a romantic prospect to help survive the day, you're going to face additional questions about whether you're seeing anybody. Prepare to examine why you're so alone for the next three hours.
To avoid this situation altogether, angle the conversation to the nuances of 21st century romance and its many amusing intricacies: like how to use the internet to date older women and financially benefit from it. Middle-aged relatives love to talk about cougar culture. It reminds them of that Courteney Cox show that got canceled.
Why You Haven't Got Your Shit Together
When everyone is drunk and feeling insecure about their contribution to the festive spread (not all salads are created equal), they're going to look for someone to pick on. If you're not prepared, it could be you. Especially if you're halfway through an expensive master's degree and are still living in the same asbestos-ridden apartment that saw you through your undergrad.
When relatives ask why you're a half-formed mess, remind them that renting into your 30s doesn't make you a giant failed baby. It makes you a normal victim of circumstances beyond your control. Making rent, let alone affording mortgage repayments, was pretty difficult in 2015. The key here is to spin the conversation so it reflects badly on the baby boomers who put our generation in this situation in the first place.
By this point, things might be a little tense. You're going to need something safe to talk about—an uncontroversial topic that everybody can agree on. Let this be the comfortingly bland and universally beloved British songstress Adele.
Nobody has anything bad to say about Adele. Several people probably received her album in the family Secret Santa. She has a great voice, is funny in interviews, and a genuinely talented songwriter. Adele is an all-healing Christmas angel sent from above.
If the banter is flowing nicely, use Adele as a stepping stone to talk about the year in pop music. Did you know that Taylor Swift earned one million dollars a day this year? How does that make you feel? If the answer is "pretty shitty," then maybe focus on the achievements of slightly less irritating popstars.
Conversation will inevitably turn to reality TV, and you'll need to have some relevant data on hand to contribute. Fact is, at least half of the people sitting at the table haven't got a handle on Netflix yet, so you're far more likely to be talking about Masterchef than Aziz Ansari's new show.
Haven't seen anything on network television for a while? Just casually comment that X Factor is the modern equivalent of watching gladiators fight each other to the death. Or make some general statements about all the casual sex and freakouts that take place behind the scenes. You know, classic family-friendly fare.
What's with Women?
So, you've successfully indulged everyone by sticking to the tried and true topics of adult contemporary music and X Factor. By this point, you're close enough to the dessert victory line to safely start a nice family argument.
A conversation about feminism, which for better or worse was the buzzword of 2015, is the way to do it. Go on, end things with a bang. Saddle up and get on your high horse, because it's time to get morally superior.
Believing in the basic tenets of gender equality might not seem too controversial—we're even teaching it in schools now—so you need to know how to heat things up. Can men be feminists? Does Amy Schumer have to be attractive for men to find her funny? Is there an advantage to wiping out the male population?
These are the great moral questions of our time, and male relatives from around the table are guaranteed to provide various levels of distressing insight. Lean into it. Drop some references to juggalos.
By the way, your bearded brother-in-law is statistically the most likely to be a sexist.
You Made It
Another Christmas dinner is reduced to leftovers and a brand new set of resentments have been created. Go forth and enjoy the next 12 months of blissful passive aggressive family texting until you have to do it all again.
Follow Katherine on Twitter.