Conde Nast publishers shuttered Gourmet magazine in 2009. The last issue, fittingly, was the Thanksgiving one. I still have it, tucked away with a decade’s worth of other turkey emblazoned editions. I know I’ll never cook any of the recipes. I’m a creature of habit and am not one to rock the gravy boat. Still, I enjoy revisiting them each November. It’s comforting, like the holiday itself. It’s tradition.
Tradition. That’s what Thanksgiving brings. Turkey, parades, football, traffic--and advice columns on how to navigate dinner with family members who only want to talk about your college applications. Like this. And this. And also this.
Do we need another? Not really. But kind of. There’s not much novel to say on the topic. At the same time, that doesn’t mean the advice isn’t worth repeating, especially if it helps you avoid an unwanted spotlight.
Applying to college is an emotional journey filled with equal parts excitement and anxiety. It can consume your days. You know that, and so do your parents, who have a courtside seat for the ups and downs. But Thanksgiving can be a holiday that brings together family members who don’t see each other very often. It’s only natural that they would want to hear about what’s going on in your life. The problem is that the very topic you want to take a break from is the one they’re most curious about.
It can be frustrating, and how you respond is up to you. Fortunately, you have options that don’t necessarily involve hurling mashed potatoes at your loved ones. Here are three to consider.
Enlist help. Before people gather, ask your parents or siblings or anyone else who understands where you’re coming from to lend a hand in guiding the conversation. Your parents could say, “She’s been working so hard on her applications. We told her she could take a day off from thinking about it.” Or maybe an older sibling or cousin could step in with a comment on how nice it was to take a mental break when they were applying.
Return the question. Be ready with a polite but brief reply like “I’m making good progress” or “It’s all my friends and I talk about” and then follow with, “What was it like when you applied to college?” That could help people satiate their craving for talking about the topic without actually focusing on you.
Be honest. There’s nothing wrong with saying that you’d rather not talk about your applications. Depending on your personality and your relationship with the person asking, you can make the point with humor or fatigue or simple matter-of-factness. But make the point.
There’s no guarantee that these strategies will work, but they’re worth a try. Hopefully, people will get the message and move on to the great cranberry debate. If all else fails, you might consider grabbing a pen and pad to take some notes. If anyone asks what you’re doing, just tell them you’re jotting down ideas for your college essay. That should do the trick.