Dear Dr. G,
Being home always means talking to all my relatives about if I’m dating anyone yet. Can you give me some tips on how to avoid these weird conversations so I have more time to swipe through hometown Tinder during the family Zoom?
-Anti-Social Social Club
For whatever reason, relatives are more obsessed about who you’re f*cking than that guy in your Poli-Sci class you hooked up with last semester, and more interested in your post-grad plans than your pre-major advisor. Plus, with the recent realization (or reaffirmation for many of us) that almost half of legal adults voted in favor of conspiracy theories, and that some of those people share a bloodline with you, it is reasonable to want to dip out on that whole family togetherness thing that is expected during the holidays. In preparation for this season, I have compiled a list of three tactics you can use to avoid one of these discussions.
Tactic Number One: Distract.
This one is most effective for relatives whom you know have a short attention span, such as your younger cousin or your aunt when she tipsy of a glass or six. As soon as the box wine starts flowing and your aunt asks you if you’ve, “been seeing any cute boys recently?” this tactic can come into play. You can start off by talking about someone you know, but gently steer the conversation to something else neat you’ve done, like fall off the Walker Field House roof, get a new campus job or make a polymer in your chemistry class. The plus side of this one is that you’re definitely prepared. Just reach back to some conversation where you overshared with your closest friend on campus about some totally trivial and meaningless lesson or interaction you had and project that onto your relatives. You can also probably get away with it without anyone noticing, and everyone will come away knowing you’re the smart, funny and interesting cousin. The downside to this is that after so long in the Vassar Bubble™ you may have a warped perception of what is actually interesting enough to change the subject. Like, I wrote “making a polymer in your chemistry class” earlier, and that’s so f*cking boring, I doubt that your drunk aunt will be distracted from living vicariously through you by some lame extremely important experiment. Sometimes to your relatives you’re an interesting and mature person, and sometimes you are the untapped potential for another generation of freaks, so take this technique with a grain of salt.
Tactic Number Two: Deceive.
This is by far the most versatile strategy you can bring with you to a family gathering, and works especially well on people who are more distantly related to you or don’t know you as well. Another name for this tactic is “lying” :). When your cousin’s new husband asks, “Do you have any game with the ladies on campus?” just tell him an absolutely incredible lie to get him off your tail. A couple good go-tos are that there just aren’t many girls at Vassar, or that everyone is already in a relationship (two things that anyone who knows anything about Vassar would see through in two seconds). Or, take these last few days on campus as an opportunity to take a photoshoot with a close friend that you can pass off as your datemate for the foreseeable future. Sure, maybe when you’re on campus he’s just some guy you met in your Drama-102 class this fall, but to you family he can be the tall, dark and handsome Economics major you met at the gym during your first week of classes (he can also just be your beard, I didn’t come here to judge and it’s not that deep). While these fantastic stories will captivate more estranged relatives, your closest family (siblings and parents) will see right through them and will definitely remember the pic of the two of you holding pumpkins on the Chapel Lawn as friends. Watch out especially for your younger sibling, they’re still not over you telling mom that they started vaping and have been waiting for the right chance to make you look dumb in front of your relatives. This technique is a house of cards.
Tactic Number Three: Don’t!
After all, we are in a global pandemic and you still have classes; if family interaction isn’t your thing, don’t pass up this golden opportunity to dip out. Say that you have a Zoom call for your creative writing course during a family dinner, that you have to study for an orgo exam that’s tomorrow morning. Hell, Vassar loves a liberal arts education with strange and obscure assignments, you could probably get away with telling everyone you’ve taken a language pledge and are only allowed to speak Korean for the break, they might believe that. And I have to add that given the way that my home state’s COVID numbers are going, entering the home of the oldest and quirkiest people… sounds like a bad call maybe, so perhaps it’s best to hit them with the “I value your life” card.