Holiday season is about homecomings and sharing the festivities with family, but it’s also inevitably potholed with awkward moments. You might think you’re sorted this year with a solid job, a perfect new partner or a series of witty comebacks, but don’t get complacent: the questions are coming. No-one is safe.
Brutally blunt inquiries from well-meaning family members can leave even the most liberated of us wondering what happened to her sense of self. We’ve identified 5 questions you are most likely to encounter this holiday, so you can be prepared.
These questions all subtly allude to the ways in which you’re not embodying the feminine ideal. They will be delivered in a cheerful, matter-of-fact tone that makes them almost impossible to debunk on the spot.
1. The Aunty who doesn’t get your style
Aunty: Come here and let me look at you.
Aunty: What is this? *tugs/points at offending item of clothing*
Aunty: I don’t understand. And what have you done to your hair?
You: Well I..
Aunty: Pass me the chips.
Don’t drown in disapproval – remember that Aunty doesn’t have a clue. Your new top is great and you know it. Stand still and wait for it to pass, then say it all with an eyeroll and reach for the niknaks.
2. The ‘any man will do’:
Married cousin: What happened to whatshisname? He was nice.
You: Actually he cheated on me and we broke up.
Cousin: You know, no relationship is perfect hey, it takes work.
The levels of implications! The patriarchy wants you to know that your happiness doesn’t matter, as long as you’re with a man. Any old man will do, no matter how awful he is, and you must be the one to work to keep the relationship going.
This kind of conservative prejudice runs deep. Explain away, but she’ll probably just keep looking at you with pitying eyes. Combine your feminist rhetoric with an aggressive lead-by-example strategy. Consistently demonstrate that being alone is better than being trapped in a bad relationship, even if it’s not all carefree tinder dates and dancing on tables. You do you.
3. The lost cause:
Relative: So you still haven’t found a nice man?
You: (This time you were ready): Actually I like being alone (the rebuttal) and I just got promoted (the diversion).
Relative: Look at that cheek! See, you’ll never get a husband with attitude like that.
Sigh. There is nowhere to go from here. As much as you’re a lost cause to them, they’re a lost cause to you, and it’s fine. Just don’t internalise that bullshit.
The rhetorical questions:
These can leave you feeling empty inside. Your answer not invited because who are you to backchat, and on top of that, the sheer complexity of explaining your life choices makes a response seem impossible.
4. The comparison: Your grandmother points across the room to your newly married / freshly pregnant / first-time home-owner relative.
Grandmother: Why can’t you be more like your cousin?
Grandma isn’t going to change at her age. Plus there’s probably no way of explaining to her that a) you have no desire to be like your cousin, which would destroy her plan for your life or b) that is what you want but it’s complicated and going to take some time to get there… Grandma might even be dead by then, and you don’t want to point that out. Use this rhetorical question as a chance to take control of the conversation and redirect it in the direction you want to go.
5. The career crusher: undermines all your aspirations and efforts in one blow.
Concerned Uncle: So when are you going to get a real job?
You have two options here. Either the defensive and pointless “my job IS a real job” or the sad “I’ve BEEN trying and neither Santa Claus nor baby Jesus has provided me with one so stop rubbing it in.”
But remember the nature of the beast: Concerned Uncle doesn’t care about your answer. His question is rhetorical bait so he can unload his ‘advice’ on you, because he’s sure that he knows stuff about the world and you don’t. You’re going to get the lecture no matter what you say.
Don’t take that bait baby; rather just give him your most malevolent stare while downing your drink. Burp loudly and walk away. This also takes care of Concerned Uncle trying to dance with you later – wins!