The worst part about going home to see family and old friends is that you have to speak to family and old friends. As a means of justifying their own decaying existence, they’ll pepper you with question after question of unending inanity that you need to bullshit your way out of to get to the good stuff like booze, food, football, and games of pool you’ll silently play against yourself in your parents’ basement. Honestly, you’re not ready for these situations. You’ve been in the college bubble for too long.
You’ll start conversations with something like “I was so drunk last night,” or “So I may have slept with a bald tranny,” and your cousin will just stare at you while she breastfeeds her baby. You are incapable of contributing to anything resembling adult interaction, and in desperation you may start shouting, “401K!” or “SELL, SELL, BUY, SELL.” You’ve been speaking to pledges for so long that if you’re asked, “Hey John, how have you been?” you might respond with “Are you looking me in the eye, Mr Swanson?” The faint stain of Fireball has settled somewhere on all of your button downs. You probably still wear cologne. You are the leper of any holiday party; a vacant, over-drunk, under-rested bore who finishes stories with, “you should have been there.” You lack any real life responsibility upon which to build the foundations of meaningful interaction. It’s a stark reality, but luckily, Uncle J-Train is here to help you out. Let me show you the questions that are coming and some pointers on how to get past the bullshit and on your way to masturbating next to your Power Rangers action figures in your old high school bedroom.
Question: “How’s the food?” or “What have you been eating?”
What not to say: “Adderall,” “Pussy,” “Everything.”
How to handle: Someone always asks, and in normal, post-college conversation, this would be an odd question. But, as you’re in college, food seems to be a really important detail of the college experience to old-timers, probably because they can’t ask you to remind them what a tight twenty-year-old box looks like. But there are ulterior motives here; you’re getting this question because you’ve either gotten scary thin or scary fat.
If you’re a freshman guy, then you’re most likely fat. It’s okay. You have the built in “Freshman 15” excuse, but just know it happened. Don’t go around discussing the gym routine you tried that one time, or the toe shoes you bought because “Kenyans run barefoot.” Have a little bit of shame, make a deal with yourself to straighten out after Thanksgiving and know that you’re in for a Christmas full of compliments on how you got back to looking like a normal person.
If you’re a girl in her Junior year then you’ve probably gotten scary thin. I know spring break is coming next semester and “things are cray busy,” but please, God, stop creeping everyone out and enjoy Thanksgiving. Have a little food. Believe me, if you put on five, you’ll still get laid. Plus, it’ll be good for your menopausal mom who put on thirty and wants to score some Addies.
What not to say: “No.”
How to handle: The Wednesday night before Thanksgiving is the best drinking night of the year. You see people familiar enough to talk to, but unfamiliar enough to get weird with. Most of you will want to be a part of this, but to those thinking, I’m over high school, or Blank is going to be there, just go. The reality is, everyone is a little uncomfortable so everyone gets a little more drunk. That chick you never really spoke to in high school ends up telling you she did mushrooms and she wants to see if that elf she’s seeing has a penis. You could be that elf. Be the elf.
Just don’t answer “Want to drink tonight?” with how you drink back at college. We get it, Jameson Von Budweiser. You drink at college. Guess what? So does everyone else. When you pull this move you sound like a Notre Dame graduate talking about his education amongst Ivy Leaguers, everyone is rolling their eyes.
Asking: Family, Friends, Old people
What not to say: “Crazy,” “Fun,” “School?”
How to handle: You’re more likely to screw this answer up with the older people you encounter. They’ll ask, “How’s school?” and you’ll say something like, “Fucking awesome.” And you’ll watch them become all judgey like you’re showing them a new herpe. The fact is, people are really going to wonder how “school” is; as in, not “school where I learned what shotgunning is” but “school where there are classes.” So make sure your answer has words like, “demanding,” and “experience,” and “lecture.” Then, let them press for the questions about how much fun it is. You can then tell them about how you found out “Asian vaginas are way different. They’re sideways.”
Asking: Parents, Old People
What not to say: “Dude, it’s November!” “It’s all about who you know.” “I’m a freshman.”
How to handle: Old people are trying not to talk to you as much as you’re trying not to talk to them. They don’t understand half of what you say, and they think you’re high. So using the buzzword, “internship” makes them seem like they care. All you have to do is out-buzzword them. Use the following sentence and all they’ll think about is their impending death:
“I’m networking in the tech startup world. It’s really fascinating how texting is a dead format and everything is moving towards hands free remoteless entry computing systems.”
I don’t know what that sentence means but it uses words that scare the crap out of anyone talking about internships in November. If this old person commits suicide, don’t blame yourself, blame Mark Zuckerberg.
Asking: Friends, Parents, Family, Old People
What not to say: “Pulling chicks,” “Fucking,” “Major what?” “Hazing,” “Communications.”
How to handle: If you’re a communications major just say, “School isn’t for everybody,” then walk away. You’ll sound way smarter. If it’s the dreaded conversation shovel known as “Undecided” (or whatever BS your university calls it) then you need to choose a way to lean. “I’m about to commit to an economics degree. It feels like the right direction for me, but nothing is set in stone.” Sounds so much better than this conversation:
You: I’m undecided (or Floating Leaf or whatever they call it at Bowdoin College).
Old Person: Oh well… what do you think you’ll end up majoring in?
You: Um… well…in this economy, I feel like you can’t really know what the subdivision of umm…I don’t know… well…something business. Ya something businessy.
Old Person: *Nods head as he thanks God he didn’t mention his burgeoning small business or his burgeoning daughter.*
Asking: Family, Girl You Had History With In High School
What not to say: “I’m screwing around,” “I’m just getting wet right now,” “It’s college!” “Ever heard of Tinder?” “KAARRAAAA!!!”
How to handle: Dads generally don’t ask this question. If you’re a guy, they usually say, “How are the girls?” then he’ll wink. That wink is fine until it’s all you see when you’re trying to get it up. If you’re a girl, they just don’t want to know.
Moms will wonder about their sons, but know not to pry. They may ask, only because they want to confirm you’re not a total scumbag, so indulge their fantasy for a little longer. If you’re a daughter though? They will be asking in one way or another. Showing them your “Tennis Hoe” costume won’t be the right decision and neither will the tears about the guy who won’t send emojis (she’ll try to Google the word “emo Gs” and think you’re dating a black emo kid).
The key here is to be vague. “The girls at school are great. Lots of fun and really cute.” or “The guys at school love condoms and opening front doors.” Then pop another Plan B — can’t be too careful!
Asking: Creepy, Drunk Uncle
What not to say: “Of course.”
How to handle: There will be one guy during Thanksgiving break who tries to relate to you. He’ll bait you with questions about binge drinking, crazy parties, and wild sex stories. You may think, Finally! A conversation I can enjoy! Don’t give in. That dude’s a total creep, probably an alcoholic, and your aunt’s about to kick him out. If you give him an inch, in no time, he’ll be playing beer pong in your frat basement, crashing on your couch, and desperately trying to live some vague past glory as a means of getting away from the job/marriage/kids that he takes no accountability for.
Here’s the thing to remember. The people who aren’t asking you those questions are the ones who lived it. They don’t need to relive it. They’re at peace with both their history and their future. As college-aged humans, we tend to think the world wants to know about our crazy adventures, that our lives carry some kind of glamour that the old-timers pine for. It doesn’t. They’ve been there. And the one’s who come on a little strong? That want to know everything? They probably didn’t leave it all on the field. You don’t associate with failures. So walk away, pour a long bourbon, and promise yourself that someday you won’t give a shit what your nephew or niece does in college, because there’s just no way they’ll do it as good as you did.