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The 2017 Badger Handbook for Handling Every Question Your Family Will Throw at You This Thanksgiving

Badgers return home for Thanksgiving next week, and for some, it’s the first time home since moving to school. In-between the turkey, mashed potatoes, and green bean casserole, anything can happen. Old family rivalries can burn anew, perpetually heated political discussions can and will resume, and the near 300th annual race to see who can ask the: “Are you seeing anyone?” question first is tighter than ever. It’s a lot to handle, not even considering trying to keep one’s food separated on your plate, unless you’re a monster that just piles it on.

No need to fear Badgers, here’s a helpful game plan to ensure you can focus on your meal and let everyone else at the table find out how far down the uncomfortable rabbit hole goes.

On your significant other or lack thereof:
Those lucky Badgers who have their love lives figured out should have no problem with this topic of discussion. Go take your obligatory Thanksgiving couple pic and shut up. Now, for the majority of us it’s quite the uncomfortable topic to tackle. If you’re just flat out sexless and single, there’s no way around the endless stream of pity, forced compliments and awful romantic suggestions, sorry. 

However, if you’re in the awkward no man’s land where you’ve seen Brad or Brianna, as in SEEN them, SEVERAL times at their place and yours, but somehow just haven’t been in the “mood” to have the talk at 2 a.m. If you’re in that scenario, perhaps you’re better off saying you’re single and dealing with the pity, rather than trying to explain your strictly hook-up status to Great Aunt Sylvia.

Things to avoid: Just don’t get your relatives talking about what their dating lives were like back in their day. That’s a dangerous path that could potentially lead to vivid and scarring stories, especially depending on how senile your relatives are.

On the Badger football season thus far:
Particularly present in the father-son, uncle-son, grandpa-son, and son-son dialogues of the holiday. If for some godforsaken reason you haven’t been paying attention to the success of Wisconsin’s football team thus far, they’re playing kinda, sorta, really well. Stressing everyone the hell out, but winning nonetheless. Though if you weren’t aware of that prior to reading this, again you must be subletting an apartment under a rock. just smile, nod, and say, “Oh wow,” a couple times.

Things to avoid: Mentioning of the current low rankings, it’ll just piss everyone off.

On the 2016 presidential election:
Politics are separated into several categories in this game plan to adequately cover all the bases. Badgers, if your family is solidly Conservative or Liberal, more than likely Thanksgiving will be the usual circle-jerk of your side’s successes and one-upping your relatives with rips against the opposition.

For families that are more of a mixed bag politically, the best strategy is to hunker down, the meal’s going to be a long one. This will definitely be augmented by the fact that the 2016 election just won’t go away. It’s tragic enough that any course at UW finds a way to get political at some point, although it makes sense to remind people that education matters when you realize diplomacy is literally being conducted via 280 characters.

Things to avoid: Taking the bait. Stray away Badgers, return the topic to how great of a meal it is – at least that’s not dependent on the Electoral College that all of your family definitely understands (they don’t).

On Black Friday shopping: 
Unless your family has an iron clad grip on the principle of spending time with family, the ritual of seeing the horrors of consumerism will more than likely come up. Whatever your relatives say, don’t let them convince you to go to Walmart. Go to Best Buy, Target, insert clothing place here, that’s fine– just never Walmart. You will see things you can never unsee. Instead, blow your Uncle Joe’s mind by introducing him to the wonders of online shopping.

Things to avoid: Walmart. Cannot stress that enough.

UW’s party school ranking
Nothing’s changed since you announced you were going to Madison– people’s immediate question about the campus itself will still be about its locked-in ranking as one of the top 5 party schools in the United States. More open-minded relatives will want to hear the craziest thing you’ve seen. Close-minded ones will scoff and lecture you on focusing on your studies. In either scenario, lying is a beautiful thing.

Things to avoid: Talking about the actual craziest thing you’ve seen – water it down about two gallons worth. Also don’t mention how often you’ve still been hungover at 4 p.m. on a Monday. It’s frowned upon in most families.

On academics: 
The standard second topic that comes to mind when one says they go to Madison. Naturally, your family will want to know how your courses are going. If things are going well for you, well kudos, take a bow. If things are more of the standard melting pot of shame and failure, well, at the very least don’t use the phrase “C’s get degrees.” Say it’s been “interesting,” with an awkward laugh and pivot the conversation to your stupid cousin who goes to UW-Stout. They’ll hate you, but hey, at least you don’t go to Stout.

Things to avoid: If you’re going to brag on yourself, don’t be “that person” that goes too far. In simple terms, don’t be the Andy Bernard of your family.

On what you’re going to do with your life:
This question can also come in an alternative form: “What’re you planning to do with (x,y, or z) degree.” It’s a dangerous topic, one that’ll assuredly make everything at the table taste way worse. First things first, no one has everything figured out. Or at least, everyone likes saying that no one has everything figured out. Second of all, “I don’t know,” may seem like a stupid ass answer, but if your future prospects really entertain Aunt Cathy and Uncle Rick that much, then perhaps they need to pick up some new hobbies.

Things to avoid: Any solid answer whatsoever. They will remember that shit and let’s be honest, no plan in college is foolproof.

Whatever comes up this Thanksgiving, just trust in your Badger instinct. Or don’t. We don’t know, we’re freaking out, too.

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