The holiday season is wonderful: we get to wear cozy sweaters, it's perfectly normal to put on five pounds, and Love Actually is on TV for, like, 30 days straight. But the holidays aren't all snowflakes and cuddling. They're also the time of year when you return home to a cascade of questions from parents, relatives, and friends about what you're doing with your life. It might be a nosy aunt asking you to describe what a "new media consultant" really does, or an old friend who reminds you that you haven't had a serious relationship since sophomore year. Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or just the days off from school/work, every holiday has one thing in common: the inevitable, terrible conversations that make your realize your life is not nearly as interesting or accomplished as you've been telling yourself and your Facebook page. These conversations can only be likened to your yearly physical: miserable, annual, and unavoidable. You have been warned.
This is typically the first question, often posed after the standard greetings are exchanged, coats are removed, and any inside jokes are revisited. You've barely had time to grab your first drink and you're already facing the same question that you ask yourself every day. You can try explaining just how crucial your role as an "account manager," "executive assistant," or "systems support staff" is, but it will always feels like you're looking at an embellished resume.
The "What are you doing again?" question is doubly annoying because it's inevitably followed by, "And what is it that you want to do?" which of course assumes that what you are doing right now is not your dream job. I find that particularly offensive since everyone knows my two dream jobs — getting paid to eat burritos while watching South Park or running a unicorn farm — are unattainable. But I won't apologize for dreaming big.
Leave it to your parents to make your ridiculous rent and crappy salary sound like an awkward drug deal. I'm aware that when you were my age, you were married with kids, a budget, and a savings plan, but things are different these days. Mostly because I have an iPhone, which has a Safari button, which directs me to the internet, which constantly distracts me from my career and personal goals because there are cat memes and twerking tutorials and celebrity tweets to keep up with.
If your parents ask you this question a lot, just respond with: "If I had a dollar for every time you asked me that ... " and then just kind of trail off, wipe an imaginary tear, and see what they say. With any luck they will give you a dollar, or better yet, four laundry quarters.
With any luck, you're a few drinks in by the time this gem rolls around, so naturally you're incredibly articulate and philosophical about your relationship status. And by that I mean self-deprecating and honest to a point that would even make Lena Dunham uncomfortable.
If I was seeing someone special, you would already be painfully aware because I would have verbal diarrhea about it. I wouldn't be able to hold it in. I would unleash it upon you. It would be all over my Facebook newsfeed in various forms of weird brag-dom. I would find ways to force it into conversation. I would be inundating you with all sorts of irrelevancies, like how my boyfriend's growing up in a cul-de-sac really defined his childhood.
Perhaps this is an innocent question, usually offered by a parent. They're probably just checking that you're getting your fruits and veggies, but this is what I hear: "Why are you fatter every time I see you?"
Timing is everything with this question, and you will be asked it just as you're reaching for a (fifth — let's be real) cookie. Or as you're disappearing from Thanksgiving dinner on the annual pilgrimage to your childhood bedroom to change into sweatpants with a forgiving elastic waistband. Regardless of intent, this question launches you into a discussion where you are forced to confront face to face (or chins to chins) the reality of the stuff you put into your body on a daily basis. It goes something like this:
Parent: So, what are you eating these days?
You: (mouth full of fifth cookie) Jush ... ffjdskf ugh shlffgh.
You: Ah sorry. Just ... food and stuff.
Parent: I want to make sure you're being healthy.
You: I am! I eat breakfast
Parent: That's good
You: Once, sometimes twice a day. They say it's the best way to start your day. So if I have it twice, then like, my day will be twice as good.
Parent: I'm not sure that's -
Katie: Man, how good are these little hamburger thingies? I can't stop.
Parent: They're macaroons. So are you cooking more like we talked about?
You: I think I just blacked out — I have no idea how many of those macaroons I just ate.
Parent: Seven. Now listen, you know cooking is much better for you than eating out.
You: Oh yeah, I'm definitely cooking, like you said. Chef Boyardee, Ramen Noodles, Hungry Man. You name it, it's going in that microwave.
Parent: Hm. And where are you food shopping?
You: I go to Whole Foods all the time -
Parent: Oh, that's great!
Katie: - yeah, their hot food bar always has mac and cheese and enchiladas, so it's a pretty solid setup.
Parent: ... Oh.
You: Seriously, how are you not eating these macaroons? Listen, I'm gonna run upstairs real quick. Need the sweatpants.
Good luck out there.