Hey Elderly Aunt, how can I handle awkward political talk at Thanksgiving or should I just bail on it?

Dear Elderly Aunt: You’re probably going to get a ton of questions like this, but what advice do you have for talking about politics after the election (or not talking about it) during Thanksgiving? Our annual gathering, for instance, is going to be a lot smaller than usual this year because some extended family won’t be traveling. So it’s going to be a lot harder to hide and avoid the topic. But I know at least two people who will be there have VASTLY different political views (maybe more accurately described as delusions) than mine. What can I do to avoid or handle the topic regardless of who wins, who loses or if the election is still undecided? Or should I just play it safe, blame COVID and not go this year? 

Ah yes! To talk politics, or not to talk politics at family gatherings, that is the question. Sadly, in the Elderly Aunt’s opinion, if you choose to break Thanksgiving bread at the same table with the Politically Deluded, the odds of your avoiding harangue-ment are about the same as your odds of winning the $350 million Powerball jackpot.

As a gracious acceptor of the inevitable, the Elderly Aunt’s goal when being harangued by the Politically Deluded is to let their blather run its course without becoming illogically emotional and tizzified herself — particularly when a feast is involved, considering tizzification is so bad for digestion. 

To aid her in reaching this goal, The Elderly Aunt follows these five rules: 

  1. She does not attempt to reason with the politically deluded. Nothing she says will penetrate their closed minds.
  2. She listens more than she talks, heroically suppressing her outrage. 
  3. When an outlandish opinion or conspiracy theory is stated as fact, she politely asks the other person to cite their sources. And no matter what source they cite, she nods inscrutably, and says, “ah.”  
  4. She will on no account become emotional or defensive during the conversation, as there is nothing more discouraging to someone who is itching for an argument. than a non-reaction. If pressed, she will smile pleasantly and says something like, “I think we better agree to disagree on that point” and leave it at that.
  5. When the other person tires of trying to get a rise out of her and their rhetoric begins to flag, she skillfully changes the subject.

More importantly, however, the Elderly Aunt is flat-out alarmed by your asking whether you should just “play it safe, blame COVID and not go this year.” To her, your phrasing suggests that, when it comes to family holidays, dear reader, you view COVID as an excuse rather than a sound reason not to attend, even though you have at least two relatives who probably qualify as COVID Deniers

It is the Elderly Aunt’s theory that we’re all suffering from COVID Fatigue. We want a break from social distancing, Zoom meetings and online-only shopping. We want to relax! We want to frolic! We want to again feel free to give and receive hugs! We want our family holidays back!

People are just so people-y, aren’t they? Even in the best of times, the most sensible, good-hearted, intelligent and kindest of us have our moments of idiocy. So it’s no surprise to the Elderly Aunt that during this weird, fraught time, idiotic behavior is on the rise. The Elderly Aunt has yet to meet anyone—and yes, she includes herself—who hasn’t felt tempted to stop being so damnably sensible about COVID  just this one time.

The problem of course is even a momentary lapse of COVID discipline endangers not only the lapser’s life but the rest of us as well.

Please, dear reader, think long and hard about the safety of attending an indoor gathering with your politically divided relatives, as the life your risk may be your own. 


The Elderly Aunt offers her thoughtful responses to your questions about this wild ride we call life on every other Monday.  And as a general disclaimer—to quote the elves from The Lord of the Rings — “… advice is a dangerous gift, even given from the wise to the wise.”

Got a question for the Elderly Aunt? Ask her on Facebook or email your question to [email protected] with the subject line “Elderly Aunt question.” (Just please don’t ask detailed financial questions). 

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