November 25, 2013 in Features

Miss Manners: Banter around holiday table about bonding

Judith Martin Universal Uclick

DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is proper holiday dinner conversation when the age ranges and marital statuses are mixed?

I am a single aunt who is outgoing, not introverted at all, but when I go to my sister’s house for a holiday dinner, I feel excluded from the table conversation, as does my widowed mother. It’s all about the kids – and the kids are loud. When I try to introduce a topic, it doesn’t stick. It always seems that family units are just not interested in anyone but themselves and their lives.

What is proper, and what can I do besides not attending? All my single friends have similar experiences.

GENTLE READER: You could probably get a football conversation going among those slumped around the television set. And if you helped dish up in the kitchen, you could get an earful about those who aren’t helping.

And don’t tell Miss Manners that there isn’t a rousing conversation at the table about what foods are evil, and how stuffed everyone feels.

Under other circumstances, it may be possible to talk with some of these people about books or the economy or the meaning of life, but not at a family holiday dinner. That’s when families bond through announcements, questions and observation.

You should be grateful that the children are rambunctious. It at least distracts the adults from demanding to know why you are single.

What you and your mother should be doing is quietly asking less offensive questions of individuals, just to show an interest in how they are getting along. It would be especially nice to do so of any child who happens to be left out of the play.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email