Rules of Engagement: Appropriate Holiday Dinner Talk

Growing up, I was always told that it's rude to discuss politics and religion at the dinner table. It's certainly a standard of etiquette espoused by the Miss Manners of the world. I have one friend who says he won't converse about politics and religion with anybody he hasn't seen naked. I guess that probably rules out Thanksgiving. But does everybody feel that way about table talk?

When I'm with my family, I stick to subject avoidance for peacekeeping reasons. My parents are Christian conservatives. I am an agnostic Democrat. And while I love them to pieces, we disagree on a lot of things. It doesn't ever get ugly, mind you, but it does make us all a little sad. Like, how can we feel so differently about such important stuff? So we just steer clear.

At least I'm not a solo left-leaning black sheep now. My husband-to-be, the professor, is very liberal and opinionated. His mother is also a Republican, but he ribs her if she says anything he finds contentious. Will he continue to abide by my parent's unspoken rule — which I remind him of often — or will he just hold his tongue 'til the ring is firmly on my finger? I wonder.

When my family does get together on big holidays, the conversation is anything but dull. Most of us are pretty darn witty following a glass or two of wine. And it's not like we're a bunch of prudes. Even my mom has been known to crack ribald jokes after pie and port. Sometimes the conversation gets downright raunchy. But I really can't remember ever having a discussion about politics or religion, ire-raising or otherwise. Then again, holidays aren't really known for heavy.

I wish I could eavesdrop on Thanksgiving dinners across the nation this year to hear what people actually talk about — and don't. Asking Apartment Therapy readers is obviously the next best thing. So how about it: Do you have any spoken or unspoken rules of conversation during family gatherings? Do you have any great anecdotes? Please dish!

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