Having escaped the harsh igloos of my homeland, Canada, in favour of the deadly Australian heat, it’s fair to guess I’ve missed at least a few family dinners. And while I miss my family immensely, I recall the tragically comedic effect family dinner has on them; you shove the decedents of a bloodline at one dinner table, ply them with food and alcohol, and wait for the social levee to break.
When it comes to dinner parties, there is one universal rule: “Never talk about religion or politics.” If you want your dinner to go smoothly, avoid these topics at all costs. If you want to separate and alienate generations, then by all means, discuss Trump, gender-neutral bathrooms, and whether Jesus really did stay under a rock for three days before changing his mind (this is a big hit at Easter dinner). Needless to insinuate any further, clearly, my family is most in their mind to unabashedly break this rule.
Somehow, every time, within only minutes of our meal the conversation flows effortlessly and unwittingly to politics. I don’t care about politics, but know enough to tell that my family is absolutely and unequivocally wrong, always. Eventually, I get restless in my intellectual superiority, and having reached my limit, counter-effectively change the subject to something less controversial, like explaining exactly why I’m an atheist. I receive audience reaction varying from indifference to absolute religious outrage. This is my design.
Creating enough uproar, I announce again the cardinal rule and the conversation mercifully steers back to a less tumultuous topic, like fishing…or turkey…or…moose.
Why does this happen? I know my family is not unique in this respect. Is it simply the result of a generational gap? Perhaps once you’re in the phase of recalling the “good ol’ days,” it becomes harder to adjust your viewpoints to match that of the progressive Gen Ys; once some days are “good,” by definition, all other days are worse. Or, could it be our fault, unwilling to tiptoe around the opinion of the elders, if only to save hearing that (extremely good-looking) Prime Minister Trudeau is evil and that “Trump really isn’t that bad.”
Sometimes, when I am desperate and have no other course of action, I tell my family how Tony Abbott once ate a whole, raw onion. This helps to add perspective and restore the balance at our table. Who cares about addressing racism and homophobia when there are countries wherein their leaders eat onions like apples?
I think all of our families are insane in their own way, whether your mother is crying because you never hug her or your cousin is drunk, yelling about strippers next to your 89-year-old grandfather. But at the end of the day, we are all there for the same reason: the food. Fine—the family. And somehow, familial sentiment makes generational disconnect and chaotic discourse worth it, rules be damned. And hey, if that’s not the case, as Oscar Wilde once put it:
“After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”