Survival: Sitting at the dinner table for a Christmas dinner can be one of the most socially-awkward times of the year. All depends on how Ure relations are with the other people at the table.
Since Elaine and I are “dispersed parents” we don’t have but ourselves to entertain over Christmas, though we may jump up to a casino not far away during the nominal “workweek” between Christmas and New Years to visit with friends there are enjoy the company of other grown-ups.
Gone, for many families, is the joy of having a dad (or mom) set the tone of a dinner conversation that includes at least have a dozen aunts and uncles coming by with their collected families for a solid dose of turkey and everything else. If you have such an event planned, enjoy the hell out of it: It’s another American value on the chopping block. That said, we made a short list of topics we’d suggest if things get a little too “calm” that is sure to start fist-fights or yelling matches.
Here are some of our suggested conversation starters:
Turn off your phone. This is a family dinner.
People today don’t seem to understand that there are two kinds of relationships between people: The e-lationship and the RE-lationship.
Understand the difference is key: e-lationships are dandy when they are based on a RElationship, but the majority are not. e-lationships are sick and sad while RElationships are, well, real.
If you have a tough time distinguishing, ask a simple question:
Will whoever you are ignoring me for PayPal you $20 bucks right this instant? Ask them….let me see if they are a “friend.”
We tend to forget that while ultra-sociability indeed works for many thing (mainly to engage brain cells) the reality is that probably 90 percent of “friends” would never share a dime with you.
I have a DIRTY SECRET: I think if you put half of online “workgroups” on Facebook, American Industry could save billions. That’s because brains are more evenly distributed than we like to believe. We – all of us – constitute the middle of the Bell Curve.
If the dinner is still progressing, ask an intelligent “news-based” question to gauge the mental capacity of your audience.
“Uncle Dave, you fancy yourself a military affairs whiz. So, what is your assessment of Status-6? (Uncle Dave needs to read Urban and here.)
“Aunt Cathy, what percent of wheat sold in the USA is genetically modified?” (Aunt Cathy needs to read here for 2014 data.)
“Cousin Dick: Did the F.C. C. just sell us out by ending Net Neutrality?” If Cousin Dick needs to look this up, he doesn’t understand the “yes we want no bananas please” rule of labeling proposed laws and rules. In the words of Carlin the Great: “It’s all bullshit and it’s all bad for you.“
Now we get into the really verboten stuff:
“Grandpa, I’m not clear on something and maybe you could offer some perspective for me: What’s the difference between prostitution and marriage?”
There is only one correct answer here: The tax break
“Grandma, did you ever have any affairs?”
Not that we care…but it’s a show-stopper and would make a dynamite YouTube video.
“Grandpa, did you ever screw around on Grandma?“
We know Grandma deserves equal-time. Again, great video footage.
If you’ve gotten this far and think these are serious suggestions, guess again. They work us up to a point.
In our family, the Dinner Table was the holy of holies where generations can lay out their differences and defend their actions. Elaine didn’t have such an upbringing but has seen it with envy.
What you’re really after -beyond a meal – is a clearer understanding of just what it is that one generation has in mind, either in reaction to, or to clean up after, what the generation before it left undone or messed-up.
It’s just as well we aren’t with our offspring this year. The new generation doesn’t seem to have contributed much. Cancer hasn’t been wiped out, HIV still kills, and superficiality rules. They’re on what’s basically a free ride.
Thinking about this: The Internet started in August of 1991. So it will be 27-years old this coming summer. Score? Millennials zero. Apps and games don’t count.
And the ubiquitous computer chip? 1961 by Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce. So we’re….uh….57-year into the chips in 2018.
“George, Ure being mean to Millennials…”
Awe shit. OK, did they invent transistors? No. 1947 for the PNP type. You go look up NPN’s if you’re interested. Seventy-one years!!!!!
Microwaves? Radarange went on the market in 1946. 72-years.
Television? 1927….so that technology will turn 91 next year.
Still think I’m being too hard on the poor little social just-us whiners?
Try ABS BRAKES. 1970.
First Trojan condoms? 1919.
Invention of tampons? (with an applicator) 1940.
I’m getting to a point about Ure family dinners, back in the day. They were encyclopedic, laid out the history that got us to the present, and in a way tasked each of us to find a way to put shoulder to the wheel of history.
They were all like this: Sitting down at the dinner table was like the gourmet version of Trivial Pursuit. My dad, who was called the “walking encyclopedia” at the fire house (“…ask Cap!“) was prepped by careful study of the latest Time Magazine to arrive at the house. His “smoking chair”, a white leather chair that seemed immune to Camel smoke, was occupied immediately upon delivery of the journal.
When times got better, other publications can along like the old Dow Jones National Observer.
But there’s a key lesson I’ve never forgotten about my dad’s view of the news.
You don’t really need to listen to the radio (all snooze, all the time) stations because they do a crappy job of deeply informing people. In order to really get to the guts of trends, NPR does better, but even here, radio is quite time-constrained.
Instead, you might pick up a good general news magazine today and pass on the manic banter that passes for “informed” in the “inform ation age.” Frequency is no substitute for depth.
Read Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News (plus maybe The Atlantic) and read ’em cover-to-cover this week before you go the family dinner. Toss in a check of the year-to-date rainfall and a look at the 30-day extended weather forecast, and your general education credits to earn a spot in the conversation will be earned.
Toss in short, but interesting 30-second summaries of key concepts from whatever your field of work is, and you’d be a welcome guest at any table; least-wise among Ure kind of people.
Turn off the phone and remember: e-lations are mostly worthless. But a feast of food for the soul with your relations?
That can’t be beat.
e-lationships are shallow and wide. (Like San Francisco Bay) Relationships are deep and narrow. We’ve gone crazy on the former and we’re failing on the latter.
In our rush to “Be first” we’ve gone off into the ditch on the real task of “Being best.”
Write when you get rich,