While many of us look forward to the merriment of the holidays, this time of the year can also be equal parts stressful. One contributing factor is spending time in a captive setting with family members, distant friends, or people you rarely see throughout the year.
From the moment you walk into these gatherings, it’s go-time. It’s as if the inquisition lightbulb lights up above you, and it’s open season for holiday questions that cover nearly every uncomfortable topic possible.
Questions like “How’s your dating life going?” “So, when are you having kids?” “What exactly does your business do anyway?” “Are you sure you want another slice of pie?” “Still working at the same place?” “Anything new in your life?”
And if you’re over 50, you may now be fielding bonus questions like “Don’t you think your grey hair makes you look old?” “Do you not use anti-aging creams?” “How old are you now?” “How’s old age treating you?” “Don’t you wish we were 25 again?”
Please, make it stop.
I suppose if this was a one-and-done interrogation, it may not be that bad, but it never is. It’s as if this involuntary Q&A is on auto-repeat no matter where you move to in the room. And while the “My head hurts, I’m going to leave early” excuse is a viable get-out-of-jail card, here are five tips you can practice this holiday to survive these questions like a pro and keep the peace, and the pseudo headaches at bay.
1. Plan your responses
I’m going to give your family and friends the benefit of the doubt and assume, there’s no ill will behind their questions, they’re just nosy. Sometimes, we just have a no-filter kind of family. In these scenarios, it’s best to script responses to anticipated questions. For example, if you did go grey and you were a brunette the last time your family saw you, plan for the inevitable line of questions about going grey.
To this, I say confidently own it. Describe why going grey makes you feel fabulous (and don’t leave out any of the details!) Turn the reproach into a PSA moment to educate them on all the perks of owning your greys. Keep the energy and enthusiasm up as you dish pearls of wisdom on the fact that grey is simply another hair color-no more, no less.
2. Channel your standup comedian
Ease the awkwardness of an ageist question with a little humor. Laughter can reduce the instinctual desire to bite someone’s head off, and give yourself (and them) the time to lighten the mood. For example, if someone asks “Do you not use anti-aging creams?” insinuating maybe you should, you can respond with something like “I don’t believe in anti-aging creams. My wrinkles are wisdom highlights. And, I’m proud of that.”
3. Own your narrative
I believe that aging is a gift because not everyone gets the chance to age. If you feel the same way, don’t let anyone (family or friends) make you think otherwise. In other words, own your age and everything related to it with undeniable confidence and sparkle. For example, if someone asks “How’s old age treating you?” unleash like you’re presenting a two-hour dissertation.
Talk about the good, the bad, and the in-progress truths about aging. You never know, your willingness to truthfully share may enlighten them and help them realize that being 50, 60, or 70, is filled with the same ups and downs as any other age. It’s just another life stage.
4. Leave your inner judge on the shelf…at home
We all have an inner ageist judge and for some reason, they like to make special appearances at gatherings, particularly when family or friends ask questions that invite them to chime in with snarky remarks. For example, you’re in the midst of a great conversation reminiscing about summers spent at the lake when your cousin looks at you with a confused look and says something like, “Wait that was over 30 years ago, how old are you now?”
Where’d that huge spotlight come from? In this situation, you have one of two options: Answer or deflect. I’m going to encourage you to answer and answer proudly. “I’m (fill in your age) and fabulous!” Model in real time what it is to age proudly, and confidently. And if you get a whiff of snide remarks, shut that down with a comment like “This is what (fill in your age) looks like. If you’re lucky, you’ll get the chance to look this good when you’re (fill in your age.)” #doublesnap
5. Answer the question with a question
Since the holidays bring together people of all ages, keep in mind that not everyone might share the same outlook on aging. Some may be silently struggling with fears or anxiety around getting older or not being taken seriously because they’re “too young.” It’s not like we go around having everyday conversations about aging, so don’t be afraid to lean in if the situation presents itself.
For example, your aunt who turned 45 this year comes up to you and says “Don’t you wish we were 25 again?” Your “Spidey Senses” should go off letting you know this question begs a question like “Why would you want to be 25 again?” Let the conversation unfold. Sometimes, all we need is to hear another perspective to realize there’s more than one way to interpret life’s truths.
With that said, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, and Blessed New Year’s! May you view the awkward or challenging conversations that unfold at your holiday gatherings as Jedi training preparing you to become a fabulous pro-aging advocate all year round. May the force be with you.
Guadalupe Hirt is a four-time entrepreneur, pro-aging advocate, and middlescence life strategist.
She pens the LinkedIn blog Dear Middlescent, a pro-aging stance on the beauty, truths, and opportunities of middlescence. She’s a Next Avenue Influencer in Aging honoree, Facebook Community Accelerator Alum, and Encore Network board member.