Holiday Parties in a Simpler Time

Two years ago I published this list of things to discuss at holiday parties. How things have changed! What a difference two years makes!  Of course you're going to discuss politics! The mere mention of Aspen will cause your interlocutors to go pale with disgust at your conspicuous consumption. Not to mention Izzy! I mean, no one even cares that T.R. Knight is leaving. Or do they?! And it is so not apocalyptically warm. It is apocalyptically cold from where I'm sitting. O, 2006, when things were so much less complicated! O, 2006! When people actually had holiday parties! Herein, a quaint relic. Reprinted here with permission from the author, "Good Conversation Topics for This Week’s Holiday Parties," 18 December 2006.

You're so busy! I know! This time of year! You can't zip your jeans but you've stopped caring! Egg nog! You'll never finish your shopping! Carols 'round the spinnet! Egg! Nog!

I know it can sometimes be difficult to come up with stuff to talk about with drunk strangers at the office party, the other office party, the cocktails in Hoboken, the holiday just-because drink with your college roommate, the New Year's bash full of not strangers, just friends you have yet to meet, if only you had an entree! You know the old chestnut: Steer clear of politics, money or religion. Okay, but what do you talk about? Herein, a list of good topics for breaking the ice, and select topics to avoid.

YES! That actress who plays Izzy on Grey's Anatomy. Everyone loves her. They find Meredith annoying and Ally McBeal-ish, but they love Izzy! She earned that Golden Globe nod. Did you see the Season 2 finale?

NO! Dead pets.

YES! Last year, in Aspen. You can't go wrong with a raucous tale that involves snow, a bearskin rug and celebrities.

NO! How your jeans don't fit. No one cares. Theirs don't either. Pass the cloved ham.

YES! How great people look. Don't overdo it, because then they'll get suspicious and think they were fat before, but I find hearing how great I look a good way to get me to warm up to you. "I haven't seen you since last year's tree-trimming! You look great!" NB: If talking to a co-worker, appear unthreatening, and do not follow with "baby" or a wink, because this can be construed as harrassment.

NO! Don't lead with the controversial party game "Good for the Jews/Bad for the Jews?". This can be a good time ("Britney Spears: Good for the Jews or Bad for the Jews?") and get people thinking, but some may take offense or not get it. Try "Alive or Dead?" if you want to be piquant. Like "Mickey Rooney: Alive or Dead?". No one knows, but everyone cares!

YES! Sledding.

NO! Itemized deductions.

YES! What happened the last time you went on eBay. This is always amusing. Everyone loves an eBay story, especially if it involves Depression glass, old comic books, last-second bids, or how much you got for a pair of beat-up cowboy boots.

NO! February. It's going to happen. We don't want to think about it.

YES! iPod playlists. Very neutral, potentially hilarious.

NO! X-Box. Limited appeal, never funny, always slightly lonely.

YES! Your Top Ten Anything of 2006. People love Top Ten lists. Movies, Songs, Shags, Stomach Flus. Everything is interesting when listed. Try Top Three to really up the tension! It forces people to be really discerning! Who can choose their Top Three Naps? Top Three Physician Visits? Top Three Arguments with Grampa About Obama's 2008 Aspirations? That's hard!

NO! The weather. Come on. It's apocalyptically warm. No, no one can believe it. Dead end.

YES! Emerging Adult ADD. Everyone thinks they have it.

NO! Anti-fungals.