Combat Zone

The ultimate small-talk guide for winter break

This could be you! Just be sure to use our helpful tips to make sure your time at home is a breeze. Just look at her. So happy. God. I want to leave. — photo courtesy of Pxhere

[Aunt Sheila. Knit sweater. Chunky necklace. Thinks liberal arts colleges are funded by Antifa]

How is Puget Sound?

The stocks are down but someone just invented aloe-infused khaki for the new uniform. I can’t imagine what it would be like, day in, day out, to wear that scratchy outfit; they must be so thankful for the new clothing option! Although [pause], I guess people order tons of stuff during the holidays, so Puget Sound must be super busy. Alas [throw hands in air and exit the conversation].


[Uncle Rob. Thinks anyone under the age of 45 is still a silly kid. Has worked for the same ambiguous tech firm for the last 15 years. Talks way too much about different brands of Bourbon]

What are you studying?

The laugh lines on my mom’s face. The sun filtered through autumn leaves. The way children are so [long pause] uninhibited, [long pause] wild and free. How life feels so short and yet so long. … Isn’t it crazy how the weeks are fast and the days are long [chuckle]? The scent of fresh rain and a cut lawn. The human yearning for love and connection. Solstices [thoughtful pause] GOD I love them. Poetry! How we’re all just souls encased in flesh.


[Older second (third? fourth?) cousin. You’ve met five times but don’t know their name. You have no stake in the game (despite your mom wanting you to)]

What field are you entering after college?

There are so many green spaces I’m invested in. I prefer my fields to have a good mix of open space and forest. Forests make me feel warm and connected to my deep, primal roots. I just love the scent of pine; and wow, do I love a good hammock. But, I also want open space because I want to be able to see the sky. I want to feel the sun on my cheeks. I want the wind in my hair. If I ever get a dog, I want it to have expansive land to run and play. The space/forest balance is critical for me, but I also don’t want to put my fields in a box. I’m ok with a meadow. I’m ok with a pasture. I’m ok with a grassy knoll which meets the edge of an estuary which overlooks a sunset at 5 p.m. I like to consider myself all-field-inclusive.


[Grandma Jenny. Christmas Vest. Has been requesting great grandchildren since you were 12]

Do you have a significant other?

Yes, and I’ve been meaning to consult someone about it for a long, long time. The extra toe has been getting larger and larger and I don’t know how to handle it. It began on my foot and was about the size of a thumb. It’s since grown the length of my forearm and has started to migrate around my body. It’s traveled up my leg and is now on my hip. What should I do?


[Your mom’s high school friend. All of her children are more esteemed than you. Whatever.]

Do you plan on going to grad school?

What was that?

Do you plan on going to grad school ?

I’m sorry, I just can’t hear you.

Do you plan on going to grad school?

I’ve clearly been listening to my music too loud, so sorry, I honestly can’t hear you [crane your body uncomfortably close to her].

Umm, do you plan to continue your education?

Wow, I am so sorry. One more time please.

Never answer her question. Continue with this until you find an excuse to leave and then sprint.