'Tis the season for awkward questions

INEVITABLE INTERROGATION: Sarah Jessica Parker's character found herself under fire from her partner's family in The Family Stone.
INEVITABLE INTERROGATION: Sarah Jessica Parker's character found herself under fire from her partner's family in The Family Stone.

I think we can all agree that the only thing more fun than plastering on a fake smile while ohhing and ahhing over the ridiculous tea towel your great aunt has just given you, is answering the sorts of awkward questions that inevitably abound over Christmas lunch.

You know the ones . . . "Have you lost weight? No? Gained it?"

"Oh, you're still doing that degree?"

"Why aren't you married yet?"

And so on and on. Good times, right?

It doesn't matter that you've neither lost nor gained any kilos and don't appreciate the body policing thankyouverymuch, are completing a masters while working full time I'll have you know, or have no desire to walk down the aisle (ever!), unless you want to be permanently cast as the slightly volatile black sheep of the family, you're probably best to bite your tongue and play nice when faced with such queries.

And of course, this sort of small talk is usually well meaning if not a little unoriginal and a lot annoying, and unless it's coming from your insecure and jealous cousin (yeah Fran, I've got you pegged), as much as we don't want to admit it, any bristling we may feel when confronted by such questions probably stems from our own issues about the topic. That or our extended family is full of insensitive drongoes.

But it's Christmas. So in the spirit of love and happiness and ensuring we still have a tongue in our mouths at the end of the day, how do we keep the peace and avoid confrontation when emotions and alcohol consumption are no doubt running high?

Clinical psychologist Shahn Baker Sorekli says it is important to remember that while you cannot control what people ask, you can control your emotional and verbal reaction.

"Generally, when we stay calm we are better able to communicate our intended message and keep ourselves from being drawn into a compromising position.

"Try not to get too emotional but feel free to firmly express your intended message.

"If they keep pressing you, move away from the content of the question and comment on their current behaviour or emotion.

"For example, say, 'You really want to know about that even though I have said I'm not comfortable talking about it. Why do you think that is?' "

And if the keeping calm and carrying on coupled with a bit of deflection doesn't work? Why not take comedians Dave Thornton and Claire Hooper's lead and try these responses.

"Where's that nice young lady/lad who was here with you last year?"

"What lady? Oh, I think you're thinking of <enter cousin's name here>. More pudding?

"I couldn't afford to hire him this year."

"Why didn't you invest your redundancy money in a house deposit?"

"After I bought this Armani suit, Rolex and Segway I didn't have much left. More potatoes?"

"I didn't want to freak you out but a psychic said I'd be inheriting yours earlier than expected."

"When are you and your partner going to have a baby?"

"Don't get me wrong I enjoy the process but we just couldn't afford the extra Christmas presents this year. More turkey?"

"We're waiting until the doctors can put the embryo into the man because he hates his job more than I do."

"Why are you drinking so much?"

"Have you seen our family? More wine?"

"I'm giving blood later and I'd like it to taste of Christmas."

Sydney Morning Herald