A Christmas Manners Quiz


Published in the New York Times Op-Ed

sad santa

1You arrive for Christmas dinner. Your mother has left your father for a woman and you are meeting her for the first time.

  • Do you say, “Hello, it’s nice to meet you”?"
  • Do you tweet, “ #MomIsGay. She’s going to hell”?
  • Do you text your best friend, “If I survive Xmas, it will be a miracle”?


2Your cousin Stephen has become a born-again Christian and wants to say grace.

  • Do you bow your head and wait patiently until it’s over?
  • Do you stick your fingers in your ears and tell your 5-year-old niece Lily to do the same?
  • Do you say, “If you love God so much, why don’t you marry him?”
  • Do you text your best friend, “Xmas the nightmare continues, now we’re praying”?

3Your sister Maria has a new boyfriend who is three months sober and wearing cargo shorts.

  • Do you drag your sister Jen into the kitchen to discuss Maria and her boyfriend behind their backs?
  • Do you take his picture and tweet it with #Men2Old2WearCargoShorts?
  • Neither.
  • Both.
  • Do you start a pool? Everyone can pay $1 and guess how long Maria’s new relationship will last.
  • Do you start a pool? Everyone can pay $1 and guess how long Maria’s new boyfriend will stay sober.

4Your Uncle Eric loves Fox News. Your sister Jen listens only to NPR. Which of these are appropriate dinner table conversations?

  • The Republicans are racists masquerading as conservatives.
  • Obama is a Muslim socialist masquerading as a Christian Democrat.
  • How lucky we all are to be together.
  • How lucky we all are not to live in Toronto.
  • If I took my dirty clothes into the ice cream store instead of the cleaners, does that mean I have Alzheimer’s?

5Your nephew Jeremy lost his job, developed colitis and doesn’t have health care. What do you say to him?

  • “Move to France.”
  • “You’ve always got some drama going, don’t you?”
  • “I’ll sit with you at the computer and, even if it takes all night, we’ll get on that website and sign you up for Obamacare.”
  • “You’re screwed.” 

6Your niece Emily gets one temporary job after another, but the minute the company has to hire her permanently and give her benefits they fire her. What do you say to her?

  • “If you were any good, that wouldn’t happen.”
  • “Life will get better, I promise. You are brilliant and talented. There has to be one decent corporation in America.”
  • “Unemployment in Spain is 26 percent. Unemployment in Greece is 27 percent. Unemployment on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota is over 80 percent. Stop whining and help me peel stickers off fruit.”

7Your niece Vivian is single and on dating websites. She tells you about Lulu, a smartphone app that lets women rank their dates with hashtags like #KinkyButInAGoodWay. What is the proper response?

  • “Thank God I’m not single. I feel so, so sorry for you.”
  • “That is the sickest thing I’ve ever heard.”
  • “The women who founded that app became millionaires and they are two years younger than you.”
  • None of the above.

8Your cousin Kara and her husband Brad, an investment banker, ate last week at Per Se. The meal cost $685 per person, says Kara, and afterward she Googled a review of the restaurant, which said it was worth every penny, and that review was so right.

  • Do you force Kara to write a $50,000 check to the New York City food bank?
  • Do you force Brad to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life”?
  • Do you feel sad and poor even though a minute before you were happy and only sort of poor? Do you think about the credit card debt that you’ll probably never pay off (from buying all these Christmas presents) and how crowded it was in coach on the flight out, and how you were crammed into the middle seat, and your foot fell asleep, and you got a stiff neck and you’re getting the flu because the guy next to you had a hacking cough? In fact, you realize, you absolutely hate your life, but not as much as you hate Brad and Kara.
  • Do you drag your sisters Maria and Jen into the kitchen to discuss what a spoiled brat your cousin is?
  • All of the above.

9Your brother Marcus has come out of hiding for Christmas dinner because he can’t resist your mother’s plum pudding. He is wanted for 10 gangland slayings.

  • Do you call the police?
  • Do you let him eat some pudding with hard sauce and then call the police?
  • Do you think, I would rather lose my job, my reputation and all my friends, and let a murderer go free, and not give any of the victims’ families closure than turn in my brother and wreck Christmas?

10It’s time to leave. As soon as you get in the car, what do you do?

  • Call your best friend and say, “As usual my mom didn’t ask me one single question about myself.”
  • Call your best friend and say, “I felt like I was 15 again.”
  • Call your shrink and leave a message: “As usual, all anyone cares about is my brother.”
  • Post a picture of your mom and the woman she’s in love with on Facebook. “Mom and Lindy. Welcome to the family.”
  • Call your dad and say, “We’ll be there in a half-hour.” Swear that you hardly ate and you can’t wait to see him and meet Samantha.
  • Text your best friend, “One down, one to go.”

published in the New York Times