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Gear Prudence: Last summer I got married, and last year was the first time I went with my wife to her parents’ house for Thanksgiving. They’re out in California so we don’t spend a ton of time with them. Even with the wedding, I think I’ve maybe only really talked with her dad five times. My wife, hoping that we might bond, brought up our mutual hobby of bicycling, and small talk ensued. But then her dad kept going. For four days, it was nothing but bikes. I love bikes, but he would not shut up and refused to change the subject. Thanksgiving is coming up again, and I don’t want a repeat. How do I avoid the same fate this year? —I’ll Never Last All Weekend
Dear INLAW: For a Turkey Day family horror story, this one is pretty mild. GP thinks that you should count your blessings instead of cursing your bad luck. While your father-in-law prattles on about bottom brackets, countless other sons-in-law are hearing regurgitated internet conspiracy theories, discomfiting questions about presumed infertility related to the current lack of grandchildren, or worst of all, stony silence from a man who questions his daughter’s decision to waste her otherwise promising life with some good-for-nothing goober like you. All things considered, you really have it pretty good. –
That said, any conversation in which one person does all the talking and the other person ponders whether he could survive jumping out of a second-story window isn’t so much a conversation as pontification, and this is bound to be trying, regardless of mutual interest in the topic. You said you’ve tried changing the subject, but perhaps you need more compelling topics. Ask your wife if her dad likes literally anything else. Perhaps that would prove propitious. Or, have you considered blasting yourself in the ears with an airhorn in advance of arrival? Won’t matter what he’s saying if you’ve got prolonged tinnitus!
Really, though, you should just suck it up. Clearly he’s trying to make a connection, and even if his grasp is firmer than you’d like, it’s coming from a good place. He’s likely clinging to you because you’re the most palatable choice given his other options. Take pride. If there’s no one else around to talk bikes with the other 360 days of the year, of course he’s going to overindulge when you’re in town. But rather than sit on the couch cringing, get a bike and go for ride with him. Then drop him because he sounds really annoying. —GP