The Art Of Making Conversation


Editor's Note: Fresh Ink For Teens is a community and website whose content is written exclusively by high school students. Topics cover everything relevant to a teen’s life, through a Jewish lens.

As a senior in high school, I’m on the last lap of my college application race. Most of my applications are submitted; I’ve finished begging my teachers for recommendations and bombarding advisors with questions (Where exactly on the application did they put the send button? was my favorite email request).

However, as I said there is one lap left, a lap that involves skillful and witty banter and a bob and weave style usually seen in a boxing ring. That is, the answer to everyone’s favorite holiday question: “So where are you applying to college?” There are only so many ways to avoid the topic. Everyone wants to know what colleges you are considering, and it eventually becomes an inevitable discussion, especially when holidays roll around. There’s no better time than Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot, Thanksgiving or Chanukah to start asking. By the time Passover rolls around the question evolves into “So where are you going to college?” Holidays are the only times families gather together to catch up and enjoy each other’s company which is why everyone seems to think it’s the perfect time to begin bombarding the only high school senior at the table with questions about college. I hear my brain alerting me of what’s to come and prepare a tactful way to escape the questions.

As Thanksgiving is approaching this is my plan: the go-to topic changer is always the food. There’s no better way to distract your great-aunt than complementing her on the delicious stuffing she made (yes, seriously). The rest of the table always joins in to be polite and then decides to dig into their food to show how much they are enjoying it (still not kidding). That gives me just enough time to move on to Plan B, because once they finish that first serving, they will be satisfied enough to take a break and continue on their quest to find out as much personal information about me as possible.

That next step easily could start with, “How ‘bout them Mets?” But that’s often tricky depending on the audience and truthfully, I know nothing about the Mets besides, "How ‘bout those Mets?" This year I’m going with asking my brother about his girlfriend — regardless of whether he has one or not. The people at the table who had no idea he was dating someone will immediately become curious and excited and start bombarding him with questions instead. They’ll want to know everything about her, if she’s Jewish, smart, pretty, tall, short — you name it, they’ll ask it. If I’m really lucky, this conversation can even lead to them asking my cousin, is he dating anyone? That should keep them busy for a while. And yes, I’ll have to deal with the wrath of my brother for the next several days afterwards, but at least I will have survived Thanksgiving. Now let the Chanukah planning begin.

Doria Leibowitz is a senior at SAR High School in Riverdale. Don't ask if she's applying to Dartmouth.