‘Tis the season for lots of elders to get all the way out of pocket when it comes to hounding 20-somethings and 30-somethings about finding a significant other, upgrading a current bae to a legally recognized partner or having little ones. While most of these elders have the best intentions (remind yourself that they want you to continue the family legacy and see you with a happy fulfilled life), the awkward and often ill-timed conversations aren’t helpful to those trying to stave off depression (if their personal lives aren’t where they envisioned) or those who just want to keep the party going a few more years without having to justify the desire to roll solo. Though it’s easy to say, “F*$k it,” and tell that nosey loved one to focus on balancing his/her 401K or not breaking a hip, that’s not really an option—unless your tactic is starting new drama.
So what’s the best solution? You should do exactly what old school is asking, and show that you are in fact all the way grown, by putting her or him in check. Now, level setting with elders is never easy because most of them will always see you as the baby whose butt she/he wipe. So, in order to gain respect and set boundaries you have to be clear, consistent and mostly serious. Here’s how.
1. BE REAL ABOUT WHERE YOU ARE
If you’re not in the mood to be boo’d up, just say it. Let your loved ones know that you’ve decided to focus your energy in another direction for now but you appreciate the interest. Similarly, if you’re on the market but haven’t met a good complement or you’ve connected with someone but aren’t ready to introduce him or her to the family, ‘fess up. The key is to decide what you want to disclose before you arrive and stick to the script. You want to give just enough details so folk feel like they’re connecting with you, but not enough ammunition for uncomfortable comments, or gossip.
2. GO HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPLE ON ‘EM
Educators know controlling the mob isn’t just about what you say; it’s how you say it. Put a little bass in your voice when you shut folks down. Make direct eye contact to let them know you are serious. Be firm. Let your words, tone and body language set the boundary.
3. TAKE THEM BACK DOWN MEMORY LANE
Elders like to act like they don’t remember what it was like to be young, but they do…and they lived. Flip the convo. There’s nothing like reminding folks how hard it was for them before that found their Mr./Mrs. Right, or how much fun they had when they were partying before it was time to settle down.
4. TAKE A REFERRAL
Instead of totally shutting down the topic, give the person to an opportunity to make a just one referral. Let him or her know it can be a person, place or thing, and then give them the floor to talk it up. Make it fun. Keep the tone light and stay engaged. Remember, this is also the individual’s opportunity to connect with you—and possibly drop some wisdom.
5. CONTROL THE CONVO
Instead of waiting for folks to ask you, bring up what’s good and poppin’ in your life and make sure include a brief mention of about what’s going on in the love department. If you’re dating, say it. If you’re working on something else, sell it to your audience. Again, this is the opportunity for you to control the narrative and shutdown folks who pry by beating them to the subject.
6. GET AN ELDER ALLY
No matter how incorrigible, aggressive or annoying a relative is there is always at least one person who can check ‘em. Get that person. Hit him or her up beforehand to let pleas for assistance and make sure your target is “handled”.
7. MAKE UP A BIG OLE LIE
Being dishonest is only bad when folks can’t tell you’re lying. If all else fails and someone can’t be tamed, turn the energy around by making a joke. Tell him or her you’re dating Beyoncé or Idris Elba, and working on the sequel to “Obsessed”. Share incredulous stories about traveling in outer space with Kofi Siriboe or Sza. Make sure the tall tales are extra fun and silly so it’s clear that it’s a joke. The goal is the keep the energy up and let folks know the real conversation is over.