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A Bad Apple At Thanksgiving Dinner

Dear Sugar
Usually I really look forward to Thanksgiving. My whole family on my mother's side gets together to celebrate every year. The food is delicious and it's a ton of fun to catch up with all of my cousins, but for the past few years there has been one thorn in my side.

I have this one cousin (Anne) who is a couple of years older than me and she's been giving me grief about an old ex of mine. For the past two year's I've brought my newest boyfriend to all of our family parties. Each time that we are around Anne, she asks me really inappropriate questions like, "What happened to your ex Mark? I miss Mark, where's be been and what's he been up to? Mark was so much fun! Do you guys still talk? Why not? You should."

I really feel bad for my current boyfriend because it's disrespectful to him. If I were in his situation, I feel like I might get angry about having to deal with this. She also asks embarrassing questions in front of the entire table, like, "You're in college. You must party a lot, right? You probably drink all the time. Do you take drugs too. What drugs have you tried? Look, she's getting red! She must be guilty."

It makes me so angry. I'm not guilty, I'm embarrassed. I am twenty years old. I know that it’s still below the legal drinking age, but I hardly ever go out, I never do drugs, and it shouldn’t matter to her.

DearSugar, I don't know what to say to her comments and questions. Normally I'm shy, but I'm at the point now where I just want to lash out at her. I’m very tempted to tell her off, but I think that I need something classier and witty to say that will just shut her up for good. Do you have any suggestions? Chagrined Cousin

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Dear Chagrined Cousin,
She sounds maddening. Don't tell her off - if she's older than you, she knows what she's doing and she's trying to get to you. She is purposefully pushing your buttons. Anger is the most common reaction to button pushing but it's a no win situation. You will both end up feeling angry, hurt, offended or resentful. It's just not worth it.

Oftentimes, our buttons are triggered by something that reminds us of a past event where we were hurt. If it wasn't properly dealt with it gets stored and becomes bottled up - so it only takes a quick reminder to push our buttons once again.

The best thing that you can do is to avoid her. Wait until she's sitting down and eating before you prepare your place and eat. Situate yourself as far away from her as possible and if she tries to corner you, excuse yourself and say that you're needed in the kitchen for help.

If that's not entirely possible and you find that you are confronted by her, call her out on it in a nice way. Say something like, "What you just said isn't appropriate and I wish that you would stop. You are pushing my buttons and I don't like it."

I know that it's easier to picture her head in the place of that big juicy turkey that you're about to carve into, but don't act angry, and vent in the middle of your lovely dinner. As you said, you're classier than that. Be strong and good luck. She sounds awful.

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