A friend was on a public radio show recently describing the seven things she believes you should never talk about if you don’t want to bore the pants off everyone. We suggest you use these as guidelines for the Thanksgiving table — a do-not-discuss list, or, at least, pointers to help stifle the tryptophan yawns.
Maria Matthiessen, whose daughter Sarah Koenig once worked at The Star and is now a producer at “This American Life,” listed her conversational taboos for the program. They are: menstruation stories, diet updates, health reports (of a trivial sort), how you slept, your dreams, money, and “route talk,” as Mrs. Matthiessen calls it (that is, those fascinating recountings of how you got from point A to point B).
If you have not yet heard the episode, which runs about an hour, let us just say that it is a very funny mother-daughter duel and well worth tracking down on the website of Chicago Public Radio, which offers a stream or podcast. In the program, several “This American Life” producers take turns in a contest of sorts in which they try to prove Mrs. Matthiessen wrong by offering up stories on her verboten subjects that they hope are non-boring. Sarah keeps score, and we will not reveal who wins in the end.
Among a certain N.P.R.-listening set, anyway, Mrs. Matthiessen may have vaulted into an exalted position as not just a new “This American Life” favorite, but a champion of decorum, a bane of dullness, a modern-day Miss Manners. We resolve to try to follow her lead at our own holiday table: We pledge not to bring up the red patch on our calf that may or may not be evidence of Lyme disease, and to leave out how we avoided a bottleneck on Main Street by slipping through the Reutershan parking lot. We promise not to even discuss how we can’t eat the stuffing because of gluten issues, either, because she is right: Nobody cares.