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  • Writer's pictureSteven Hansen

Thanksgiving Dinner Conversation Going South? Try This!

Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends, food, and wine. But what happens when the conversation takes a turn for the worse? These days, the dining room can turn into a minefield in less than a minute. Often, it’s the wine (“In vino, veritas”) or any other adult beverages that can loosen tongues and cause folks to say what’s really on their minds, which is rarely a good idea, i.e.: “So, when are you two gonna settle down and start a family, anyway?” “Give me one good reason why you think he should be president!” “You should really start going to the gym again, don’t you think?”…and on and on.

So, how do you navigate these tricky waters without causing a scene? Switching topics is always a good idea, but what’s left to discuss when politics, religion, sex, and family scandals are off the table? The weather? Not really. Your aunt’s problems with her “so-called ‘smart phone’”? No thanks.

Wait -- how about really weird medical conditions you’ve recently read about? The table talk may quickly devolve to nagging personal health issues, anyway, so why not take control of the situation. Try bringing up a few of the following bizarre medical oddities and you’re sure to get some interesting reactions. I mean, who can’t relate to Jumping Frenchmen Syndrome?


Jamais Vu

The freaky flip side of déjà vu, jamais vu (French for “never seen”) is a kind of short-term memory loss. An example is when you look at someone you know very well – a coworker or relative -- but suddenly their face looks totally different to you, with new or unusual features you’ve never noticed before. Another example is when you are writing out the same phrase over and over, and after a while, the words look weird or foreign to you. The effect is brief, and the exact cause is unknown.

Anxiety Salivation

This is a real thing. Some people develop chronic anxiety over their saliva, worrying that they create too much and that it sometimes spits out a bit when they speak. But the kicker is that the more a person worries about their saliva, the more saliva they automatically create. So, the key here is to chill out.

Mal de Debarquement

French for “sickness of disembarkation” this neurological condition happens to many travelers after a long cruise or aircraft flight. Its symptoms are persistent rocking, swaying, or bobbing sensations. These phantom feelings usually dissipate within 24 hours but for some unfortunate few, can last for months or even years.

Rainy Day Exhaustion

Dark rainy days can be restful for people because they tend to have a calming effect on the mind and body. But some folks feel totally exhausted on dark days to the point they can barely stay awake. That’s because cloudy, sunless days interfere with the normal sleep-wake cycle and our bodies produce more melatonin – the “sleep” hormone – at a much higher rate than normal.

Book Hangover

A book hangover is a real condition for many readers. It leaves them feeling emotionally drained and disconnected from reality. It’s a term used to describe the feeling of sadness or depression that can occur after finishing a book or series that the reader has become deeply invested in. The feeling can last for days. The symptoms of a book hangover often include: no interest in picking up another book, a hollow/empty feeling, frequent daydreaming about the book’s characters and/or their fictional world and wondering what those characters are doing now in their alternate universe. Suggested cures include taking a break from reading for a while or trying a whole new genre.

Broken Escalator Dizziness

This is the sensation of losing balance, confusion, or dizziness that affects many people when they step onto an escalator or people mover which is not working. Even though they are fully aware that the escalator or platform is not moving, parts of their brains still act on previous experience gained when it was moving, and so misjudge how to step onto it.

Jerusalem Syndrome

Jerusalem syndrome is a combination of mental phenomena that some tourists who visit Jerusalem. It involves the presence of religiously themed obsessive ideas, delusions, or other psychosis-like experiences. The main symptom of this disorder is identification with a character from the Bible and exhibiting behaviors which seem to be typical for this character. It is thought that the syndrome is triggered by the intense religious energy of Jerusalem. The symptoms tend to disappear once the subject leaves the area.

Top Shelf Vertigo

Feeling dizzy looking down from the top of a skyscraper is one thing, but how come some folks feel woozy looking UP at tall buildings? “Top shelf vertigo" is another name for benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). It's triggered by changing the position of the head with respect to gravity. People with BPPV often feel dizzy and unsteady when they tip their heads back to look up, and with clouds or airplanes rushing by way up high, the false sensation of motion is even more disturbing.

Jumping Frenchmen of Maine

Also known as hyperekplexia, this is a rare genetic condition characterized by exaggerated reactions to sudden loud sounds, movements, or touch, such as uncontrollable leaps into the air and falls. This condition is named after a group of French-Canadian lumberjacks who worked in Northern Maine in the 1870s and exhibited extreme or outlandish physical reactions to sudden stimuli. Many of the men admitted to being shy or ticklish.

Exploding Head Syndrome

Is a brief auditory hallucination that some people experience when falling asleep or upon waking. The sound is that of a loud, sharp explosion or gunshot. The sound may also be accompanied by a bright flash of light. The effects are painless and not serious. The exact cause is unknown.

Spontaneous Toe Falling Off

A rare medical condition called Ainhum or Dactylolysis Spontanea is the unfortunate event in which person’s smallest – “pinky” -- toe eventually falls off painfully after a few months or years of weakening. Doctors have no clear conclusion why it actually happens, though it may be the result of previous injury.

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