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Here's to Your Facelift: Over-the-Top Holiday Toasts

Over-the-Top Holiday Toasts

By Buck Wolf

Nov. 26, 2002 --  Ah, Thanksgiving. The food, the family — and the chance to see your Aunt Sally's new facelift.

What do you say when you gather round the table and it's time to raise a glass? Can you address the latest family controversy?

And let's say Sally had a sex change. What do you say to the man who used to be your aunt?

A holiday toast calls for grace under pressure, and with Thanksgiving approaching, The Wolf Files called on toastmasters to help finding that special bon mot amid the strangest family circumstances.

Shotgun wedding? Messy divorce? Criminal investigation? Don't despair. Where there's family, there's controversy.

"Finding the right words is an art," says Jeff Herman, co-author of Toasts for All Occasions (Career Press), a compilation of famous toasts. "It's actually a great opportunity to defuse a tense situation." ‘To Your New Life …’ Herman's collection even includes a joking toast for a transsexual aunt: "Lipstick, blush, powder and paint, made a former man be what he ain't. But now that you have taken the plunge, be glad you'll never need the sponge." Etiquette expert Wilvia Medina in Baltimore says it's fine to make a joke about sexuality — as long as it's not mocking.

Her toast for an uncle-turned-aunt: "To your new life. We loved you in a suit and tie, and we'll love you in a blouse and skirt."

You don't need to shy away from sensitive situations — as long as you can cut through the tension with candor and compassion. Nance Guilmartin, author of Healing Conversations (Jossey Bass), says one of the best laughs she ever had was at her mother's funeral two years ago.

The family gathered at a lake in North Carolina. Only a few months earlier, Guilmartin's father had been cremated, and as her brother began to cast their mother's ashes into the water, he lifted the urn and said, "Gee Mom, you weigh more than Dad."

Jokes can backfire. It might be easier to salute the clan with a perfunctory, "Here's mud in your eye." But if you do, be sure to cite the esteemed authors of that classic — The Three Stooges.