Beyond Small Talk

How to Talk to a Rando

Because when you think about it, we’re all somebody’s rando

Duncan Birmingham
Published in
5 min readNov 21, 2019


Illustration: Dan Woodger

This story is part of How to Talk to Anyone, Forge’s guide to moving past the chitchat and truly connecting.

TThere’s something uniquely comforting about stepping into someone else’s warm home, full of familiar faces and delicious smells, and sitting down to a bountiful meal with the kind of friends and family you don’t think twice about unbuttoning the top of your pants in front of.

Which is why it can be such a drag to approach the Instagram-perfect table, dinner plate shot-put heavy in one hand, hot brandy eggnog warming the other, to find you’re seated (by decree of cutesy placard or dumb luck) next to the one and only person there you don’t know. That person who, come to think of it, no one else really seems to know, either. After all, holidays are for catching up with our nearest and dearest, not making elevator talk with strangers.

The rando is not part of the Rockwellian tableau. And yet, the rando is always there. They might be the distant cousin from way out of town, someone’s recently separated co-worker, or the loner neighbor who looks like a police sketch made flesh. They might even be me.

That’s right: I’m a holiday rando.

The rando is not part of the Rockwellian tableau.

As a bachelor dog-dad whose closest family is on the opposite coast, I am frequently the odd man out during the holidays. I’m versed in the awkwardness of attending a close-knit event where you know only the host (whose brief surprised look at the door, before they recomport themselves and welcome you in, makes you second-guess their pity invite).

Unlike weddings, with all those potential meet-cutes on the dance floor, there’s nothing fun or sexy about rolling solo for the holidays. But in most cases, the only thing worse than going stag to a family-filled, couples-heavy holiday dinner is staying home alone to scarf deli meats and binge-watch parades.

The worst-case scenario

I remember my first Thanksgiving in Los Angeles, the year I moved across the country. I showed up at the…



Duncan Birmingham
Writer for

Duncan has written on tv shows like Maron and Blunt Talk. Find him on twitter @duncanbirm and order his upcoming first book here: