On Friday night, I went to a reception for Maryam Montague, an American woman who lives in Morocco and has recently published a book on Moroccan design. (I’ve been following her blog for some time, and I read her book before my trip to Morocco las year.) I invited a friend of mine, Danya, who shares an appreciation for all things Moroccan, and we enjoyed meeting Maryam and noshing on hummus and grape leaves.
On the way out of the reception, Danya said she was going to a book club meeting that was being hosted by a mutual friend and asked if I wanted to come. At first I felt reluctant — I wasn’t in the book club, hadn’t read the book, wasn’t expected by the hostess, kind of wanted to go home and sit on the couch. But sitting on the couch is not social; crashing a book club meeting is. So I chose the latter.
And it was definitely the right choice. Amy, the hostess, seemed genuinely delighted to have me join the party, and the other book club members were friendly and welcoming and more than happy to discuss/describe/explain the book with someone who had only read the New Yorker article about the directors of the movie that was based on the book. We talked for quite a while, both about the book and about other topics, and had a great time. By the time I left, I felt uplifted and happy and part of a network of friendship that was bigger than just me.
Last night was basically the opposite. There was an opening reception at an art gallery downtown, and I had arranged to meet up with a friend to see the art. But the guy sent a text canceling about an hour ahead of time, saying that he had decided to go to a different party instead.
I was super annoyed. One of the things (maybe the thing) I value most in a friendship is reliability. All of my very closest friends have that quality; I feel like I can rely on them 100% to follow through on whatever they’ve committed to do — and I try very hard to be similarly committed and reliable. So the converse is also true: Flakiness is one of the things (if not the thing) that annoys me most in a friendship. It upends plans and grates against my compulsion for control and order. It demonstrates a lack of consideration and an inability to plan ahead (or at least an inability to manage competing demands in a way that doesn’t feel like flakiness). And it hurts my
pride feelings by suggesting that other things are more important than me (because let’s face it, although many things are more important than me, I prefer it when people play that down…). As I look back over the years, I can think of a number of budding friendships that I abandoned or put on the backburner because of flakiness.
The problem is, a lot of people seem to be flaky. This is the main reason why I need my rule about being social in the first place. Because life runs so much more smoothly when other people aren’t involved! I’m in control and can do what I want to do, when I want to do it. I just have to do it alone.
Which is what I did, of course. I went to the art gallery by myself. The art was fine, but I didn’t have fun. I decided to reapply my rule and found some other friends who were out and about and getting ready to go to another party. I met up with them and had an okay time, but I was too grumpy to go to the other party and deal with whatever messy social situation might have been there. (The introverted side of my was obviously in high gear — I could just as easily have been excited at the prospect of meeting a bunch of new people.) Instead, I went home and watched a movie.
Not the coolest way to spend a Saturday night, by any means, but at least I had made two valiant efforts to be social before ending up on the couch, instead of starting on the couch to begin with.