Sex & Sociability

Question and commentary on connections, both sexual and social

Forgiving the Foibles of Friends

When is a social lapse something to be overlooked and when is it not?

Twenty five years ago, two of the guests at my annual New Year’s Day Open House party invited a bunch of friends to dinner and specifically asked that we not be late. After about a half hour of cocktails and milling about one of the men there looked at his watch and clinked a glass. When he had the attention of all the people there he stepped in front of the host couple and began the familiar words of the traditional wedding ceremony. “Friends, we are gathered this evening to witness the marriage of……”. We were all agape. You can’t beat that for a boffo surprise beginning to a social evening.

Perhaps 15 minutes after the brief ceremony and well into the beginning of dinner’s first course the bride’s best friend rushed in with apologies “Did I miss anything?” It took several people assuring her that she did indeed miss something – the hosts’ wedding – before she would believe it.

I was recounting this story to a New Year’s Day guest of my own and asked the former bride whether that woman was still in her life. She assured me she was. “X is always late. That’s just who she is.” “You’re a lot more forgiving than I would be,” I said. Alas, that’s all too true.

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I have been giving at least one big party a year for more years than I care to count. The invitations, written or emailed, have always included an underlined RSVP. I have tried “RSVP as if your life depended on it”, “RSVPPP (pretty please)”, “If you don’t let me know you’re coming you may be doomed to warm wine and stale pretzel crumbs,” and several other iterations I can’t remember now. Nonetheless there has always, always, been a certain percentage of people who say they will be coming and then don’t, a few who say they won’t but then do, and worst of all, those who never even respond to the invitation. And yes, I do follow up on those I don’t hear from in case an invitation got lost.

Unless I hear a subsequent good explanation (“I was deep in the jungles of Nepal for the past several months”) the latter group usually gets crossed off subsequent party lists. I don’t think it is expecting too much to require a timely and civil response to a social invitation to feed, water and entertain you. And no, I don’t think this a matter of “Tsk tsk, young people these days!”

One of the more tenderhearted of my guests suggested that missing such a great party as I usually give (gracious nod of thanks here) would be penalty enough, didn’t I think? The bride of 25 years ago felt that missing her wedding ceremony was punishment for her chronically late friend.

I have certain requirements for my friends and anyone whom I invite into my home pretty much needs to meet them. If someone in my home outright lied, stole from me, looked through my drawers or closets, insulted any of my other guests, made racist or sexist proclamations, got disgustingly drunk, or any other boorish behavior most people would understand asking them to leave and not inviting them back. Is the rudeness of ignoring an invitation any less boorish?

Perhaps being chronically late can be considered a foible. Perhaps it’s a character flaw or a psychological disturbance. Whether or not I would condone it in a friend of mine is debatable. I have in some cases, or worked around it. Rudeness, on the other hand, which I consider ignoring an invitation to be, is not something I tolerate.

Perhaps I should have entitled this “NOT Forgiving the Foibles of Friends”, but that’s only if you see rudeness as a minor social lapse. Apparently I don’t.

Isadora AlmanM.F.T., is a Board-certified sex, marriage, and family therapist, lecturer, author, and syndicated advice columnist of "Ask Isadora."

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