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Meet up misery – How flakiness destroys social lives

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About six years ago, on a blog far, far away, I wrote a post about the unbelievably frustrating fact that some people (kept trying to) make appointments with me, to then never keep them. I hoped that me running into multiple people who exhibited this kind of behaviour within the span of one year would turn out to be a coincidence, that at some point it would stop and “Do you want to go for a drink?” would once again be an invitation to go get a drink, and not the start of a highly frustrating cycle of postponements, cancellations and reschedulings. Sadly, it was not to be. In the last 7 years, my social life has been plagued by this phenomenon, and it drives me almost nuts trying to figure out WHY.

If you’re now going “Ugh, kids these days!”, let me stop you right there. Despite thorough analysis I have not been able to identify a particular type of person who exhibits this behaviour, but what they all have in common is that they’re adults. What they also have in common is that they’re people I just met, people with whom contact, let alone friendship, is not established yet. You’d expect everyone to be on their best behaviour in this “dating” period, but apparently not.

I’m not talking about the almost obligatory “Let’s get together sometime!” conversation ender, of which everybody knows that its’s not an actual invitation to get together, but just an idiomatic expression meaning “I enjoyed the time we spent together and I wouldn’t mind running into you at some point, but we’re not actually getting together”. What I’m talking about is people actually reaching out to me to meet up, and who then don’t respond as soon as I answer “Oh, that would be fun! When and where do we meet?” Months later, usually right after I’ve totally forgotten about it, they contact me again with the exact same question, without any acknowledgement, let alone explanation or even apology as to why they never responded to my reply months ago. And as soon as I reply again, I don’t hear back from them. I’ve had a couple of people repeat this maddening behaviour for literal years. Come to think of it, they’re probably still messaging me every so often. I just don’t receive their messages as after about 3 years of this nonsense, I blocked their numbers.

If you thought this was bad, there’s worse: the people who actually DO make an appointment with me at a certain date, time and location, but who then go on to repeatedly cancel and/or reschedule this appointment, more often than not using some weak excuse. Some of them even completely forget that we had an appointment at all, and just don’t show up. A couple of months later however, again without any acknowledgement of anything that transpired before, they’re back with a new “Let’s hang!” message. Which leads to a new appointment. That they again don’t keep. For the life of me, I can’t understand why so many people nowadays keep behaving in this bizarre, and dare I say it – extremely rude manner.

I know I’m old and that the days that I could set up an appointment with a pen pal to meet up at Amsterdam Central station 6 weeks later and we would both just be there without confirming and reconfirming 10 times, are over. And of course somebody’s bound to say something along the lines of “You shouldn’t have too many expectations of others”. To which I always respond “Why not?”, because I really hate this whole disaffected “I don’t really care about anything, so nobody can disappoint me” cool girl thing. Besides, as I also wrote in 2014: “Since when is expecting somebody to keep an appointment THEY initiated considered “expecting too much”? Should I, when somebody proposes to meet up on Tuesday at 12, immediately assume that this appointment isn’t going to take place? How does this make any sense?”

Sadly, I have to admit that nowadays, after 6 years of this nonsense, I indeed immediately assume that these appointments aren’t going to happen. I absolutely hate that it’s come to this, as it’s not how I want to live my life, but apparently there’s a limit to the enthusiasm I can muster for what have more often than not turned out to be false promises from people who are continuously pretty careless with other people’s time and feelings.

Considering this tweet


(credit: @EmilyMcWinter)

apparently this dynamic is a thing not only I experience. I have in the past reached the “actually hang” and “say we should do it more often” steps, and I of course almost reached the “die” one, but more about that next month. My interactions with other people nowadays stop at step 6 and then loop right back to step 1. Repeat ad infinitum.

Despite knowing that it isn’t personal, I have spent the last 6 years wondering why these people persist in asking me if I want to hang out with them, when it seems from their follow up behaviour that they aren’t particularly interested in meeting up with me. I just don’t understand: why would you initiate an appointment with somebody, if you’re not actually going to follow through on it? WHY? In 2014 I stated that it was particularly strange that they couldn’t keep an appointment with me, as they did manage to show up at work, their studies, their hairdresser or their doctor. I figured that in those cases there might have been a financial motive at play: hairdressers and doctors send invoices for no shows. These days, my sources tell me that even hairdressers and doctors suffer from getting stood up all the time. And that while they do send the no show invoices in an effort to recuperate their losses, most of these invoices don’t get paid either.

Apparently, there’s stuff happening in the world that causes this huge spike in flakiness. Having studied philosophy for a minute or two, I of course have a theory. Assuming that these people actually want to hang out with me, and that they’re not aiming to jerk me around and waste my time on purpose, I suspect it’s (a combination of) one of the following things:

  • The internet. Smart phones and social media have changed the way we relate to each other. Everybody is available and within reach all the time, but at the same time, not wanting to interact, deal, or even see somebody has also never been easier: you just close their profile. That this profile is just the avatar of a real live human being, with its own thoughts, wishes, dreams, and feelings is apparently a thing that some people forget. If they ever realised it in the first place;
  • FOMO (fear of missing out). Sure, they want to hang out with me, but they keep all their options open, and then a “better” opportunity to hang out comes along;
  • Lack of planning skills. They book two appointments at the same time because they forgot they already had an appointment, they book too many appointments in too short a period, stuff
    like that;
  • Overcommitting their time. They want to do (way) more than they can, either because they’re stoked on life, or because they overestimate their time, their energy, and how much they can take on;
  • Not having their life in order. Their life is in such a state of disarray, that they go from one crisis to the next. When they’re in that “You do what you got to do to survive”-mode, the rest falls by the wayside, which is understandable;
  • Depression. Similarly, when somebody is so miserable that they can’t get off that kitchen floor, I completely understand that they just make up some half baked excuse, because they sure as hell are not going to tell a person they hardly know what’s actually going on. I get this completely;
  • Not caring enough. This is the controversial one. Nobody likes to admit to themselves, let alone to somebody else, that they just don’t care enough about something or somebody, that they’re just not interested enough. Especially when somebody has been nothing but nice to you, or you feel a social obligation to hang out with them, it can be difficult to admit to yourself that, deep down inside, you don’t actually want to hang out with them. An old colleague of mine used to always say: “If people are REALLY interested in meeting up, they will find the time. It’s like when you’re in love: you even manage to call them during a quick change (= a super fast costume change during a dance performance)”. And he was right.

Except for the influence of (anti)social media and the FOMO (go be a hipster somewhere else), I do have some understanding for all the other reasons. I myself have had to admit to myself that, despite feeling bad about it, I indeed did not care enough to keep certain interpersonal relationships going. My life has not always been easy, which is an understatement, I know how hard it can be, and that things don’t always end up the way you hoped or planned.

However, as an adult (because again, none of the people displaying this absurd behaviour were teenagers) you are responsible for your own life and for how you treat other people. At some point, you have to have acquire some insight into the type of person you are, and into what you can(‘t) realistically expect from yourself. At some point, you have to wake up to the fact that you, even if you didn’t mean to, have been stringing certain people along for years, and that you keep making promises that you – for whatever reason – can’t keep. At some point, you have to stop doing this. Because all things aside, at the end of the day, it’s just a really shitty way of treating people.

Anti-bucket list

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While doing my Year Compass, I at one point started to freak out because “There’s still SO MUCH I need to do!!!” Freaking out like this is not new to me, it of course ties in with everything I wrote about last week. Let’s just call it a hard habit to break. At some point, I decided to write an anti-bucket list, a list of things that I at least didn’t have to do. And while I’m afraid that I’m the only person who thinks my list is hilarious, I’ll post it anyway.

The top 12 things that I, LP, will not be doing in the coming year:

  1. Backpacking (because a top three nightmare way to travel);
  2. Camping, not even to Texel (a Dutch island I’ve been wanting to visit for 33 year, but not in a tent. No tents ever);
  3. Start a housing corporation (because oh boy drama);
  4. Become friends with my upstairs neighbour of 20 years (because [redacted due to mean – ed.]);
  5. Skydive, bungee jump, climb the Kilimanjaro or stand on anything higher than an IKEA Bekväm (because fear of hights):
  6. Go to Nijmegen (because me and Nijmegen, we don’t vibe – Oh, unless the Zooz do a club show there, then I’ll reconsider);
  7. Listen to Africa by Toto (never again!);
  8. Buy Maison Martin Margiela tabi boots (because leather and also costing 2 – 3 times my rent);
  9. Get an extra cat (because Willa is the best cat ever);
  10. Walk in stilletto heels (because still limping around with a cane, more on that next week);
  11. Participate in stupid challenges where you blindfold yourself and do the Kiki dance next to a driving car on the high way or whatever the challenge du jour is (needs no explanation);
  12. And especially for the people who’ve been following me for a long long time: I also won’t be going to Lowlands this year. Like every year.

And because no utterance on the internet is complete without a call to action: dear reader, what will you NOT be doing this year? I am actually really curious!

New Year, New You

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Like every year in January, the slogan “New Year, new you!” was everywhere. Every time I read it, my first thought was “Nah, New Year, exactly the same you”, because we all know that the whole “changing everything that you are from one day to the next”-nonsense is just that: nonsense. I – deadline misser extraordinaire – presented proof of this as recent as yesterday, by letting the deadline of this post fly by like a comet.

But then there’s this little voice deep inside that goes: “But maybe this time it’s different?” Because being an Anxious Person, I of course am the ideal candidate for this type of magical thinking.

During some of the not so great times in my life, my entire existence was an obsessive quest for (self) improvement. My life was ruled by to do lists and productivity, improving myself by any (self help) means necessary. I did this to try and curb my fears, and it worked in the short term. I ticked off boxes and felt better about myself because I was “being productive”, which made me feel like I was worthy. In the long run however, it made things worse. I was never done “perfecting” things, instead my to do list grew with things that I could optimise about my home, my work flow and my personality. With the growing to do list my stress levels and fear level increased. A fear reduction strategy that ends up making you more anxious than you were before: how counterproductive can it get?

On top of that, I have this constant urge to reinvent myself. Part of it is the nature of the beast: I have an easily bored, creative mind that does not get enough artistic freedom and/or stimulation in my current life, so I just change my hair colour a lot instead. And I was of course also heavily influenced by Bowie and Madonna at an impressionable age.

So I understand the attraction of “New Year, new you” like no other. The belief in the illusion that you can completely determine and change everything that you are at all times, the conviction that you can turn yourself into something that you’re not, because you are convinced that if only you were different, you wouldn’t [insert thing here], is a perfect escape. While you dream about what your life would be like once you, magically and all of a sudden from one moment to the next, are completely different from who you are now, you don’t have to occupy yourself with actual change. The type of change that takes work, like therapy, working out, cleaning up your crap, taking a class, working on your projects or finally taking control of your career. The type of change that takes time, energy and might even cost money, and that doesn’t come with a success guarantee, but that is a lot more tangible than quietly dreaming about waking up as one of those cool fashion/music/diy/bullet journal YouTubers with 75k followers on Insta one Thursday morning. While not even having a YouTube channel to begin with. I am definitely not refering to myself here. No way. Not at all.