From today's Carolyn Hax chat (Washington Post):
"Hi Carolyn, I think I may be flakey. I cancel on my friends last minute. I've always been this way, but in adulthood have tried to limit this behavior. I don't have bad intentions and I respect other people's time, but I sometimes find that plans I made days ago might not suit me today. For example, I might be really tired, had a bad day at work, feeling sick, or want to go home and play with my dog. How can I limit this behavior short of never making plans in advance again?"
"You can suck it up and go. The only well-mannered excuse for canceling established plans with someone is if you have to tend to something worse than what you had planned--you're sick, your dog is sick, your car breaks down, your basement floods, your mother needs to be bailed out of jail.
Feeling tired or sorry for yourself isn't a defensible excuse--except in the case of having been such a reliable and punctual and attentive friend for so long that you've earned the right to say, "You know what? I'm whupped--can I forgivably cancel on you tonight?" And even then, you give your friend a chance to say something along the lines of, "Yes, of course," or, "Er, normally I'd say yes, but if you bail on me tonight I'm stuck with an expensive ticket that I don't have time to resell."
You get the idea, though, right? You make plans, you keep plans. If you don't like keeping plans, then don't make them."
Here are my laws of when you cannot flake and bail:
- Has money been spent on you already? If tickets have been bought, then you do not flake. Many, many dramas have ensued because someone paid for tickets and then someone else felt flaky. This also applies to stuff like wedding invitations and anything where you or someone else has already paid for it ahead of time. If you can't handle making plans like that, then don't do 'em.
- Is someone else depending on you to go? For example, you said you'd give them a ride? I used to have a friend who I heard once bailed on a road trip THE MORNING OF THE ROAD TRIP afte rmonths of planning because suddenly she decided to stay home. You do not pull that shit at the last minute.
Now, it''s more okay to flake out on stuff like a party where everyone is dropping in and out of things. If nobody is depending on your arrival and money hasn't been put down, folks are less likely to care. But I'd also like to say that if you are going to flake on something, don't make up a lameass, clearly obvious lie about it. It's one thing to say you're sick (assuming no one catches you out later, liar), but I for one have been flabbergasted at some of the lame lies people have told me. Plus I did a lot of snickering behind their backs.
Btw, "I want to flake because I want to go play with my dog?" Sheesh. You can do that any time you're home!