he social bow out. Such a handy maneuver in our digitally reliant era of Facebook invites and last-minute texts about after-work plans. Especially in introverted Seattle where being home is so much easier than venturing out into our perpetual soup-and-blanket weather. But in order to avoid being labeled your friend group’s resident flake, certain best practices must be observed.
By bailing on plans in favor of going full hermit, you resign yourself to a closed loop for the remainder of the day—no Instagram stories of you halfway through a bottle of rosé and Stranger Things season 3. Lurk all night, but no posting! You are to take on the air of a stricken socialite who, having fallen ill during the ball, retired to their bed chamber ne’er to be heard from again until morning.
This also applies if you opt out of movie night with Friend Group A only to, at the 11th hour, get roped into karaoke with Friend Group B. It happens, but it’s risky. Avoid camera phones like a paparazzi–dodging celebrity and censor those tags, Big Brother. You are a double agent behind enemy lines; a wraith wandering through darkness on borrowed time. Remember, you did this to yourself.
Next, avoid getting caught in the dreaded Cycle of Infinite Rain Checks—an entire friendship played out as two people making and then canceling brunch plans until someone moves or dies. Instead, create a rule for yourself where every canceled meetup must be replaced by increasingly ambitious plans. So that if you let it go on too long you’ll end up booking a trip for two to Bali.
Here’s another idea: Suck it up and leave the house! So says Deborah King of Final Touch—a personal and business etiquette consultant founded in Seattle in 1989. A shared Facebook event for a pub trivia night may not carry the gravitas of a mailed invite, but it still represents a personal gesture. “And while we don’t need to revert back to the etiquette books for the 1950s,” she says, it means something to honor your relationships from time to time the old-fashioned way: by showing up.
But you were just swamped this week. And that’s okay. But if you don’t plan on going to a social event, just say so. “It’s too easy to hide behind the ‘Maybe’ button,” says King. If you are a legit maybe, communicate that with the host in more detail—ask if you can show up late. Otherwise, “take responsibility for your personal choices with a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No.’”
That sounds hard. Better stay home.