Why it's sometimes OK when your friends bail on you
Last week, I was supposed to go see a play with my friend Natasha. She texted me the morning of and said that she was feeling kind of overwhelmed and wasn’t sure that she wanted to go.
I responded, “I think I still wanna go see it, but no worries if you wanna bail!”
She wrote back: “Are you sure? Sooooo sorry, I feel like a jerk.”
Me: “Natasha! You’re not a jerk. I want you to do whatever makes you feel all YAASSS inside. If you need to do something else tonight, that’s totally cool, I can go see the play by myself!”
What she said next made me go all whoa: “Really glad I have a friend who understands when I may need to bail. Not everyone is so ‘find your yaasss’ haha.”
I’m sure you recognize this scenario, from both sides of the equation (I certainly do). Sometimes you’re the bail-er, sometimes you’re the bail-ee. When you’ve been the bail-er, I bet you’ve felt pretty guilty about letting someone down. And most likely, when you’ve been the bail-ee, you’ve indulged in the occasional self-righteous (and not totally unwarranted) indignation at being put out by the bail-er.
But, as frustrating as this situation can be for both parties, I think it’s time we as a society took a step back from labels like “flake.” Because sometimes, you need some you time. And you know when your friend does, too. A friendship does not mean you are each obligated to serve the other; it means you’re privileged to be in each other’s lives. Sometimes it’s OK to just bail, or to be bailed on. And here’s why.
If the person is truly your friend, you owe it to your friend (and your friendship) broaden your perspective. It’s totally OK to be annoyed, but it helps to put yourself in that person’s shoes. What could be going on to cause your friend to bail? In Natasha’s case, I knew it was a Friday and her normally really-long commute got really-long-and-slow on Fridays; she had two dogs to take care of; and her boyfriend had just started working really crazy hours and she was still adjusting to handling it all.
When I took that into account, I realized that I was disappointed I wouldn’t be having the Friday night I expected, but I wasn’t angry at Natasha. I understood where she was coming from, and sure it put me in a tight spot vis-à-vis the play we were going to see, but at least I didn’t have to face that commute.
For her part, Natasha had already considered what her bailing would do to me, and she felt really bad about it. That was nice for me to hear as her friend—she had, in fact, considered my feelings when making her decision, rather than just being totally self-centered and not worrying about what it meant for my night.
However, I really think Natasha’s feelings of guilt needed to go no further than that conversation. I was super proud of her for taking stock of her Self, and realizing that instead of socializing she needed to take a self-care night. When she thought about going to the play, her inner monologue went, “Ugh.” When she thought about working out and spending the rest of the night at home, her monologue went, “YAASSS!”
The truth is, too often we do things we’ve committed to do when maybe we need to acknowledge that life (or even just our mood) has changed since we made the plans. Talking to your friend about where you’re at and why you don’t want to (or can’t) follow-through on the plans you made will hopefully bring you even closer.
I think you can really be offended by a flaky friend when the behavior gets bad enough that it’s no longer about them finding their YAASSS. Someone who consistently makes plans with you and then breaks them probably wasn’t excited about hanging out in the first place. If that’s the case, one of you should woman-up and say, “Eh, no thanks, I’d rather not.”
And there are some situations where it’s really not OK to bail: Weddings (unless of course, you have a good important reason and let them know well in advance), a reading you know they’re really nervous about, helping them home from the dentist after wisdom tooth surgery, an important reunion, coming to Thanksgiving. You know the things that are important enough to be must-dos. But those in-between things? It’s OK. I think we should all cut each other a bail break. Like, get out of bail free cards.
The problem with jumping to being offended without talking to your friend first is it’s totally possible that it has nothing to do with you. Maybe she has crippling social anxiety, or is suffering from depression, or is really sick. You won’t know until you (hopefully) gently confront her and say, “Hey, this happens a lot, what’s going on?”
It encourages honesty and a deeper bond when you can tell your pal “Hey, going to the play tonight does not make me go YAASSS.”
A good friend might just respond with, “Well then you better go figure out what does!”
Carrie Wiita is an actor and blogger. She life-hacks Los Angeles for you at www.takingfountain.com, and posts LOTS of pictures of her rescue dog Chance on Instagram @carriewiita.
[Image via Comedy Central]