Tuesday, August 29, 2006

social graces

So I need some advice: How does one get out of accepting an invitation without insulting the invitor?

M and I both do not enjoy social activities where we are called upon to make small talk. That covers everything from “social” work functions to parties to…well most anything that involves talking to people other than each other. It’s a weakness. We are both decent conversationalists and when we are enjoying ourselves we could even be considered fun. This causes problems because on those rare moments someone catches us being fun they think: Hey these two sure are fun. We should invite them to more social events.

Inevitably these people will say something that makes both me and m shudder in our party shoes, something that makes us break out in sweats, bring our respective hearts to a screeching stop, something that causes us to pause mid-cocktail sip or hors d’oeuvre bite with that deer-in-headlight glaze in our eyes. These people will say: We should get together again sometime. What are you guys doing next Saturday?

Oh how m and I dread that question.

How do you sidestep it gracefully? How do you agree that the person is extending an honestly kind invitation that you have no desire to accept? How do you do it without hurting their feelings? Because probably these invitations come from people that you see all the time at the office or with mutual friends.

Usually what happens next is I respond brightly, something along the lines of: Oh yeah, absolutely! Saturday? Um, can I let you know? And then hope that by the end of the evening, the asker will have forgotten or won’t have our phone number and that we were able to escape another dreaded social obligation. But this kind of clumsy dance just doesn’t work out. In the last week I got two such invitations that I just did not know how to respond to.

A little background: M and I aren’t total morons. We enjoy conversations with other people and we like to have fun as much as the next person. Sometimes we meet people who we click with right away. People who are interested in the same things we are, who can enjoy themselves without social hangups (er,…kind of like the one we have that I am writing to you about), people who we feel comfortable with. Those are the people we enjoy spending time with. Unfortunately, most of these kinds of people in our lives live far, far away and the other kind? The kind that we don’t click with? Where we have to work to make conversation with them and make our time spent with them somehow not feel like some kind of cruel archaic form of mental punishment? Yeah, those are the types that keep inviting us out.

Last week, I happened to be on the phone with the fiancee of someone we work with. As we were wrapping up our inconsequential chat, she said: Oh we should get together sometime. That time we ran into each other and hung out for a few minutes was so much fun, I’d like to do that again. I’ll let you and Roger* work out the details, okay? And of course like a dumbass, I agreed cheerfully. What Roger’s fiancee heard from the tone of my voice was probably that I couldn’t wait till we got to hang out again. Which sadly, couldn’t be further from the truth.

But now I’m stuck cause we work with Roger and talk to him every day. And I get the feeling that he wants to be better friends with me and m. Like plan vacations together and raise our children together and stuff. And m and I don’t even like running into them in our neighborhood for fear of the dreaded small talk. Basically I am sweating till the day comes (and oh, it will come) when Roger catches up with me at work one day and says: What are you doing next Saturday?

Help me. I need a strategy in place to deal with this assault.

*Names have been changed to protect the boring innocent.

1 comment:

jean said...

jenn said

You should move. Not as in “You should move, because then you won’t know as many people,” but as in “You should move far enough away from your coworkers that they understand coming to see them is an inconvenience and they don’t expect you to do it very often.” Though I don’t know if this will work where you live, as no one seems to mind driving long distances in LA. Being on the “other side of the hill” form everyone I work with gets me out of a lot. “Hey Jenn, do you want to come out to breakfast with us on Saturday?” Jenn hmmms, and pretends to be thinking it over….”You know, I don’t think I want to get up early and drive over the hill to do that. You guys have fun though.” Another problem, this works best with getting out of events where you are only one of many participants…not one of two, or one of two couples.

You could be less fun. One of you could develop the habit of saying rude awkward things, (you could even rotate evenings on this one) and people would want to see less of you. What about developing some sort of contagious disease?

OH! I’ve got it! Say, “You know M and I are working on spending quality time with each other right now. We’ve been so busy we really haven’t had time to just be with each other.” This is vague enough that they probably won’t say “Okay, how about Sunday then?” and also may make people vaguely uncomfortable, so they don’t press you. It does sound kinda flimsey though (We have to wash our hair that day…) so maybe you don’t want to use it on people you may want to hang out with at some point in the future.

That’s all I’ve got right now.

August 29, 2006 @ 5:52 PM

jean said:

Yeah, but I really enjoy my 20 minute (or less!) commute. And sometimes we are fun without even trying. Thanks though and keep brainstorming.

August 30, 2006 @ 12:30 PM