Elizabeth Gomez: Flaking, Not Cool.

Flaker (flak∙er): A person who consistently bails out on a commitment at the very last minute and sometimes doesn’t bother letting you know.

I am not a flaker. I never have been. Maybe it has something to do with my deeply buried daddy abandonment issues, but simply put, I don’t like the idea of leaving someone hanging without any insight about why. Of course, I’ve had to cancel plans at the last minute. Of course, I’ve been late for events. Occasionally, there are things beyond your control; the keyword being “occasionally”.

What I’m talking about it isn’t the occasional “I’m sick” or “I have to work late” excused cancellation. What I’m talking about are those folks who consistently flake on you. The type of friend whom you know you need to fake the reservation so that they will actually show up close to on time. The type of friend that has made 10 plans with you this week and followed through with 0. The friend that you wouldn’t call even if all your other friends were dead because it’s doubtful he’d show up in time to save your ass.

You may ask why are these people considered friends? Usually, it’s a matter of obligation because you’ve been friends for so long. You created a history that bonds you forever, a bond that was created long before you realized how thoughtless and self-centered your flaker friend is.  When they actually grace you with their presence, you forge on with the friendship because you’re reminded that you actually like their company. They make you laugh, you share memories, and you love them.

If you’re still wondering what I’m talking about, let me give you a few examples:

1. I-always-RSVP-but-never-show-flake: This is that one person who always says he’ll be there, but never shows. This person is the worst because he could avoid the situation by simply saying that he was not available for the evening. Instead, you spend your time and money preparing for the visit or date and turn down other opportunities to hang out with responsible people, just to end up sitting alone. Worst yet, you know that this person has a cell phone and your number is in it.

2. It’s-ok-that-I-showed-up-two-hours-late-flake: This flake sets up a time time to meet. Not a vague time, like high noon or after 6, but a solid 7 p.m. You arrive a few minutes early because you don’t want anyone to have to wait for you; she shows up at 9 pm and wonders why you left. Worst yet, you know this person has a cell phone with your number in it AND it has a clock.

3. Let’s-make-plans-so-I-can-bail-flake: Some would argue that this is not officially a flake category because he bails on your plans with some advance notice. I’m going to disagree. The problem with flaking is that while the said bailer did make plans with you, it’s consistent that he doesn’t follow through. This is problematic because you make arrangements to accommodate him and turn down other opportunities that you would have rather enjoyed, like being forced to put on pants and get off the couch. Worst yet, you know this person has a cell phone and there’s a calendar in it.

4. Because-I-don’t-want-to-be-considered-a-flake-you-get 10-minutes-flake: This creature is worst of all. This is the one that can “squeeze” you in between appointments and give you 10 minutes of their time. I’m supposed to be your friend, not your appointment. These are the kind of people who are so busy that they can’t be bothered to schedule any quality time with you and if they do, it MUST be around their time, not yours. Not only that, but (and this may warrant its own category) they spend that 10 minutes looking on their phones. The first sighting of this kind of flake and I’m out. They have a cell phone and I know what they can do with it.

5. I’ll-do-that-for-you-just-don’t-count-on-me-flake: Need a ride somewhere? Need help moving? Need someone to take you to the hospital because you’ve severed your arm? This is not the person you call. This person has volunteered to pick you up for an event. You have expressed that you both need to be there by 7 pm. At a quarter to 7, you text her and ask if she’s on the way. She is and you’re nervous, but you’re ok with the fact that you’ll only be 10 minutes late. What you don’t realize is that on her way to you, she needs to walk the dog, stop at Walgreen’s to get a pack of gum and some mascara, get gas, go shopping for a pair of shoes to wear for the evening, and drop off a casserole at her sick Grandma’s house. Apparently, this person’s cell phone doesn’t dial out.

What all these things have in common is that the behavior is selfish and shows complete disregard of the non-flaker’s time or feelings. Simply put, it’s disrespectful and rude. To avoid being a flake all one has to do is communicate truthfully. For some I know this is hard, but someone who is counting on you will always appreciate the truth in the long run. Some great ways of doing this is are:

1. I’m so sorry, I can’t make it to your party. This is simple. You don’t owe anyone an excuse for not accepting an invitation. The invitee is likely to assume that you have something else going on, but if you want to give one, then do it. If you’re afraid that someone will never invite you to an event again, then your approach is simply, “I can’t make it this time, but would love to come to the next….” or “Can’t make it, but don’t stop asking!”

2. I’m going to need to push back our date. Can you still meet at 8 or should we reschedule? This notifies your date that you’re running late, but it also gives him the power to decide on their next step. You’ve offered him a timeline and an opportunity to meet again on another day because he might have other things to do. That lets your date know that you respect his time even though you’d still love to see him.

3. Can we just play it by ear? I use this one a lot because I hate commitment. I like to do things that I want to do when I like to do them. I do understand that people like to make plans. When someone contacts me about an event that I feel “iffy” about, I tend to reply, “Can we play it by ear?” then the person can, once again, take control of the situation. She’ll usually reply with “sure” or “I really need a commitment or I’ll ask someone else”, which are completely acceptable responses. Admittedly, you don’t want to abuse this particular response, you have to actually  commit at times.

4. Let’s plan something in a month. I know that sounds obnoxious, but I’d like to spend some real time with you. We’re adults. We all have busy schedules. It’s hard to believe you have to schedule things a month out, but you do. By phrasing your position this way, you allow your friend to know that it’s not personal and you do care to be with them.

5. Don’t say anything. Be self aware. When you know you hate doing something or are consistently late, don’t say anything! Simply listen to your friend as she complains about not having a ride somewhere and let her figure it out. While it may take some major maneuvering, your relationship is likely to be better for it because you didn’t make her miss her plane.

I can’t get behind the mindset of a flaky friend. I don’t know why we feel we can’t be honest about our lives, our situations, or our friendships. Each relationship is different but that doesn’t make the love and camaraderie any less genuine. I have some friends who I only need to see once a year. Others, I need to see as much as possible. Some are my closest confidants. With some, I serve as theirs. Don’t demand something from me and not give as much in return. Respect my time and understand that I matter, too. I really don’t want to have to delete you from my phone.

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