In our fast-paced world, social niceties are disappearing.
Martina Fowler tries to rise above it all…
Whoopee! The weekend is approaching, and you’ve got a friend, Sadie, and her daughter coming to lunch. It’s been in the diary for weeks, so you email to check arrangements. She’s (slightly) apologetic. She’s exhausted, and doesn’t feel up to coming over. How about you come to her instead?
You’ve already shopped for food, and you made the three-hour round trip to hers only a couple of weeks ago, but you swallow your irritation. Come Saturday morning, the kids are rounded up, and you’re all on the point of leaving when Sadie calls. Sorry – she let her daughter have a sleep-over the night before, and she won’t be up to visitors. She’s exhausted. Can we cancel?
You hang up. Fortunately for them, the kids have scarpered, and you don’t have a dog, so you go into the kitchen and kick the fridge instead. Hard.
It’s not just that you’re annoyed by having rearranged your plans, and then been blown out for no great reason. It’s that Sadie does this kind of thing all the time.
Turns out we all know a Sadie. ‘I call friends like these serial bailers,’ says Rachel, 40. ‘It’s always for a flaky reason – bit of a cold, too tired etc.’
‘I’ve got a friend who’s cancelled the last three times we were supposed to meet,’ says Anna, 42. ‘She has a lot on, but it’s really frustrating, especially when you don’t get out a lot, and you were looking forward to putting some nice clothes and lippy on.’
We all know that modern life can be incredibly demanding, but I find inconsiderateness in other people increasingly irritating. But, like most of us, I try to laugh it off.
Grumpiness seems to equate to getting older – none of us want to be that sour-faced lady tutting at people on public transport, apparently for the crime of being young. Especially, since despite my thickening waistline and crow’s feet, I try to convince myself I look at least twenty years younger – a tendency another friend refers to as ‘Gisele Bundchen Syndrome.’
Being a Grumpy Old Woman is not attractive. But, hell, it’s cathartic. So I’ve done us all a favour by rounding up a collection of Social Bugbears.
1 The ‘Surprise Guest’
You meet up with one of your oldest friends. You haven’t seen her for months and you’re excited about catching up over dinner, and sharing confidences. ‘Oh, by the way, Mel’s coming – remember her?’ she announces, waving to one of her colleagues approaching across the pub. Smiling hard, you peer into your glass, frantically channeling your inner Gisele.
‘It’s really annoying if you haven’t seen someone for a while, and then they invite someone along without consulting you,’ says Kat, 39. ‘I know quite a few people who do this, so maybe I’m being unreasonable – but I just find it rude, as if it would be too boring to see me on my own.’
2 ‘Shall We Have The Vegetarian Mezze?’
Your friends are grouped picturesquely around a table in the sunny courtyard of your local Greek restaurant. You’ve all either come from work or rushed from home leaving hubby looking after the kids. You’ve already checked the menu online and know what you’re having (what – you mean not everyone does this?) One of your friends is a vegetarian. Everyone is studying the menu (hurry up – what’s wrong with them?) ‘Ooh, look, mezze!’ someone says. ‘We could have the vegetarian…’
You smile hard, while mentally overturning the tables, smashing every plate on the premises in a non-customary Greek way, and menacing the diners with a bottle of ouzo. If you think a couple of dolmades and some hummus are going to cut it, think again, mate – I’m tired, I’m hungry, and I’m having the lamb, if I have to butcher and spit roast it myself. Sorry, Gisele, you don’t get a look in on this one.
3 Will You Bloody Listen!
‘I’ve got a couple of friends who can’t let you get to the end of a sentence without grabbing hold of something you’ve said and using it as a springboard to bounce off on a tangent,’ says Alice, 41. ‘So say I’ll start telling a story about my son. I’ll say something like ‘You should have seen Jack the other day, he…’ The other person will jump in with ‘How is Jack? Has he found somewhere to live yet? Is he still going out with that girl? ‘I then have to drop whatever I was about to say to answer the new questions, which wouldn’t be so bad, except as soon as I do that it will trigger more questions, and more tangents. It’s so frustrating.’
When Gisele speaks, I bet people listen.
So there you have it. At the end of the day, if only everybody could be like me and her. Not necessarily Brazilian supermodels. Just perfect.