Recently I was delighted to attend a large dinner party to celebrate a holiday. The invite was for pot-luck; I drooled over the email chain as more dishes were added by other guests, and designed my own veggie-friendly garlic tart. There were probably about a dozen of us so the evening promised plenty to sink our teeth into. Unfortunately, while the evening was flawlessly planned by our hosts, they could not account for the rude behaviour of their guests.
Though the evening had been planned for a month or more, last-minute dramas led to guests arriving very late or leaving very early; breezing in halfway through to take over the conversation; sharing their personal woes with the rest of us, complete strangers. We ate in the early evening and by the watershed just a handful of us remained. I wish this were an isolated incident, but in fact it is just one example in many.
Perhaps I am too sensitive. If I have a last-minute drama that will make me very late for an event my instinct is to phone, apologise and cancel. Not, mind you, to explain in great detail to the host why it is exactly that I have to flake out. If your friend has arranged an event, they probably have a lot to get on with during the afternoon preceding and don’t have time to listen to you whinge. There’s also the fact that the longer you whinge, the more you are putting off attending to the thing that has made you cancel.
If I am shattered, have to get up early the next day, or simply don’t want to stay out late, I will not tell my host. What you are really saying is that the party, dinner, games night, whatever, is not important enough for you to give it your full attention and energy. Of course, we all expect that weeknight get-togethers are going to end at a reasonable time. Nobody wants to fall asleep at their desk the next morning. Weekends, however? Don’t tell the host that you have something to get up for. If it’s that important don’t accept the invitation in the first place. Otherwise, simply wait until the lull after cheese and coffee (or lose the game on purpose). Stand up, thank the host, say goodbye to the other guests, and leave. Don’t make a big to-do about it, don’t exclaim that it’s later than you thought. Leaving is even easier if it’s a party: Irish Goodbye.
And possibly the most irritating breach: when arriving, whether on time or late, do not make the night about you. Do not regale the group with tales of traffic (dull), work (ditto), boyfriend trouble (who cares), or, worse, the great party you were just at and couldn’t pull yourself away from (thanks so much for deigning to grace us with your presence, I guess?). As children most of us were taught not to interrupt but that lesson seems to have fallen by the wayside for many. Apologise for being late to your host if appropriate, say hello to your fellow guests, get a drink, sit down and shut up. The party was going before you arrived, and it’s your job to fit into the flow, not for the party to reassess and flow around you.
This shouldn’t be hard. Accept or decline invites in a reasonable time; do not unload on your host; do not bring your drama to a party; do not explain the reasons you are leaving early. And for god’s sake, put down your phone.