Part of the agony of throwing a huge party is hearing the excuses of those who don’t want to attend. Rather than saying, “That just doesn’t sound like something I would like to attend,” they rack their brains to think of an acceptable excuse. I guess they are worried about hurting my feelings. Not accepting my invitation never hurts my feelings. All of this year’s excuses were perfectly valid excuses that I had no argument with. Instead, I was perfectly happy to support them.
Two wrongs don’t make a right, but they make a good excuse. Thomas Szasz, The Second Sin (1973) “Social Relations”
“Ramadan starts the next day.” I said, “I noticed that I had planned it on that day. I thought you might have a conflict this year,” but I wanted to say, “I’m glad that you are observing Ramadan this year. Since you’ve started practicing your religion faithfully, you seem much happier.”
“I’m deathly allergic to cats.” I told her, “I knew that you wouldn’t be able to come because of the cats, but I didn’t want you to feel left out.”
“I’m exhausted so I’ll be in St. George.” I said, “Good for you. I hope you can rest there,” but I stopped myself from replying, “It’s about time that you took a break. I’ve been worried about you.”
Saying you’ll come and flaking on me kills me, though. If you can’t be truthful with me, then I’d much rather hear the excuse before the party than afterward. The excuses that come after the party, break my heart. I usually respond politely, but I always have that inner cynic that wants the truth from you. Last year I heard many outrageous and sad excuses.
It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one. George Washington (1732 – 1799), letter to his niece Harriet Washington, October 30, 1791
“I would have liked to come, but I had a family emergency that night.” Inside, I truly worried about your family emergency. I wanted to say, “What sort of horrible things are you experiencing in your life right now that would stop you from coming to a party that you really wanted to go to? Why haven’t you asked for my help?”
“I thought the party was on Halloween.” I kept quiet, but I felt like saying, “Halloween was on Wednesday, bozo. Do you actually believe that I would throw a huge party on a Wednesday? If you really wanted to go, you would have read the invitation.”
“I couldn’t find a sitter.” I said, “I understand how difficult it can be to get a sitter,” but I wanted to say, “I gave out my invitations three weeks before the party. You weren’t able to find a sitter after three weeks of searching?” If that were really true, then my heart breaks for you.
Why is it so hard for us to be truthful? It’s hard for me to say what I’m really thinking when people give me perfectly valid excuses. It’s hard for me to say what I’m really thinking when people give me totally lame excuses. I know you’re lying. You know I’m holding back. We both think the worst and our friendship suffers because of it.
The only man who is really free is the one who can turn down an invitation to dinner without giving an excuse. Jules Renard (1864 – 1910)
Everyone repeat after me. The polite way to turn down an invitation truthfully, “That really doesn’t sound like something I would like to do.” Come on, I didn’t hear all of you repeating. Let’s try again. Repeat after me, “That really doesn’t sound like something I would like to do.” The impolite but funny way to turn things down, “No, I won’t be coming. That sounds like sheer hell to me.” Even that is more polite than a lame excuse for not attending.