WHEN DID WE BECOME A NATION OF BAILERS?
So, it's a bank holiday Sunday evening and I'm at a friend's 35th birthday dinner in a city centre restaurant.
The birthday girl is there with five others and I. There are 19 free seats along the table.
The next arrival is a girl who's obviously on a rollover from the night before, and three others. By 8:30pm, and four bottles of Prosecco later, there's still 12 of us. We apologise and order.
By the time we get to birthday cake, three other randommers have joined but aren't eating.
I'm sorry, but when did that sort of socialising become acceptable? When did leaving people waiting, and/or turning up when you feel like it - if at all - be okay?
We seem to be living in an age where accepting an invitation means nothing. Invited to a party? Say yes and then don't turn up. Leaving drinks for a colleague? Ah, head home, there'll be enough people there. Long-arranged girlie night out? Oh, a hot date has just come up, they'll understand. We've become a nation of bailers, or 'better offer' merchants, or, my own particular pet hate - those who slot you in between one social engagement and another.
And don't start me on dinner parties. If I've invited you for a meal, that I've spent days planning, shopping for and cooking, I don't care that you've had a crap day at work, a fight with your partner or an early start tomorrow.
Unless it's a matter of life or death, I expect you to turn up, with a bottle of something, and a bit of conversation.
I always think that those who bail are the ones who never organize parties themselves. Because, if they knew how much work goes in to any sort of gathering, they wouldn't dream of being such total show-flakes (my word for the socially unreliable).
It's more than just a question of manners, it's committing to something, and then having enough spine to follow through, whether it suits or not. In this modern world, there's so little we can rely upon, that really, all that's left is our word. What you see is what you get.
I heard a story recently about a mother who hosted a party for her daughter's First Communion. She'd got a friend to help with food, and invited all the neighbours to drop in to admire and congratulate the little girl.
Of the 60 invited, not one person showed. How thoughtless is that?
And how tough is it on the little girl and her family? I'm sure the invitation may have appeared casual, but in reality, it was anything but that.
Moral of the story - if you accept an invitation, follow through. Bail, keep bailing and we're talking about you at the party you've no-showed at.