Ava Marie LaMonica
Stop Normalizing Flaky Friends
Why those who cancel last minute usually don’t have your best interest at heart.
Photo by Chang Duong on Unsplash
We all have or know that one person. The one who never follows through with plans, shows up late, or the worst of the worst, cancels last minute.
They are what we know as “the flaky friend”.
Although it may be disappointing at the moment, no one really thinks too much about one’s flakiness.
As usual, we give them the benefit of the doubt with statements like:
“That’s just the way they are.”
“Maybe they got tied up with something.”
“Maybe it’s their anxiety.”
We. Are. Always. Making. Excuses.
Okay, before I get attacked, as a sufferer of severe OCD and anxiety growing up, I completely understand that anxiety can cause you to change your mind and back out of things.
That is valid.
However, those rare and few times I have done so to others, I have always communicated clearly and in a fashionably reasonable time out of politeness and concern about how I would make the other person feel. If anxiety did happen to be the cause, I would always make sure to be honest about that.
I know, “Well not everyone has the confidence to talk about their anxiety.”
Of course not.
But there is still a way to communicate without using the excuse that they “just found” out they have to attend their uncle’s cousin’s friend's birthday party fifty miles away.
It is just TOO easy to read through.
Yes, to some people it may just be “disappointing”…to others, it is downright hurtful.
I’ll give you a scenario:
The Flaker from Famous Footwear
When I was younger, I had horrible social anxiety. Nevertheless, I valued friendships more than anything.
One notorious habit of the friends I would make was flakiness. I would make a friend and due to either them or their parents (or both), we would hardly see each other.
My closest friend at the time was male. I cherished our friendship like crazy and flakiness was not an issue in the least, but I also longed for more solid, close female friends as well.
At one point in my childhood, I was so desperate for a friend that I forced myself to talk to a random girl close in age at the shoe store, Famous Footwear.
Although my approach tactic included following her around the store until she noticed me (mind you I was around ten and would never do this now) when we did start talking we actually hit it off really well.
When we exchanged phone numbers and her parents met my mother, I was ecstatic.
“All I needed to do was approach a random girl at the shoe store? Easy as pie.”
It was back to the days where parents spoke on the phone to the other parent to arrange your "play date".
We set a date to go to the mall…“This is perfect,” I thought.
My hopeful (and crazy) self even drew a picture of the girl and me together (I know I was jumping the gun here, but I was overjoyed that my wish was granted, yes, it really was a wish in my mind).
Boy, was I wrong.
Not only did she cancel (for a lame reason I cannot even remember), but a few days following the cancellation, my family and I received strange prank phone calls from her and a friend.
She finally admitted it was her. I laughed it off.
But I did not find it very funny.
When you grow up yearning for friends and someone does something like this, it feels like a stab in the heart.
Although I have no animosity over this now (we were children) it is a good example of a situation that I vividly remember where one’s flakiness affected me personally.
Sometimes parents are solely to blame for their child’s flakiness. For example, one friend I had from my first elementary school had a dysfunctional, eccentric family who did not always answer the phone or allow their daughter to do much.
My other neighborhood friend became flaky due to her family’s religious background. As kind as they were, they only wanted to associate with those who followed the same faith. I came to accept it, knowing that it was not my friend’s fault.
Nevertheless, these incidences hurt and stuck with me and I know that other children who grew up longing for closer friendships probably felt the same way. As I became older, I thought this flakiness would change, blaming it on immaturity.
Yes, it lessened. No, it did not go away.
What I Learned About Flaky Friends
Like most people, I made the typical excuses I listed above.
When someone would consistently cancel on me last minute, I would almost always give the person the benefit of the doubt. Despite how much it hurt or how pissed off I was in the moment; I would continue to pursue the friendship.
I did this for a long time…up until recently.
I would find myself going above and beyond to reach out to people whether it be from work or certain people I went to high school with. Not a weekend would go by where I did not extend the olive branch.
In return, I received the iconic:
“I’ll let you know.”
I discovered that “I’ll let you know” is code for:
“I really don’t want nor care about going but let me just pacify them for now and when the day comes, I’ll make up a phony excuse.”
“Maybe I’ll go but let me just leave it open-ended in case a better plan comes along.”
Then, the day arrives, and either no response is granted, or a big, fat “I can’t” either last minute or right on schedule.
Still, every weekend I continued to ask. I tried and tried to pursue these half-hearted friendships.
“It doesn’t hurt to ask, maybe this would be the one time that they would actually come,” I thought, knowing that I would receive the exact same answer.
The sad reality is that the “I can’t” was the real answer all along. The friend just didn't have the guts to say it.
How did I realize this?
I drew the differences from my other non-flaky friends who I was either friends with for years or reconnected with.
If I were to suggest the same invitation to them, I would receive an immediate “Yes”, “Let’s do it”, or “I’m down”, with no questions asked.
And if they did say “I’ll let you know” a specific, valid reason usually proceeded it.
It was then that I realized that those “friends” who constantly make excuses, cancel last minute, or talk about making plans but never follow through, and somehow still have time to see their other friends, do so for one simple, concise, and brutal reason:
They don’t want to.
As hard as that is to accept, it is the sad and honest truth.
Any person who wants to be with you will make that effort to be there. This applies to anybody: friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, and even family too.
You will not need to repeatedly ask them, they will not make up lame, transparent excuses.
Those who want to be in your life will be in your life. No questions asked.
Now, I can say I have a group of solid close friends who do not fall into this flaky category and being around people who I know genuinely want to be around me is worth saying goodbye to those flaky dead-end relationships I tried so desperately to hold onto.
When I stopped putting so much energy into friends who did not truly care or value our relationship, I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. I also gained another level of confidence because I no longer felt that my worthiness relied on their company.
So, the best way to deal with a flaky friend?
If there is no underlying, legitimate reason for their flakiness, then there is one simple answer:
They are not worth dealing with at all.