I scheduled a coffee date for 1 p.m. Thursday with someone on Bumble. We arranged this through the dating app the night before around midnight, ending with, “I’ll see you then!” At 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, the day of the date, when I was at the gym and couldn’t reply, I got a, “Still on for 1:00?” text. Hadn’t we just confirmed? Had I not replied at noon saying that it did, in fact, still work, would he not have shown?
In another instance, I scheduled a date for a Thursday evening. We confirmed the date, including the time and location, on Monday evening. On Wednesday evening, I received a text asking, “Still interested in meeting tomorrow evening?” I was tempted to say no simply because I’m tired of other people’s propensity to bail (or flake or whatever you want to call it) being projected onto me.
I give the advice to my male clients to use the “confident confirmation” of “Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow” vs. the weak “Are we still on?” In talking to both male clients and female, I know that they take this “weak” approach because they are afraid that if they say, “Looking forward to seeing you,” and don’t get a response, then their date will not show up. Let’s stop the madness!!
I realize that I’m somehow now in the minority of people who do not cancel plans. I have a strong sense of obligation, even if I don’t know the other person, to uphold a promise I make. I write my plans in stone (which perhaps leads to a heavy day planner!), so I, as both a dating coach and a person, have a hard time with the way plans are no longer set in stone for most people but more set in quicksand… fleeting at best.
Very sadly, we live in a world full of flakes. What’s at play here? Smartphones, for starters. You can cancel on someone without seeing his or her reaction. You don’t have to incur the ire of someone if you bail and then turn off your phone. But, remember that there is an actual person at the end of that phone. A person who has set aside some time in his or her life to meet you. A person who now has to find other plans or not have any plans. Sure, there are valid reasons to cancel — your child is sick, work put an unexpected deadline on you, your pet snake Marcy got into a catfight — but even if you have one of these valid reasons, remember that your time is no more valuable than someone else’s.
Here are some rules:
1. If you need to cancel the day of the date, call the person. Yes, call. I was recently canceled on an hour and 45 minutes before a date — via text — with nary an apology in sight. Have courtesy.
2. If you’re canceling and you still want to see the other person, then propose a new date at the time of the cancellation.
3. Add an “I’m sorry” into any cancellation. I also received a cancellation three hours before a date saying, “I need to rain check for tonight. I’m dealing with a work situation that will require my attention.” That’s fine. It happens. But, I read this as “Me me me. I am important, and you are not.” Just apologize.
4. Don’t cancel!!
Recently, there was an Op Ed in the New York Times called The Golden Age of Bailing. David Brooks says, “All across America people are deciding on Monday that it would be really fantastic to go grab a drink with X on Thursday. But then when Thursday actually rolls around they realize it would actually be more fantastic to go home, flop on the bed and watch Carpool Karaoke videos. So they send the bailing text or email: ‘So sorry! I’m gonna have to flake on drinks tonight. Overwhelmed. My grandmother just got bubonic plague….’ “
Whether it’s canceling on someone at the last minute, which so many of my dates and my clients’ dates have done, or ghosting (the deplorable act of “ending” a romantic relationship by simply no longer responding), remember that no matter what you call them, they are still bad — very bad — behaviors.
I was watching “Master of None” on Netflix (I’m still on Season 1, so no spoilers please), and Aziz Ansari’s character of Dev had asked a woman to go to a concert, but she didn’t reply in a timely fashion, so he asked someone else. At the 11th hour, woman No. 1 (aka the flake) came through, and Dev had a dilemma: Go with woman No. 2 as planned even though he prefers woman No. 1 or cancel on woman No. 2. There should be no dilemma. Woman No.1 didn’t answer, so no date for her. Dev rationalizes with this sequence below:
Dev: Ah, it’s pretty rude to flake, man.
Friend: Bro, listen to me. How many times have girls flaked on you? Think about all that emotional stress they caused.
Dev: I’m hearing what you’re saying. Eh, maybe I’ve been looking at this from the wrong angle. I mean, whatever. We can be shi—y to people now, and it’s accepted. It’s one of the great things about being alive today.
This made my brain hurt!! Bad behavior should not be replicated because people have bad behavior!
Dev, and all the dates out there who are thinking about flaking, either don’t (the optimal answer) or don’t schedule dates you don’t want to go on! And, if you do need to cancel, remember that there’s a person at the other end, with real feelings and real things to do besides wait around for you.
Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating. Want to connect with Erika? Join her newsletter, eepurl.com/dpHcH for updates and tips.