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“I procrastinate, am constantly late to things, and accidentally miss appointments and bail on plans without intending to. Needless to say, I end up inadvertently piss people off without meaning to. Help?!”
The sad news is that being a flake is everyone’s natural state. Humans are monstrously selfish without realizing it; everyone knows that the best way to make their lives as easy as possible is to only do what they want, when they want to do it! Which makes the anatomy of a flake easy to understand, even if it’s embarrassing to admit that it’s rooted in laziness. Sure, you genuinely do want to go do whatever it was you agreed to go to —drinks at a bar! seeing that movie! walking aimlessly around a museum for an entire afternoon!—but when it’s time for you to shower and find your shoes and get out the fucking door, you’d rather do anything else.
“Why does this keep happening?!” you might wonder. It’s because the procrastinator’s biggest ally is their own convenient rationale. Qualifying your excuses has likely become an art: You really need time for yourself! Why should you put on pants when sitting on the couch watching No Reservations and ordering Seamless will do just fine? Maybe you need to do laundry. Maybe you’ve just remembered a huge work deadline that needs to be done Right Now (ie. right as you’re about to walk out the door).
Sorry, but that’s just not good enough. Repeat after me: You have committed to a plan and you will follow through on them. This does not mean shooting off a non-committal text about how you’re “ten minutes away”, knowing full well that you haven’t left your house. This means making lifestyle changes so that you quit dragging along as life passes you by.
No one wants to be rude, and it’s likely that you fully intend on fulfilling your part of a social obligation in a timely, polite manner. This is your friendly reminder that all relationships are a two-way street. If you’re constantly bailing on plans and showing up late to others, you’re the dead weight in the relationship. Your friend, coworker, partner, whoever is giving you their time. Time is valuable. If you give less thought to their time and energy than you do swiping your Metrocard every morning, are you surprised that they’re pissed?
Furthermore, have some respect for your own time! Don’t waste your life away staring at the wall, man. You’ve got places to go and people to see!
If you are seriously invested in fixing the procrastinating part of you that angers loved ones, you’re going to have to buy some shit. Let’s start with your phone, that thing you stare at all the time anyway. Make it work for you! Set reminders for things you need to do in advance, in increasingly irritating intervals. If you know you have to be somewhere at, 12:30, and it takes you twenty minutes to get there, set an alarm for an hour before. Or, go old-school and get a day planner. It’s super easy to make a plan in a blinking Gchat window or a text message that you promptly forget about, but if you get in the habit of writing stuff down, there’s a good chance you’ll actually remember it. Lists are a great tool for maintaining friendships. Make lists of the things you said you would do in any given week. Fuck, write whatever you need to do on the back of your hand, if you want to be middle school about it. Seeing “CALL MOM BACK” somewhere physically on your body or on a bright yellow Post-It note on the mirror you look in every morning will at least shame you into being better about holding up your end of the bargain.
Chances are, if you’re perpetually tardy to the party, you also put off the shit you need to do to the last minute. (If you have to do something, you can almost always do it later!) The thing is that if you do this with everything, you’ll always have some other task looming that is just as urgent, causing you to work yourself into a tizzy. Let’s avoid that. If you have plans tomorrow night, but intend on spending tonight farting around your room, knock one excuse off your list by doing it that night. Go to the grocery store, do your laundry, send those emails, call your mom — get your nagging to-dos out of the way today so you can stick to your plans when they actually roll around.
If you’re someone that notoriously runs late and not necessarily for any good reason, do yourself a favor and give yourself a ten minute head start. Make it fifteen if you’re feeling generous. Matter of fact, force yourself out of the house and take the long way to get there if you have extra time to kill; you don’t need to send another, sheepish, “Sorry on my way!” text to a group of angry people who know that you have a habit of lying to them about precisely that. If you’re going to be late for a reason that is actually reasonable —your train gets stuck in a tunnel for 15 minutes, neatly eating up the allowance you baked in for your late ass— be apologetic when you arrive. Being late is one thing, but if you have good reason and are nice enough to apologize (and actually mean it)? Everybody wins.
Flip The Script And Be The Organizer
A good way to take on responsibility is about being proactive about arranging the plans yourself. If you’re the one initiating the hangout, be decisive and set a time and location instead of throwing out a vague suggestion. No one wants to wade through the 15-message long email threads debating the merits of Brooklyn vs the West Village. Just pick a place and a time. Put all your cards on the table. If there is anything happening in your life at this very moment that feels like it might possibly prevent you from going forward with these plans, say them now. If you can only hang out after a certain time, say so. If you are broke but want to see your friends anyway, make that known. Don’t give yourself any outs.
All this to say: If you’re going to do something or be somewhere, show up. It’s safe to assume that the people made these plans with you because they wanted to. Everyone is busy, but the plans you’ve made are an attempt to care out actual quality time. That’s considerate! People taking time off from their messy lives in order to hang out with you is considerate! I fully believe that it is prudent — kind, really — to treat others as you’d like to be treated. If someone cares enough about your friendship to take time out of whatever other bullshit they’re doing in order to spend some quality time with you, that means you have to respond in kind. There’s no doubting you love your friends; that you appreciate their time and enjoy their company. This is the best way to show them that. As the saying goes, treat people like you want to be treated. It’s as simple as that.
Megan Reynolds, reformed flake, is an associate editor at The Frisky.
Art by Sam Woolley.
Adequate Man is Deadspin’s new self-improvement blog, dedicated to making you just good enough at everything. Suggestions for future topics are welcome below.