How to Get Out of Social Obligations

A handy guide for when you just can't even...

I'll admit it: I'm a plan canceler. Some people kindly call me a flake and I own it, especially when it's freezing outside, or I'm broke, or I'm not in the mood to deal with a particular type of human interaction or all of the above. Usually, I'm really interested in a plan when it's made in advance, but when the day rolls around, my circumstances/workload/mindset may have changed. There are times when I'm so run down, I just can't do it. It has nothing to do with the person I'm supposed to meet, but rather my broken body that is begging me for sleep. Do I feel guilty for canceling? Yes. Should I? According to the New York Times' Darcie Wilder, not necessarily.

"Turning down an invitation is the foundational exercise," she writes, "a finger push-up to inspire larger changes in your life, to flex your ability to account for yourself."

That said, canceling too much comes with consequences, and sometimes it's better to suck it up, put on pants, and brave the plan than to bail at the last minute. With that in mind, I've created some rules for myself. For example, I never cancel plans with someone in a crisis, or someone I've already canceled with once before, or someone who is having a birthday party—because birthdays are tender, and people just need you to show up to remind them that you love them.

Before canceling, a gut check is always necessary. I ask myself two questions: 1) Would I be hurt if that person didn't show up for me? 2) Would I be touched if that person did show up for me? If the answer is yes to either, it's time to get dressed.

But if you're reading this, you're not here to be guilted into going out (or maybe you are, in which case, go out.) You're here to find some solid excuses to get out of the plans you really can't deal with right now. So, here is a case-by-case guide to excusing yourself from any plan you're just not up to keeping to.

When It's a Tinder date

This one is easy. The apps are for you're pleasure—they're supposed to be fun and when they don't feel like fun, you are free to abandon their requirements. All dates made on Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, etc., are implied tenuous and only solidified when two strangers show up at the agreed upon destination. Of course, it's a jerk move to ghost someone, but you're not required to concoct a detailed explanation. Try, "So sorry, but tonight isn't going to work for me. Another time?" Keep it short, sweet and only tack on the open question if you're down with a future date. Otherwise, replace "Another time" (question mark) with "Take care" (period).

When It's a Date-Date

If your a little further along in the dating process, you need to consider why you're canceling the plan. Ideally, you'd want to see that person so much that no work deadline or flat tire will stand in your way. If you're feeling slightly meh, but don't want to ruin your chances of a future date altogether you might just exaggerate the truth. You have way too much work/a stressy deadline to go out. Or, you feel a little under the weather and you don't want to get that person sick. Just make sure that within the exchange you encourage a chance to reschedule with a specific time and date. That is, if you want to see this person again.

When It's a New Friend

I get it. You met an awesome human you really want to hang with, just not tonight. The exact same excuse you used with your date-date works here as well. Just remember to sprinkle the excuse with how much you really do want to hang. You might even reference this Shouts and Murmurs and make a joke out it. Just make sure the next time you have plans with this person that you actually see them through.

When It's Work Related (or an Event You've RSVP'd to already)

So you're supposed to meet with a colleague or potential employer who you might be of help to you in the future. This might require a white lie that's just a touch darker than pure white. (In paint colors, we might call this lie "eggshell"). If someone is doing you a favor by meeting with you, or vice versa, you probably should just go, but if you just can't even, you're options entail: a broken down car, a family emergency, a last-minute child-related requirement (if you have one of those tiny creatures). Just make sure you've mentally envisioned the circumstances you are concocting so that should they come up again, you're prepared to discuss the crazy thing that happened before immediately changing the subject.

When It's Family or a Best Friend

Honesty is probably the best policy here, because the people who know you best can see right through your B.S.. Lay it all out there—you're not feeling like leaving the house, you're a little depressed, you don't love the third party invited to the event, you got a better offer you really want to take, you're worried about whatever it is that's holding you back. People who love you will understand, and if they don't, at least you've said your peace. Real talk will help you get to the bottom of what it is you're avoiding, and worst case scenario, it may even get you to meet your obligation.

And now, some things to consider...

The Game of Chicken: You know when you make very loose plans a month in advance over email and the day arrives and you haven't heard a peep? There's a chance the person on the other end of the exchange forgot or is just feeling as meh that day as you are. You may have an out that leaves you sparkling clean and flake-free if you wait it out long enough. If you've heard nothing an hour or so before you'd probably have to meet, you can email, "Were we supposed to meet tonight? Happy to reschedule if you're swamped," or, "Since it's getting late, mind if we reschedule?" Game over. You win.

Timing Matters: If you're canceling several days in advance, you have less to apologize for (unless it's a wedding and your seat has been paid for). But if you wait until the last minute (say, the day of), your excuse really needs to be tight if you don't want to offend someone. So even if you hate planning ahead, plan to cancel as early as you possibly can.

Be Mindful of Your Social Media: If you've fudged the truth in any of the aforementioned scenarios, your social media privileges are docked for the night. That's the deal. Make sure whomever you've chosen to hang with in place of your original companion doesn't tag you in any party pics either. It sucks to be ditched, so don't rub Insta-salt in the wounds.

Larry David is all of us: You might think anyone you cancel on is completely heartbroken over the news, but in reality, they may be relieved—especially if they're Larry David. He actually has a public message for anyone who does cancel on him: "You don't have to make up an excuse. Just say you're canceling plans. I'll go fantastic! I'm staying home and watching TV. Thank you!"

You're welcome, Larry.