Be Kind. Show Up.

Texting and Bailing

We all do it. But does that make it okay?

This past Sunday I hosted a small brunch for my sister and a few of her friends, at which my aunt would come and teach us how to bake Challah. With a small apartment and a need for an exact head count I told my sister that I would have to know by Friday exactly how many girls were going to come. I wanted to prepare the right amount of food and get folding chairs out of storage if I needed them, so knowing precisely how many people would be there was important to me.

When Sunday morning came we experienced the usual friends trickling in fifteen to thirty minutes late, but after forty minutes had gone by and one girl still hadn’t showed, my sister expected her friend would text and bail. Thankfully, she didn’t. Everyone showed up and we had a great time together, eating while baking, and then eating what we baked. But after everyone left my aunt, sister, and I began talking about how rare it is for everyone to actually show up anymore. How normal but still rude it is that we now expect our friends to text at the last minute saying they can’t make it.

Just that night I found an article on The New York Times online about this exact topic- the normalcy of last minute texting and bailing for my generation. Though the article’s author seems to agree with me that this practice is rude and tactless, the article ends with testimonials from others of my generation, asserting that this practice is actually efficient and valuable. Essentially, last-minute bailing via text message, the article argues, is an effective way to maximize one’s opportunities and minimize personal damage. You get to RSVP to more parties than you can attend and you don’t even need to personally hurt someone by actually calling to cancel. Sending a text message is so impersonal, it only saves the relationship, right?

Wrong. Recognizing that we all know texting is impersonal, I just think it is all the more rude to cancel plans that way. It’s like your friend saying to you, “I’m too much of a woos to cancel by phone, so I’m going to take the easy way out and text you.” I think it is just a bit more evidence to show the rampant narcissism of my generation. This isn’t to say that I don’t do it, too. I do occasionally text-and-bail, and I do feel like a jerk as I do it. But I do it anyway. And that’s bad.

This is why I’ve decided I’m going to make it a goal of mine to stop doing that. I need to promise myself to stop making plans I know I won’t stick to, and to start showing up to the plans that I do commit to, no matter what the circumstances.

How weird is it that just showing up can be considered a kindness these days? Is Hurricane Sandy a sign of the moral apocalypse? Is the world coming to an end because we are all so selfish and rude to our friends? …Too far?

 

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2 comments
  1. Dan said:

    Well written! How did you survive the storm? How about Lady? Love, Daddy

  2. I don’t even know where to start. Not even. OK – the easy part. WHOAWHOAHWHOAWHOA on that last line. Pfft! ptuiiiiii! spitsputterspat! Wash your mouth out with soap! Now Grandma never did do that to us, but figuratively boy did she ever. You start to wonder whether our pettinesses, nastinesses and cruelties brought on Sandy, and you’re allying yourself with BAD company. You think you’ve met bad boys? Not til you’ve hung with these moral monsters. You’re invoking Terry Jones – you know, the guy who burns Korans? You’re invoking the Westboro Baptist Church – you know, the place that would burn “fags”? Dangerous company. Sides, member? God promised Noah that he wouldn’t Flood us again. Yes, parts of Jersey and the city got totaled. But, there’s work to do and people are doing it. They – you – are NOT bad. Bad things happen to good people. I don’t get it but so it is. Grandma absolutely believed in retribution, but she largely put stock in the court system, and where it was out of the human court – and so much is – she knew that it would be Addressed. Perhaps not in our minds, perhaps not in our time, perhaps not within our ken. But over Time and Space, it would be Taken Care Of.

    Back to the topic at hand. Now this is ALL Grandma. You know she would’ve had a call into Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr’s estate and Jill Abramson’s office about this particular article. (You think I jest? Oh no.) She would’ve been ON FIRE. The sense of moral outrage moral abandonment moral catastrophe evoked by this article. First, of course, is the abdication of the Times’ usual high ground on issues of human engagement (not just “etiquette”). She viewed “decency” as THE lingua franca. Decency is a manydimensioned thing. Sure, it’s following the 10 commandments, sure it’s giving the Nturei Karta and their crazies some room in treating our talitwearin women badly because they safeguarded us over the millenia, sure it’s letting the government acting too eminently when invoking eminent domain. But EQUALLY, decency was about letting the other person know that they were the most important person you know. Decency is about honoring your commitments, particularly as it applies to honoring another person’s honor. Decency is about treating others fully with what you hope to be accorded. One of her lasting sadnesses was that people so often treat those who love them most with the least care. (Full disclosure: your grandma had a difficult, difficult daughter.)

    Grandma was in hospice for just under 2 months. Her guest list at the hospital went on page after page. When I was there, I served as her surrogate many times when she was unable to speak with her visitors. What was remarkable – remarkable! – to me was that many of them considered themselves “best friends” with her. Maybe our definitions skew weird, but I know who my mom’s closest friends were, and that she didn’t have 45 of them. What I did recognize, though, was that each of these people felt that they were treated like royalty by her. That it was important to her and it was important to them that the respect she accorded them in all their interactions left lifelong impressions such that they felt valued and enriched by her.

    And if we can’t want a little of that – if we can’t EXPECT a little of that – from those close to us, we are a poorer lot for it.

    I have so much ranting to do – let me save it for another post. How wonderful that you hosted a challah party! Sarah’s friends are good souls, and what magnificent aunts you have! Sorry I’ve fallen behind. Lots of love!

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