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October 05, 2005


Elisa Camahort

This is the story of my life, Jory...ever-punctual, ever-responsible...and usually waiting around for everyone else. In particular I ended up with an S.O. who is terminally late and loves to blow things off because he's just not up for it.

I have definitely learned to cut myself a little more slack. Just this past Friday I canceled going to see a movie with a couple of friends because I had to get up at 5AM and was feeling way to stressed about all that was still undone, including packing.


Hi Jory!
I found so interesting your description of the noncommittal nature of "bailers." When I moved to the United States, I noticed with surprise how hard it was to get people to commit. The way I interpreted the behavior, though, was not lack of discipline but rather an extreme expression of the American individualism.

Here I noticed that people first ask you what your plans are and only then they will make up their mind on whether they want to see you. And yes, they still reserve the right to cancel at the last moment.

Italians are pack animals. If your group of friends decides to do something you just go with them, because being with your friends is more important than what you do. Most of the times doing something is just an excuse to spend time with them, to "build shared experiences," good or bad; the shared attribute of the experience is more important than its quality.

Here people seem to care about the things they do more than who they do them with. The destination seems to be more important than the journey.

So, even if being on time is by no means one of my strengths, I do care to show up, and I feel bad if I don't. It's not because I am driven or committed to greatness, but because I feel that bailing out means betraying the social agreement between people, that magic and delicate connection between "me" and "you".


Aaagh! It's a sickness! I'm always early for everything and I spend a ridiculous amount of time playing games on my PDA while I wait for other people to arrive.

Every time I send an Evite, I take it very personally when someone has read the invitation and not responded yet. Then there's the obsessive post-party review that my husband and I have along the lines of, "John said he was coming and bringing brownies and he never showed up! But Mary was a 'maybe' and she brought two people with her."


I'm one of those punctual types who doesn't like to bail or make plans with bailers, too. I love finding people who can be counted on!


Oh the Evite ability to see who's coming but hasn't replied yet is a total friendship killer. I also don't understand the non-committal personality type. I certainly understand if you make plans and things come up that prevent you from keeping it - work deadlines get changed, kids get sick, you get sick. It happens. But it's the "I don't know yet if you're worth me saying I want to spend time with you" that really hurts.

I think some of it comes from some people's extreme desire to not seem like the bad guy or be considered anti-social. If you're invited to do something and you don't want to do whatever that activity is, it seems to me that it would be kinder to just say "I'm not really interested" and if you're really ambitious, offer an alternative. But I think some people worry they'd be hurting the other person's feelings so instead of outright saying "No" they say "Maybe" when they have no real intention of trying anyway.


I'm one of those arrive on time type people and it annoys the crap out of me when others aren't like that.

I have a friend who I don't bother making one-on-one dates with any more because she bails 90% of the time.

But about commitment, I've just learnt recently that if someone asks me to a function or to do something for them, I'll say I'll let you know tomorrow. I'm a shocker for forgetting I've got something on and saying I can do something when I've already got something else on. Deciding to commit on the spot isn't my strong point - I need to make sure it fits in with my other plans.


I, too, have a S.O. who hates committing to things...which can be really annoying when it's a vacation/holiday...since those things require at least a LITTLE planning. As for bailing...this is going to sound horribly cynical, but I've learned over the years to just stop making very many plans that involve other people...people's lives are so busy these days that social engagements begin to feel like WORK. Or maybe I'm just old and cranky... :)

Ronni Bennett

As I read through your post and the comments, Jory, I have been wondering - with the exception of you, Lisa, Elisa and the commenters - if this is a generational problem. (I don't see bailers and no-shows commenting on this yet, so perhaps they do feel some guilt at their behavior.)

Like the rest of you, I am congenitally on time. And like you, it's hard to force myself, when the party is announced for 8PM, to arrive at 8:30.

Most of the no-shows and late-shows/no-shows in my life are people who are much younger than I am. Were they perhaps not taught common courtesy growing up?

Such behavior monumentally rude. If it's a dinner party I'm giving, I need to know how many to seat and plan what time dinner will be done and ready to serve.

If it is a restaurant get-together, I need to know how many places to reserve.

For one-on-one get-togethers and business meetings, I long ago decided that everyone gets 15 minutes grace, then I leave. Amazing what nasty responses I get to that.

You started this post with a reference to Real Simple magazine. I see the late/no-show problem as real simple: the only thing of real value I own is my time, and it's my fault if I let anyone steal it.

Elisa Camahort

The only reason I can think to aatribute to a generational issue is that most of us over, say 30, grew up with much more limited options to bail on people. Tehre were no cell phones, there wasn't IM or txt messaging. If someone was waiting for you somewhere you had to show up, or leave them completely abandoned.

Nowadays you can pretend you were polite even when bailing up unti the last minute!


I can relate to both sides of this issue. I am compulsively punctual -- and commitment-phobic. And since I became a mom, I'm afraid I've been downright flaky. Some of it stems from a lack of control over my own schedule (i.e., my husband and daughter's needs supercede my own, especially since she started her gymnastics program and we never know until the last minute when her competition times are set, stuff like that). I hate agreeing to do something and then finding out I can't do it at the last minute, so I am purposely noncommittal. I'm afraid some of it is passive-agressive, especially when it comes to PTA, which likes to pencil me in for activities I have no time or interest in doing. A lot of it is my refusal to accept the fact that my energy level is a lot lower than it used to be -- what sounds like a good idea in theory becomes impractical after a long day of working, driving the child to her various activities, nagging her to do her homework, etc. My free time is so limited now that spending any of it locked in traffic (which seems much worse here in Los Angeles than it was a couple of decades ago) is painful. All of these factors contribute to the urge to bail.

But if bailing is contagious, so is dedicated commitment. I follow through on those PTA tasks more often than not, inspired by the example of more dedicated members than myself. And you know how I feel about you, Elisa and Lisa -- I'd do anything you guys asked for the benefit of BlogHer. :)

Susan Kitchens


There was a great thread on MetaFilter "Why are some people chronically late?" that's somewhat related to what you're describing. [link: http://ask.metafilter.com/mefi/12134 ]

I thoroughly enjoyed your exploration of bailers, and all the permutations. My mom was always chronically late, so I learned punctuality (after a fashion) after leaving home.

I find myself on both sides of this question, but more often than not schedule things and stick to it (sometimes feeling a disconnect, by the time I do what the calendar says, my heart is no longer in it and so go-through-the-motions) and I wind up holding the short end of the stick when someone else bails or "Oh, I'm sorry, something came up"s me.

I like the idea of "cultivating your inner bailer." I think I made a joke New Year's Resolution to be more capricious, because I felt like the only steady one in the midst of those whose plans change weekly, hourly, minute-ly. (perhaps better New Year's resolution is to not throw any parties during the holidays)

On the other hand, the triumverate of you and Lisa and Elisa is pretty damn cool. When you find like-minded ones, that's great.

I suspect that I'll be pondering this matter a little more, thanks to you.

Tish G

Hi Jory...

I should check your blog more often!

Usually, I'm not a peer bailer. I will usually be the one to show up (sometimes late though) when others have bailed. My friend Ruth can always count on me and our other friend Gina to always show up for whatever kind of party might be given. We show up for one another all the time--and if we can't make it, call well in advance.

But, I have the odd combination of chronic fatigure and ADHD, which makes me believe I can do more than I can--then my body just craps out and I end up doing far less than I thought possible. The ADHD part is a brand-new finding and explains so much for me (I'm learning to balance it with better nutrition--thank god no ritalin!) The consequence, though, is that I tend to take on far more social-civic commitments than my physical body can handle because my mental body wants to do things. It's seriously frustrating, to say the least! It ends up that, sometimes, I'm over-committed and have to pick and choose--which means bailing on *something* and pissing *someone* off totally. I end up appearing quite flakey, which really isn't the reality (hyper, yes--flakey, no)

The incongruency between what my mind believes I can handle, and what my body is able to handle is, as I said, frustrating. I am, though, learning to actually stop the thought process long enough to honor my body's limitations, to pay attention to the "warning signs" (which are a visceral feeling of "don't do it") and let the balls fall when I can't keep them up in the air. In time, I will have a much better understanding of how the ADHD interacts with the CF, and I will certainly be far less of a social-civic bailer


Hmmm, If it wasn't for your last commenter I'd be right in there with the no-bailers.
My family all match her down to a 't' (minus the chronic fatigue) - and they have all married people who organise them which is hilarious (though not for the inlaws.)
I was the most organised of all of us, I would be sitting in my car outside the house blowing the horn to take my sisters to sing at church ( guess who ran the choir) and they would still be inside ironing the wrinkles out of their baggies ( that's 70s duds). So it isn't necessarily a generational thing - these people are in their early 40s now and their fave word is still 'cash', their diminutive form of casual. And boy do they hate my husband and me always being early and getting more things done than anyone else. I'm on the fence here - I don't have to inhibit my inner bailer, because she's part of me. I just give her a good thrashing every now and again and she shuts up for a while. However she's a really cool writer I think. Now I just have to get her organised...


I totally agree with Jory...though sometimes I do bail myself. The worst feeling ever is when u go to the trouble of organising a party and then people bail at the last minute. I do love Evite for it's 'maybe' column (translates into no show, trust me!). I think it comes down to a disconnect between our dreams and reality. I love the idea of going to parties, for example, but then when the day comes I feel down, or tired, or shy, or whatever. So, I think a lot of it is the gap between who we want to be and who we are...I would be willing to take a bet that bailers have lower self-esteem than non-bailers.

There is no excuse for non-repliers though! Especially on evite, this really frustrates me..I don't think people know that u can see who has viewed but not replied!! I just know not to bother inviting them again!


OMG...I've never read a blog before but this one caught my eye so thought I'd join in.
I'm not so concerned with chronic bailers. If you're bail victim, I agree you should allow 15 minutes grace, AND stop making plans with a know bailer.
The tardiness topic get's me going though.
Timeless is obviously important if you're attending a play or musical, wedding or funeral, or taking a cruise or a bus as they will go on or leave without you.
However, an invitation to an open house or cocktail party from 3 to 9 pm does NOT mean you need to arrive at 3. Much to my husband's dismay, I find it in poor taste to arrive AT 3. The invitation gives us the option to arrive between 3 and 9, but I like to allow my hosts a moment to catch their breath following the preparation they've just completed in order to entertain us.
I feel this empathy because most occasions we host are open house type gatherings. I am usually preparing food, house, or myself until 3 pm. I've never found myself with time to lounge for 45 minutes before the start. Why, then, does a guest think we are prepared to entertain them for a half hour while we are preparing to entertain? Did they misread our invitation or misplace their watch or are they fearful our party will leave the station without them? Pre-party crasher...please explain yourself!


It's about respect for others. Someone who bails obviously does not respect you enough to value your time as much as you value theirs.


There are other things to consider. Sometimes people bail with toxic people. They aren't strong enough to say no to the person and bail later. If people are always bailing on you, maybe it's not just about them, maybe it is about you too. Some abusive people twist and grab people and being around them isn't enjoyable. But the person should just say no to them not weasle out. Also sometimes a person really is sick-and they care enough about themselves not to force themselves out the door to get even sicker-that's not bailing, that's being intelligent and having self care.

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