The Unvitation

Last week, I wrote about the phenomenon of FOMO: Fear of Missing Out. We’ve all been there—deep in the abyss of self-pity, nervous that all our friends are gathered without us, having the time of our lives.

The example in question was a quiet Friday night. You may choose to stay in and take a load off, but a barrage of Facebook status updates showing your BFFs having a grand ol’ time can make you regret that choice.

After I wrote this post, I got a call from a friend. “I don’t really care if I miss out,” she said. “I just want to be invited.”

And later: “I want my friends to want my company. It’s important to me to be included. But to actually have to go out on a Friday? Ugh. No thank you.”

This gets at something very real. The knowledge that my friends are at a concert doesn’t affect me if I’ve turned down said concert for a quiet night in. But when I hear, after the fact, that some pals went on an adventure without me—without even inviting me—that’s when my inner over-sensitive 4th grader comes out to pout.

Despite having felt the sting of the “unvitation” before, I have been guilty of imposing this feeling on others. A few years ago, I told a friend I was thinking of having a small birthday dinner on that Saturday night. She mentioned she’d be at a wedding. So when I sent the email invitation—it was a low-key affair—I left her off the list. I knew she couldn’t make it.

Fast forward a few days and you know what happened: My pal was mad at me for leaving her out.

“But I knew you couldn’t come!” I said.

“Still, it would have been nice if you included me.”

Rationally, I believe to this day that I didn’t do anything wrong. She told me she couldn’t come, so what was the point of inviting her? It was as if I was supposed to pretend she hadn’t already informed me the other plans. But I should have known better. The human brain isn’t always rational, and  when it comes to friends I’ve learned we must honor irrational emotions more than logic. I guess that’s part of the whole friendship gig. Not everything is based on reason.

After this incident, I got nervous planning wedding events. I had two showers—my mother-in-law threw one and my aunt the other—and didn’t want to invite my friends to both because I didn’t want them to feel guilty for not coming. Or obligated to buy gifts. But I also didn’t want them to feel left out. Ugh, being a girl can be so complicated.

My solution? A simple email. I wrote, “I’m having two showers, one in NYC and one in Boston. If any of you think you might come to either one, let me know as I’d love to have you there. But absolutely no pressure, and if you’re not local I wouldn’t want you to feel like you need to travel or buy a gift, so just let me know and I won’t even send an invite.”  There’s no perfect plan, but this worked for me.

So, what say you? Do you fear missing out? Or are you happy to miss out, as long as you get the invite? Or is all this hullabaloo just a product of adults being too sensitive and over-analytical? ‘Cause personally, I think that might be it.


Filed under The Search

7 responses to “The Unvitation

  1. M

    I think it depends on the outing really. If it’s a group of people and I’m not invited, I get a bit upset. If it’s just a few of them getting together, no big deal. For me, I tend to invite people to things I think they would enjoy and leave out the people who aren’t interested but that usually gets me in trouble too. It’s a double edged sword really. Invite someone and make them feel obligated to go and spend money on something they really don’t like or don’t invite them and risk some hurt feelings. It’s like’s Sophie’s Choice.

  2. I think it’s definitely a human and natural feeling to WANT to be wanted ( at a party or event or whatever) even if you might not be able to go. The part about inviting someone you know won’t be able to make it—I think it IS important to invite them, so at least they know they were thought of. That way you play it safe in your friendship and it also gives the invited person the option of saying no, without feeling left out.

  3. This post takes me back to highschool! My friends always left me out because I was the only one who had a job, and I also danced in highschool. They always claimed they thought I had rehearsal or had to work Saturday nights and I would always say it would have been nice if they had just asked. So, yes, I’m part of the “just ask even if you assume I can’t make it.” Now when I plan things be it a lunch with coworkers or a birthday party I err on the side of over-inviting. Even now I’m planning Easter dinner at my house which is supposed to be with my immediate family but I’m worried about my husband’s 19 year old nephew and his 21 year old niece.

  4. Adelle

    Ugh…HIGH DRAMA!! Why would I invite a friend to something I KNOW they couldn’t come to? Particularly if it’s not a Big Life Event, like a wedding, shower, etc. To me, it seems like I’m flaunting the fact that we are all getting together and she’ll miss out. Obviously, I’m referring to known events and plans (travel, houseguests, other concrete plans, etc.) It feels, sometimes, like you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t!

  5. LizC

    I had so many problems with this in college and, to an extent, high school. In high school it was always “well it was last minute you live so far away”. In college it was “it was last minute and we didn’t think you’d want to come”. Which drives me nuts. Give me the chance to decide for myself what I want to do because otherwise it just sounds like an excuse for not wanting me around.

    It’s not just that it’s nice to be invited, even if you say no, but being invited indicates that someone you thought was your friend spared a thought for you.

    So, yeah, I don’t mind being left out as long as I was invited in the first place. I want the decision not to take part in some group outing to be my decision.

    • Layla

      Me too, at least in high school! I think my high school friends assumed I had something better to do with my time so they didn’t invite me.

      I hope your friends invite you places now 🙂

  6. Layla

    Now that I think of it… it is nice to know what’s going on even if you can’t come. I think I’d be a tiny bit grumpy if my friends knew I was busy, but nobody kept me in the loop about what was going on. They wouldn’t need to go as far as inviting me, but it is nice 🙂

    Them not telling me what’s going on wouldn’t change anything, but it would remind me that my friends could cut me out of their lives if they wanted to. Even if it’s not something they would do, I think it must be an instinctive fear of having no friends but not knowing where to start, losing any social skills you gained, and basically being shunned from society.

    It’s probably instinct to feel jealous like that. If humans were still monkeys, the friendless monkeys would have trouble surviving – they wouldn’t have anyone to take care of them if they were sick, or help them out if they were struggling with anything.

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