Crisis of social confidence

My daughter is engaged. No progress has been made on setting a date or actually planning a wedding (all of which is fine with me – no need to rush). However, I had coffee with a friend this morning and she was talking about her daughter’s showers and other wedding-related parties that are coming up in the next few months and it reminds me how complicated getting married has become. I just received an invitation to her daughter’s shower yesterday, which I already knew I would not be able to attend, even if I were just floating around the pool all afternoon.

Anyway, I am quite well known for my aversion to such things and my friend called me on it, saying it reflects poorly on our long and close friendship. She said it kindly, but it stung all the same. I tried to chose my words carefully and explain that we are each responsible for how we spend our time, and playing goofy games with other adult women tends to bore me as well as make me self-conscious and anxious, no reflection upon her or anyone else intended. Her daughter knows full well that I love her and her fiance to pieces, and I always send a nice gift. I understand and am hugely flattered that my absence might be noted and missed, but I would much rather invite their whole family over for a bbq and enjoy/celebrate the upcoming nuptials that way.

My friend was irritated with my response, hurt by my attitude, and told me that I should “take one for the team” and just suck it up and deal for the sake of our long friendship. I know she does not enjoy the groom’s family very much, and his mother, aunts, and female cousins will all be present. That said, this is her third child to marry, and the third go-round of showers, parties, and actual wedding to attend. Her daughters-in-law and other friends will be present to help buffer and support her. I just feel a bit pressured to spend an uncomfortable few hours doing silly things and not getting enough opportunity to socialize with people I do not see often enough.

Anyway, I am relatively sure none of you are ettiquette experts, but if you are and I am being rude, over-reactive, and unreasonable in my desire to not attend please feel free to weigh-in and tell me. My dear friend – who despite this rather unflattering post is very much a dear friend – asked me how I would feel if she and her family “boycotted” C’s shower. I am nearly always honest in my responses to direct questions and this was no exception. In this case I said (1) I would not see it as a “boycott” so much as they had other things to do, (2) I cannot imagine C wanting anything resembling a traditional shower … maybe a cake occasion event with close female friends to celebrate, and (3) I/we do not keep score on our social calendars.

Thinking about it now, I am not precisely sure what happened, how a friendly coffee break went so wrong. I do not feel unreasonable in how I feel about showers or my choice to not attend. This is not our first rodeo with big events in our kids’ lives and I am not exhibiting new or unusual behaviors.

It will work out, because it always does. But it’s upsetting to have unintentionally hurt my friend’s feelings by simply being straightfoward and honest.

15 thoughts on “Crisis of social confidence

  1. If she was a very good friend, I would just suck it up and go. I am bored at these envents but understand why you have no desire to go. Do you think this will affect your friendship? I hope not for such a silly reason. Cheryl

    • Hi Cheryl and thanks for your comment. It is unlikely to affect our long-term relationship, but I am concerned about what’s happening with her to make this such a big deal. It’s just unusual behavior for her and I’m more concerned about what’s really going on than whether or not I attend this shower.

  2. You should know I always have something to say. And I’m no expert but went through a phase of reading every etiquette book i could put my hands on because I knew nothing. Regardless – you were not rude – your friend was. This is a long time friend, knows your discomfort and pattern of behavior – which is more than polite but insists you be there why?? My guess is no one will notice/comment/care that you are not there (not personal – just happens at these big things and you aren’t an actual family member) and she likely wants you there for her support – perhaps just to even out the numbers even so her side has “more” there.

    The answer to her last question – how would you feel if they boycotted (loaded word there) – really deserves a question back to her. How would she feel if you knew certain situations were very uncomfortable/unpleasant for her but when she said no to an invitation you belittled her feelings? [couldn’t think of a nice way of saying it than belittled]

    You did not try to hurt her feelings and that fact that she took offense speaks volumes that something else is going on (unless she was like this before at earlier events). Might be worth a follow up if everything is OK – last child getting married, not great with new in-laws, whatever.

    BTW – getting married isn’t that complicated at all – but the rituals surrounding the run up to the event have gotten massively out of control for some people – IMHO.

    • Thanks, SAK. I know there’s something else going on beneath the surface, but I am pretty direct and asked before the throw-down started. If someone is unwilling to share and instead wants to dance around … I just don’t get it. We’ve been friends a long time. My social shyness in situations where I lack control (other than leaving) is nothing new for me, but plenty of weirdness in conversational commentary for her today. I’ll follow up after work or tomorrow, unless she reaches out to me offline after reading this blog post.
      I hear you on the marriage rituals. My daughter – may I just say I am supremely proud of her for standing up for herself and doing it her way and at her own snail’s pace.

  3. I’m not big on those kind of events either, more so the older I get, though I have been to plenty over the years. If it was someone I was really close to, I’d just go and suck it up. I can make it through a few hours to make someone else happy. Or I would even just attend for an hour or so, at least. If it was anyone else, I’d just make an excuse that I can’t make it. But, since she knows you hate those kinds of things and has known this about you for a very long time, like you said, maybe there is something else underlying that is really bothering her. Hopefully you guys work it out!

    • Thanks for your input, OneFamily. Yep, the more I think about it, the more I believe she’s got something brewing and was not ready to share. We’ll figure it out. I just don’t know many who feel this way about weddings/babies and all the hoopla the accompanies it, so I always feel a little off in my comfort zone.

  4. I also think you should go. Your post reminded me of my ex who hated most family events and it was a source of much fighting… He would say similar things to what you said. And he wouldn’t ever prevent me from going or resent my going.

    But eventually I told him I wanted to be with the kind of person that wanted to do these things.

    • Thanks for the perspective, Ann, and the encouragement. Sometimes I just need to be drop-kicked out of my comfort zone. I reached out to my friend by phone tonight and just asked if there was something else going on. She finally broke down and admitted she feels overwhelmed and isolated with the fiance’s mom, her daughters, sisters, neices, etc. My friend is trying very hard to get along, but they are a tight-knit group and she is struggling to break the ice and feel kinship with them. She needs a friendly face who understands, and I do know how difficult it is say out loud. I’m all over this, because she needs me there for moral and emotional support. I can put my own stuff aside for an afternoon and feeling purposeful I will probably enjoy it more knowing it’s not all rainbows and unicorns for everyone present.

  5. I also think you should go and take one for the team as it were. Even if you go until the point of opening gifts, or an hour, or before dessert arrives. If it meant that much to a longtime friend to cause a stir, when she knows you and knows your behavior….it really means something to her. My best friend does this to me and when she didn’t show to our long standing Christmas breakfast, I cried. I know her reasons, I understand, but we all walk a different path and that one was important for me (my first separated Xmas). Sometimes we just do it for others and not ourselves.

    • Thanks M, for the perspective. My friend needs me to go, because as difficult as it is to admit, she feels limited affiliation with the fiance’s family and is having fear herself of being isolated and anxious. I am all over that, and had she just told me that, I would have shoved my own crap under the bus and automatically been watching her back for her. I’m all in now, though, and going to feel good about being there even if I am bored to tears and faking a happy smile during the silly games.

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