The art of bailing out

Making plans is easier than ever thanks to technology, but so is cancelling them. As we double and triple book ourselves, is committing to a simple dinner date becoming passe?

After waxing eloquent about why he’s been unable to meet me in over a year despite living 20 minutes away, my best friend of 19 years admits that he’s finally run out of excuses for bailing on me. After the inevitable relative drama — “my sister’s having a baby” — the most-abused medical emergency —“I’m having back trouble” and the quintessential boss blame game —“this client is such a slave driver, I’m swamped with too much work” — I’ve decided to stay in touch with him just through our smart phones. The next time we meet will probably be at a large gathering both of us ‘just happen’ to be at, instead of us actually planning an evening down memory lane.

It feels like the inevitable result of a tactic that every 20-something working individual, like my bestie, uses these days – promise first, bail later. Our scheduling skills have become as ambiguous as our relationship statuses and levels of commitment. To leave a restaurant faster, there’s Uber and Ola, and it’s guilt-free because you can pay your share of the bill later via PayTM. For better break-up images, there’s TouchRetouch and InstaCrop. WhatsApp’s ‘blue tick’ is proof that the temporary heart-break has been delivered. Then you can rant about your love life and attract similar thinking better halves on Twitter, while for photo-features there’s Instagram. Essentially, every social media platform at some point doubles up as a dating service and equally, a bailing out service.

“You know everything about my life, anyway,” my friend recently WhatsApped. “And between Snap chatting and Viber with my girlfriend, hitting the gym twice a day and explaining to my mom that she doesn’t need to reply to every forward, or believe that forwarding it to 25 people will make her son’s life better, where’s the time?” he sighs. But he’s quick to add, “Do you want to do Sunday brunch?”

The art of excuses

While my friend has mastered the art of bailing on me, I have been guilty of the same plenty of times too. I have bailed on events postwork because I didn’t want to carry an extra pair of heels and spend 20 minutes on hair and make-up. While it seemed like a good idea three days ago, and I’d responded to the publicist with an enthusiastic ‘yes’, on the day of the event, I was drinking with a co-worker at a nearby bar. On the other hand, interviewees — from Sanjay Dutt to Sunil Grover — have cancelled on me at the last minute without a hint of an apology.

Likewise for Tinder-dates

A friend once told me that she kept a boy waiting for an hour before finally replying to his fortieth message asking where she was. “I felt terribly guilty about doing that, and even rescheduled. But had I told him in advance, he’d think I was rude. I was just trying to seem busy, while actually being totally lazy, and maybe disinterested,” she said. This friend admitted that sometimes it was about low self-esteem, wondering if she looked as good as she thought she did that morning, and changing her mind because her dress was more coach and less Colaba.
While I thought her explanation was complicated at first, I recalled all those instances where I’d cancelled on a Tinder date because I had changed my mind at the last minute because I was unsure or feeling un-slim.

Social pressure

I have a friend who hates being alone over the weekend, so she always makes a minimum of three to four plans. That way, even if mult iple people cancel on her, she will still have something to do. On those rare occasions when all her plans materialise, she simply picks the best ones and bails on the others.

“The younger generation finds it difficult to make decisions because saying “no” is out of the question. The idea is to please everyone and offend none. They over-schedule for multiple reasons and back out because there is too much pressure to keep up with it,” Dr Shamsah Sonawala, Psychiatrist at Jaslok Hospital,says. “At group dinners there’s usually that one person who will leave earliest, announcing that he or she has another party to get to. This could be because they are socially busy but it is often in order to seem like a ‘social hopper’ to maintain a certain social standing. The paradox here, two thousand social buddies but no relationships you can really count on. The person ends up feeling shallow and most often, lonely,” Sonawala said.

I’ve experienced terrible guilt pangs when I have chosen a weekend getaway with my boyfriend over a best friend’s 25th birthday bash. Often, ditching is inevitable, but repeatedly cancelling on old friends for a new lover is NOT. Bailing out on everybody has taught me that it is important to find a balance between spending time with your pals and your latest romantic interest.

Running out of time

Monica Banerjee, who heads table reservations at Zomato admits that when she began receiving complaints regarding people not showing up after making a reservation, the management decided to evaluate customer feedback. “People in Mumbai are always running late and no one wants to take the effort to make a 30-second long phone call to cancel a booking. So if a group of youngsters reserve a table for 8 pm on Friday, it’s almost certain that they won’t show up before 9 pm, unless they’re bailing out altogether,” Banerjee explains. “Plans change last minute – many couples are not sure if they want to grab drinks, catch a comedian live, – and in the end, they probably stay home, and Netflix and chill.” she said.

Sonawala says that insisting on picking up and dropping a repeated bailer from their home or place or work can lead to a plan actually coming through. “Culturally, we need to hold people accountable. Since bailing has no consequences and technology has made it extremely easy to bow out without facing the person people have stopped taking their own words seriously. There’s very little meaning to such thing as a gentleman’s word with the younger generation,” she says, advising that one way to better the situation is to take your ‘yes’ extremely seriously by setting ones priorities straight. “Make sure to leave scope for spontaneity too,” she adds.

Ghosting out

These days nobody seems to have the time to talk face-to-face. Breakups take place over WhatsApp and your entire wedding can be streamed live over Facebook. Technology has changed the way we view personal equations and cyber stalking is a common practice with a Tinder-user charting out a potential date’s exes and lifestyle online before deciding to meet them in person. On the dating app, Hinge, two people can undertake several quizzes that match their tastes in various things from ice-cream flavours to holiday destinations. If I like chocolate and he’s into black current, I could bail by swiping left. “We’re always rushing — rushing to work and rushing from it. So, a no-strings-attached one-night stand post dinner and drinks works best. No tension, no drama and no need to share texts the next day,” a friend says with a laugh. Handwritten letters, what?

Recently, a woman confided in me that a man she had been dating had moved cities and blocked her across social media without giving her an explanation. She was shattered that he’d ghosted out. While five years ago, ghosting meant ending a personal relationship by suddenly withdrawing all forms of communication, today it means blocking a person from viewing your profile across all social media accounts and letting the ‘follower’ believe that you’ve vanished into air.

Since, I knew the man, I asked him about it. “She asked me to quit smoking because she didn’t want our children to have an unhealthy father. We’d been dating for three weeks and I couldn’t deal with that kind of futuristic expectation. That was a red flag. I ran like she was the plague. She didn’t come with a disclaimer and I didn’t come with a bail notice,” he said, before adding that he’d already met two new women on Tinder and was back in the game.