Dear Molly, I love to host dinners and to meet friends at restaurants, but one of my dearest friends is always, always late. At a restaurant, that means waiting near the door, watching other folks take available tables. (Forget trying to make—and keep—a reservation.) At home, it means a meal that overcooks because no one knows when he's going to arrive, or a hungry crowd stuffing themselves with appetizers as the minutes crawl by. Any advice? Yours, Don't Be Late for Dinner
I feel your pain. I'm so not into people being late. Like really not into it. Here's the deal: you have two choices.
First, if this person truly is a dearest friend, you need to have a chat. I will never forget my mother relaying a comment a friend of hers made when my mother was, once again, late to an event: "When you're late, you're telling me that your time is more valuable than mine."
And so true.
So, if your friendship is so strong that you think it's up for that level of truth-hammer, sally forth and address the issue directly. Mention how frustrated you get when you're left waiting. You may even want to give your friend a window. Let him know that the next time you plan to meet, if he's not there within a reasonable amount of time, you're going to go ahead and eat without him or just head home. It will be difficult to pull this off without sounding like a real uptight nag, and again it could only possibly work with the closest of friends, so I wish you the best of luck if you choose this option.
Second, you can play it less direct. Possible approaches include: 1) issuing invitations for 15 minutes or half an hour early and hoping for the best; 2) only inviting this friend to events at which time isn't a pressing manner; or 3) only inviting him to events at your house and starting on time, with or without his arrival. If he arrives at your dinner party and everyone is mid-dessert, it just might shock him into getting it together.
I'm sure readers will point out that plenty of people (and even entire countries) run on a much looser sense of time. So on that note I suppose there is, theoretically, another option, which is to chill out and not care. Play Words With Friends on your phone while standing on that sidewalk. Serve time-flexible dishes—like chili or stew (meaty or vegetarian)—at dinner parties when you know that some guests might be late. Or just assume that times are a loose concept with this particular friend, and try being late yourself.
Then again, it may be time to read between the delayed lines. Is it possible this person values your friendship less than you do? Some people are late all the time, it's true (Lisa, I'm looking at you!); other people are late sometimes, and usually for things they aren't so psyched to do. One way to unearth this unpleasant truth is to wait for them to issue the next invitation. That will, inevitably, communicate just how dear a friend they consider you.
More Manner Matters
- Hosting 101
- Dealing With Dietary Demands
- Crack Open That Bottle
- Guests With Chips
- Who's On the Grill?
- Bagel Brouhaha
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