When was the last time you went to something you didn’t really want to go to? Be honest. Last weekend’s brunch?
Last night’s ladies’ night? Yes, of course there are some nights that we are mad up for – chomping at the bit to get stuck into all the festive feasts on offer, and full of joie de vivre and tales to regale our friends with.
But, much as we may hate to admit it, those nights are few and far between these days. With kids, work, school runs, fitness classes and the 50 million other things we fit into a regular 24 hours, more often than not, when the clock strikes 9, Cinderella would rather be tucked up in bed with a good book or (even better) an iPad loaded with The Newsroom.
Fact is we outgrew FOMO around the time we had our first child and discovered that an eight-hour sleep session is a thing to be cherished. Thanks, Carrie Bradshaw, for your role modelling of ‘how to live a glamorous city life’, complete with non-stop taxi rides and raucous nights out with the girls. But it just ain’t possible without causing ourselves some serious physical, mental and emotional damage – let alone the impact on our career and relationships (with our spouses, children, colleagues).
Despite knowing this – and deep down, we all do – we succumb to party pressure (peer pressure to party) all the time. And this time of year, we are faced with it more than ever.
On just one night, different members of the Aquarius team are facing various social engagements that they have no desire to go to. One is off on a ladies’ night with a bunch of mums from her child’s nursery. Another is going to an engagement party for a couple she barely knows (or cares about). A pregnant member of the team is staring down the barrel of an evening of watching her friends quaff champagne in their slim-fitting finery while she sips on her 167th juice in her jazziest maternity frock.
Why are they bothering if they don’t want to go? Some deep discussions unearth a few common emotional triggers – guilt (at letting people down), pride (at not wanting to be seen as a flake), a desire to please (thinking people will like us more if we go), fear (of being left out of future events), fear (of being ousted from the friendship group) and more fear (of not being included in the post-event reminiscing and selfie binge on Facebook). All in all a pretty ugly list.
Interestingly, while party pressure may originate from the people inviting us, the heavy-duty party pressure is self-imposed. Fact is we don’t know how someone will react to our backing out. They might also be exhausted and dreading going out, in which case they’ll do a little jig of celebration and skip off to bed themselves. If it’s a group event, they probably are not going to mind. When was the last time you threw a tantrum – or took it personally – because a friend couldn’t make it to your birthday?
We are adults and an invitation should be an offer, not an order. And peer pressure should have evaporated from our lives when we graduated out of the playground, leaving in its space a very adult freedom of choice.
“Sorry I can’t make it tonight” should be enough. No excuses about the maid being sick. No lies about headaches, or fabricated early-morning meetings. Just a plain and simple “No, thanks”.
And if that ugly list of emotions starts creeping up inside you, remember this gem from the hugely wise Dr Seuss, who once said, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” Hear, hear, Doctor! Early nights all round.