Social Obligations That I Want Dead

As I get older, the one thing I’ve noticed is that my preferences have become more clearly defined.  And by that, I mean I know what I hate and what I don’t hate. Maybe people just get grumpier the older they get – the realization that time is slipping away with every second will do that to a person.  Call me crazy, but I just don’t think that I can spare what little time I’ve got on social obligations that are about as fun as the thought of taking a cheese grater to my face.

There are three things I hate: surprise birthday parties, wedding showers, and baby showers.  You can further generalize that I hate any and all occasions meant to “shower” someone with “love”, especially when it’s not me.  By the end of this post, I hope to demonstrate how awful all of these events are, why I’ll never go to another as long as I can keep coming up with excuses, and provide some examples of social obligations I’d like to see popularized in the future.

Surprise Birthday Parties

How dare you ask me to keep a secret.  Not only do I have to buy a present, but now I have to walk around eggshells in conversation with our mutual friend/family member, hoping he/she doesn’t ask me anything about my weekend because oh my god I hadn’t thought of a good cover story and I’m going to blow the surprise and everyone will know, and hate me forever [vomit].

Surprise birthday parties aren’t always bad, but even when I like them, I still don’t like them. They’re just awkward. Who are all these other people I’ve never met before? I thought I was your best, most important friend.  Now I have to wait to talk to you as you uncomfortably go around thanking all your other (less important) friends for coming to this party that you never asked for, and probably didn’t want in the first place.  

I get it.  When people love you way too much, they try to re-invent the child-like whimsy of being surprised – because the older we get the less surprising shit is.  When you’re a child, everything is new! It’s so easy to surprise a child. All you have to do is emphatically say the word “surprise” and give them any form of sugar, and they will beam for the rest of the month, remembering that awesome time they got surprised with candy, until they realize how long it’s been since they’ve been surprised with candy…and get really fucking bitter about it.  And then cry. That is adulthood. Every day is less surprising than the day before. Every day is a day without a candy surprise. You get candy, but it’s not a surprise because you have to buy it for yourself, and realize that the reason you are in debt is mainly because of buying candy unnecessarily.  The older you get, the kinds of surprises you get most likely will ruin your life, or at least make a real go at it.

Surprise!  I’m Pregnant!

Surprise! And it’s yours!

Surprise!  Brain Cancer!

Surprise!  And you have 3 weeks to live, at best!

Surprise!  You you’ve gained weight from sitting at your desk for 8 hours a day stress eating candy!

Surprise! And you have been for some time now, but you were in denial, and no one told you to spare your feelings (and also maybe that was the look you were going for?), but did have several judge-y conversations behind your back about it!

So, with all this in mind, I get that surprise parties come from a special, naïve place in everyone’s \ love-blinded little heart, and it’s meant to be very endearing [more sentimental bullshit here]. But surprise parties are still awful.  

I find surprise birthday’s less about the person whose birthday it is, and more about the person who planned it.  It’s like putting up a billboard saying “I am the most important person in this person’s life, so HA bitches. Please attend so you can help reinforce how good of a friend/lover I am.”  Surprise birthday parties are like social ammunition. Have you ever heard of someone who broke up with the person who threw you a surprise birthday party? No. At least not right away. For anyone who doesn’t have a heart of darkness, the surprise birthday buys the thrower at least a year and a half of commitment. It’s almost (but not quite) like getting pregnant to trap your spouse into having to interact with you for longer than necessary.

I especially hate surprise parties that aren’t held anywhere interesting. I could go to your fucking apartment anytime I want – if I’m being blackmailed into holding your damn secrets, take me somewhere I’ve never been before, like an island, horseback-riding, a Tijuana sex show. Give me something to look forward to other than interacting with people I don’t know in a closed setting with no escape. A setting where I can slip out unnoticed, if things get unbearably awkward.

I don’t believe in surprise parties, but I suppose I’d still go…for the food.

Wedding Showers & Most Weddings

Who ever looks forward to a wedding shower?  The only reason I might have one is because I feel entitled to one after having been invited to so many previously. I find bridal showers creepy. In the best case scenario you are seated in a circle with a group of other people you barely know, struggling to make meaningful conversation.  In the worst case scenario, you are seated around the edges of a room filled with people averting eye-contact with strangers, failing miserably to make meaningful conversation.

The only people who have fun at weddings are men.  I’d rather be invited to a bachelor party than the litany of pre-wedding girls-only events.  As a single queer woman, not only is it a waste of time romantically, but it is a huge financial burden. Between multiple wedding showers gifts, monetary wedding gift, dresses, shoes, hair, makeup, nails, and handbags, the average woman can easily spend up to $2000 on weddings annually. And that’s for people who don’t have very many friends. The only time you’ll wish you never had any friends is when they decide to get married and you know you’re going to be invited.  It’s even worse when your friends decide to get married and you know you’re going to be in the wedding party. Goodbye, trip to Thailand. Instead you’ll be directly responsible for the success or failure of your best friends’ mood for the next (insert number of days till wedding), and then afterwards you will never see them again.  Surprise!

And what’s the deal with all the penis shaped cakes at wedding showers, anyways?  I don’t particularly mind them, because cake is cake. But isn’t it a slap in the face?  Brides, everywhere, being slapped in the face with penis cakes. I thought we were celebrating their love, not celebrating all the sex they aren’t going to be having after they get married.  It just seems a little cruel, that’s all. Are we celebrating the fact that she’ll never be giving another blowjob in her life? That seems more like something worth celebrating.

Way to go, girl!  You made it! Now shove this dick cake in your mouth and swallow because it’s the only form of penis you ever wanted there in the first place.

It’s like a graduation cake for heterosexual women. I would love to go down on a graduation penis cake.

Baby Showers

Baby showers are a lot like wedding showers, but they are way more boring. Especially if you are young and spritely – baby showers can be particularly painful to suffer through.  First of all, these social functions are a simultaneous reminder that the point of life is to procreate, and also that if you procreate, your kid will be unfortunate enough to have you – you, the one who once frequented raves, and ate Kraft Dinner and Froot Loops till you were 26 – as a parent.  Nobody under 30 leaves a baby shower thinking sex is a good idea for the next 3 months.

I actually love babies, the same way I love puppies.  They are adorable, and I want to hold them all the time.  Baby showers don’t feature a baby. They feature one of your hormonal friends with the baby bump you’ve been staring at for the last 6 months, reminding yourself that Melissa - yes, Melissa, the one who once frequented raves, and ate Kraft Dinner and Froot Loops with you till you were 26 - is 3 months away from being responsible for a human life.  Also, didn’t we once make a pact to throw each other down the stairs if this happened to one of us?  Yes, it was yesterday, when we were 16. Are you mad that I haven’t delivered on this promise? There’s still time. Dear God, fifteen years years have passed and this shit is getting real.

It makes no sense that these are held before the baby is born.  These should be celebrations of an already birthed child – one where the baby will be passed through the hands of all the babies real and fake aunts and uncles, thereby giving both Mom and Dad a much deserved break from parenthood.  There should be a DJ and open bar – even if this bar was a “milk and cookies” bar with a pumping station, I’d be supremely thankful that someone was thinking about me.

The fact of the matter is that food at baby showers is not even good.  It’s just barely a step above funeral food. It’s all healthy, all appetizers, and they’re almost always dry parties. Why? Because of the baby. It’s not even here yet and it’s ruining everything. I have nothing against babies or children, except for their tendency to change all of your friends into the opposite of the people they were before. At the very best, they will lead double lives. At home they’ll play the part of devoted, responsible, perfect parent; with friends, they blow up like an atomic bomb that’s been ticking silently for many a fortnight. They’re sleeper cells. I really appreciate that sort of effort to keep it real.

There’s no fun at baby showers – they’re too wholesome. There’s nothing to do – nothing to escape from the reality that your friends are getting on with their lives - and there you are sipping on a flask of Fireball in a bathroom stall with Nicole wondering when this bitch is gonna get knocked up too.

Inevitable Hypocrisy

Of course, there will be a day – unless I am actually incredibly unlucky in life – where I’ll be poised to emotionally blackmail my friends into giving me presents and treating me like a princess.  There’s nothing I want more than to wield that Williams & Sonoma registry scanner like a magic wand, and exclaim “Expelliarmus!” while scanning everything within my 50 meter radius.  However, my strong beliefs regarding the awfulness of wedding showers and baby showers alike, I feel as if someone needs to stand up and draw the line in the sand somewhere. There’s too much emphasis on the party and tradition surrounding these life changing events rather than on their true meaning. So many men and women want to have their ‘big day’, and don’t think about what it means until it’s too late. There should be a new rule for these occasions:

  • Surprise Birthdays:  These should be granted to people who had shitty childhoods, people who have never had a surprise birthday party, and old people.  As much as I hate going to surprise birthday parties, I have to imagine that having one thrown in your honour might be thrilling…once. I’ll never surprise a person twice. That’s too much love, and too many secrets held for just one person. If I’m being generous, I’ll accept 3 surprise birthday parties per lifetime – one for each stage of a person’s life. The memory of the previous surprise party must be almost completely faded by the time the next one should be planned. The only people who really deserve a surprise birthday are old people. They might not even know it’s their birthday and be extra surprised, or you could even have multiple surprises in one night depending on the state of their mental faculties! In any case, old people are delightful. End of sentence.

  • Wedding Showers/Gifts: The bride and groom will keep a spreadsheet of goods acquired from wedding. Should the marriage dissolve before 5 years, everyone gets the equivalent value of their gift refunded back to them. For monetary gifts, I’d encourage attendees to enforce a half now, half on your 10th anniversary policy. I think that’s fair. I’d just like to be sure that I’m making a good investment, and that at least a portion of my gift will be returned to me if not. I think this will encourage people to think long and hard before they enter into marriage, and encourage people to work out their problems before they decide to call it quits – if not for the children, then for the shit load of money they’ll be out of otherwise.

  • Baby Shower Gifts: These should be held after the baby is born so he/she can be the star if their own party. No longer would there be idle conversation; we’d have the baby as a crutch to “ooo” and “aww” at for the otherwise excruciating 4 – 5 hours that we won’t get back. Furthermore, this would eliminate having to buy gender neutral items, wondering what sex the baby will be because the couple is too selfish to spoil the surprise. In fact, I’d like to make an assessment of their parenting skills before I choose to invest in this new human. That seems a little extreme, but I’d be willing to contribute more monetarily if I felt confident that your kid wasn’t an asshole by, say, the age of 5. Parents should be rewarded for doing a great job, not for having fornicated and (accidentally, or on purpose) created life.


There are a plethora of events you’ll be peer pressured to attend by friends. They’ll flood your Facebook with requests, and repeatedly ask you in person about your attendance. It’s important that, unless you are whole-heartedly committed to attending, you respond:

“Oh, that sounds really interesting – I’ll have to check my schedule and see if I can fit it in.”  

This filler statement will work for anyone who has a full-time job, or life commitments (i.e. kids, pets, etc.)  For the jobless – I encourage you to get a job, a kid, a pet, or even all three. Otherwise, you’ll have to default on the only other appropriate line:

“Dude, I’d love to, but I’m broke right now – but maybe we can do something local soon? Let me know!”

You’re going to table that event for further reflection – you will eventually need to determine if you will, in fact, RSVP or not.

Generally, there is a simple rule for attending events: Does attending this event open any doors, or otherwise create potential to enrich my life? The answer will vary from person to person, because we’ve all got certain priorities, and interests. If your goal is to meet a certain kind of lover, you will go to events that are likely to attract that kind of lover.  If your goal is to take your career to the next level, you will go to events that open those kinds of opportunities in your desired industry. If your goal is to learn a new skill, you will go to events that expose you to a like-minded community that helps you build those kind of skills.  

For example, you wouldn’t go to a punk rock concert if your goal is to meet an investment banker. Although not impossible, the odds would not be in your favour.  If you’re looking for a lover, you’re going to want to do a certain level of personality profiling to target only events that your “ideal” lover would attend – and hopefully these will be events that you also have an interest in too, otherwise there’s no point. Imagine, going to a sausage enthusiasts convention, meeting the man or woman of your dreams, and them having absolutely nothing in common (and nothing to talk about by extension).

If the event in question ultimately does not fit any of your criteria for enriching your life in the areas you deem fit, you will decline the invitation. But, how to do so without offending the host(s)?

Excuses You Can Use To Avoid People & Situations

When coming up with an excuse to un-invite yourself to any event, gathering, reunion, or even a simple coffee talk, it is important that you establish whether you actually care about the person who you are going to lie to. The ideal situation would be that your dear friend(s) will understand how much you disdain the particular situation you are avoiding, and agree that it would be much nicer if you weren’t there scoffing in the corner, making sarcastic remarks, or otherwise being miserable. Honesty is always the best policy – especially when it comes to protecting the purity of your most treasured friendships.

The other ideal situation is that you are confident enough to decline without explanation. This is my favourite way to decline an invitation as it leads to no potential of your story unraveling and tarnishing your reputation. Being able to decline an invitation with confidence demonstrates a kind of social kingliness – as if, of course you have somewhere better to be.   

Not everyone can pull off the unexplained decline. Particularly, people who have approval issues. If you have approval issues, you will likely revert to making an excuse to protect your character from coming under scrutiny by people you barely know but might like to know better, one day. Odds are, if you’re this kind of person, you’ve already weaved yourself a nice web of lies that you are overly concerned with maintaining. That’s alright – to each their own. The important thing is that you never create a lie you can’t easily keep up. In case of emergency, here are some really specific excuses you can use to lessen the amount of social judgment you think you’ll have to face otherwise:

  • “I’m so sorry – it’s my cousin’s birthday that day!”  -  Which cousin?  Doesn’t matter.  Your cousin could be literally anyone.  No one follows up on cousins, or keeps track of how many you have on either side of your family.

  • “Oh my God!  I forgot I already committed to seeing a friend from out of town tonight!  I’m such a bad friend!” – The prior commitment immediately makes your RSVP invalid.  Of course, you are lying. But at least one part of this statement is truthful – you are a bad friend.  Might as well steer right into the bullshit here. If you say it first, then they can’t say it for you.

  • “Man, I think I ate something funky.  I don’t think I can go anywhere today except to the drug store for more Imodium. Sorry!” - No one will ask you thing more here. They’ll be too busy trying to delete the mental image from their memory.

  • “Hey Pal – can we raincheck tonight?  My dog/kid/other dependent is vomiting everywhere!  I think we need an exorcist!” – Same deal.  Except if your friend is an exorcist and offers to investigate the situation.  The point is to avoid follow-up questions and opportunities for your friends to help you with whatever made up situation you are lying to them about.

There you have it - social obligations for the social recluse. Let me know if any of this helps.

Arianne Tong1 Comment