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Question #145: I can make a really good case that my friend should invite me to her party.

Smeagol

Your inner Smeagol will not help you get invited to parties.

Dear Captain Awkward,

Next Saturday someone I consider to be one of my closer friends is having her birthday party.  I have not been invited.  I can’t help but feel a little bit stung about that.  We have a little bit of ‘history’, I suppose, insofar as I have always liked her quite a bit, and she sort-of-rejected me over the summer, but we’re good friends, and I’ve entirely made peace with the fact that, as much as she likes me platonically, she doesn’t have any interest in me romantically.

I think there are two possible explanations for this failure to invite me.  Firstly, she might just not like me that much.  She has considerably more friends than I do, so while I consider her to be one of my closer pals, I’m relatively low on her list, so to speak.  This is obviously a possibility that I would argue against, since we do talk fairly often and we have had ‘heart to heart’ conversations about how glad we are to have become friends etc.

The second possibility is that I’m just not really on her ‘party invitational radar’.  Yesterday, I attended what was essentially my first proper house party (which I quite enjoyed and at which me and this friend spent a lot of time chatting); historically, I either haven’t been invited or, on the rare occasion that I was, been unable to go.  Because I have absolutely no reputation for being interested in attending this kind of thing, perhaps she either didn’t think to invite me, or considered it, but thought I wouldn’t enjoy it?

Anyway, I was wondering firstly whether you think it might be a good idea for me to talk to her about it, directly or indirectly, and secondly, what such communication might comprise?

FWIW I am a 17-year-old male.

Thanks!

There are a lot of reasons your friend maybe didn’t invite you to her party. The ones you identify are actually pretty good ones. What it’s very important to understand is that they are HER reasons. You don’t have to invite everyone (even people you quite like) to gatherings. It’s not a referendum on how much she likes you, it’s a party that she wants to have for herself and invite whoever she wants.

Normally I’m all for speaking up and using words.  Good for you for asking her out and handling rejection well and forming a friendship!  But I think you’re still hung up on this girl. Maybe it’s not in a romantic/sexual way anymore, but you’re hung up on her affection and attention. For example (bolding mine):

I think there are two possible explanations for this failure to invite me.  Firstly, she might just not like me that much.  She has considerably more friends than I do, so while I consider her to be one of my closer pals, I’m relatively low on her list, so to speak.  This is obviously a possibility that I would argue against, since we do talk fairly often and we have had ‘heart to heart’ conversations about how glad we are to have become friends etc. 

You and I are geeks, my friend.  And what geeks are good at doing is 1) learning how to do stuff (reading, research, finding ‘how to” information, following directions) 2) reasoning through and applying what we’ve learned across many situations 3) constructing consistent and logical arguments, 4) extrapolating, 5) applying principles of justice and fairness to things that are subjective and unfair, like other people’s feelings, and 6) over-thinking and over-investing in interactions with others because sometimes we are lonely and starved for affection and approval so we latch onto scraps when they come our way, which freaks people out so they avoid us, leading to a horrifying self-perpetuating cycle of hope, obsession, and rejection that resembles Smeagol arguing with Gollum on some moonlit rock on the way to Mordor.

Pretty much the worst thing you can do to deepen your friendship with this girl and get invited to this party (or future parties) is to present her with a well-reasoned argument for why you *should* be invited.  I also counsel against auditing your encounters with her for signs of how much she likes you, how much she likes you relative to her other friends, how much she *should* like you, and how much talking at her at a certain party or something she said about being glad that you can be friends has moved the value of this friendship up or down on some kind of Friendship NASDAQ.  “Shares are trading at an all-time high today after a fond smile and a hug in gym class.”  No.

There is only one sign that she wants  to invite you to her party. That sign is when  she says, of her own free will, without any help or coercion from you: “Would you like to come to my party on Saturday?”   The quickest way to make sure that NEVER happens, or that any invite you do get is a weird, guilty afterthought pity-invite that is never repeated, is to bug her about being invited to the party.

I know it’s very hurtful and anxiety-inducing to be excluded from something and to feel like everyone is underestimating how cool you could be if given a chance.. High school is one long “YOU GUYS I AM REALLY SO MUCH COOLER THAN THIS” howl. It’s not fair. It is totally subjective. That’s a hard lesson for anyone, especially for a geek.  You mean there isn’t a way I can reason my way out of this?  There is no rubric?  The answer is to literally stop trying?  DOES NOT COMPUTE.

Right now the coolest thing you can do is to stop thinking about this party and stop taking the temperature of this friendship. Deliberately take other plans for Saturday, where you invite people you like to do something fun.  Put some effort into your other friendships, wish this girl a casual “Happy birthday” on Facebook and move on with the day. You said it yourself – you’ve just started going to parties and enjoying yourself, things are changing for you for the better. Give things a lot of time and space, and keep your interactions light. If your friendship with this girl is is real and true, there will be other chances for you to hang out and figure out if you are party-compatible.

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40 comments
  1. Intern Paul said:

    People will totally use stats from the Society for American Dating Research to extrapolate prices on the Friendship NASDAQ.

    • ILW said:

      Friendship NASDAQ! Now that is gold. I can see that ticker just running all the time at the edge of one’s consciousness.

      • Kristen said:

        BAHAHAH I laughed out loud at Friendship NASDAQ. Oh man I wish I’d discovered this article in my 30s. I mean teens. Right right, teens. I’m not a late bloomer at all.

        Nobody makes these mistakes past age 25, right? Derpp

  2. Your definition of geek is excellent – completely inclusive of all those traits that resonate with me…

  3. I've Been the Satellite to Someone's Else's Sun Before.... said:

    There’s a point already made which I feel compelled to harp on:

    You might feel that your friend should be made to feel bad for leaving you out. Whether it was a mistake, a misunderstanding about your willingness to attend parties, or an outright slight, it was bad & she should feel regretful. DON’T GIVE IN TO THIS IMPULSE. Don’t try to make her feel guilty or scolded. Don’t try to make her pity you. If you seek “justice” for your hurt feelings, even by just gently telling her you wished you’d been invited, the consequences will be a further inequity in your relationship.

    Do as the Captain says; seek another social outlet that night. The birthday girl sounds like a vivacious, friend-rich person and I suspect that in the long run, you will be a far more appealing friend to her if you have an active, interesting life outside of your friendship with her. And if I’m wrong about that raising your stock, no loss–because it’s valuable and productive to maintain your friendships with other people regardless.

    • JenniferP said:

      A+++

      I 100% agree with this comment. Let it go. No “But if she just knew how she was making me feel, she’d understaaaaaaaand” conversation. No “So, how was your party?” questions afterward, either. The “…THE PARTY I WASN’T INVITED TO” is silent…but deadly.

      • Ensign Perception said:

        Oh my goodness yes. There is no cool, casual way to ask these kind of questions!

    • I’ve been there, with the person I thought was a good friend not inviting me to things scenario. You can’t control how others feel about you, so while it’s a fine and good thing to consider a specific person and say, “I would like to be good friends with them,” you also have to realize that all the effort and desire you put into a friendship can only ever comprise 50% of what it takes to have a friendship. They have to provide the other 50%, and if they’re not going to for any reason, you can’t really fill it in yourself.

      So as said above, that’s a good time to shift your focus to other people, and to some extent to yourself. It’s too easy to neglect self-improvement when you’re focused on winning the approval of some specific other person, which ends up being counterproductive.

  4. Lis said:

    Did anyone else have to do seating charts for family dinners as a child? “Well, we can put Jackie at the end of the table down by Grandma, but we’ll have to put Aunt Lynn down by Aunt Joanne because Jackie has asthma and we can’t keep Lynn from smoking at the table, and Carol, would you be a dear and sit next to Uncle Bud? I know he’s a jackass, but somebody has to, and Kelsey has to look after the baby.” But I know that’s not what most people do, even if there are going to be over twenty people at the table. I mean, my family didn’t get together super-often, partly because when we did… uh, yeah.

    Anyway, my point is! What the Geek Social Fallacy that “everyone must do everything together” ignores is that sometimes hosting an event is like flower arranging or Tetris: often the aim is to create a harmonious blend of people who will have a good time. Maybe this girl has a cousin coming in from out of town and she only sees him every three years, but what she does know about him is that she and you would get on like… a house subjected to arson, with every other party guest trapped inside, screaming at the windows. Maybe for this specific party it just wouldn’t fit, you know?

    I absolutely get wanting people to kind of socially validate your friendship–“Why no, I’m not ashamed to be seen with you in public!”–but it’s not the kind of thing you can rush.

    • Lis said:

      Alas, I’m typoing everywhere today. I should have written “that he and you would get on like…”

      • Virginia said:

        Good heavens, were you also raised in the US south? Do you also stir your breakfast tea with your great-grandmother’s trousseau silver? **Are we related?**

        • Lis said:

          The last four generations of my family were all born on Canadian soil, so probably not. Which is… kind of disturbing in its own right.

  5. LW said:

    Hello, Letter Writer here. Funnily enough, the day after sending this email, the friend mentioned that she was having her party mid-conversation and asked if I’d like to come – so I guess Smeagol’s going to have to scrub up a bit!

    (You are, of course, all entirely right about this kind of situation anyway)

    • Mary said:

      Hooray, have a good time.

    • JenniferP said:

      Preciousssss! I am so glad.

    • Glad that worked out for you! Fortunately the Cap’n’s advice is always valuable even when the specific situation has lapsed. This blog is great for giving us a venue to talk and think about how we should really be more open and honest with people. :P

  6. Mary said:

    One other big possibility is that it’s like my high school. When I was in high school parties were generally affirmations of existing social groups. It wasn’t the “people who Mary wants to hang with” birthday party, it was the “people who are in Group A” meetup, as facilitated by me happening to have a birthday..

    You didn’t often invite two entire social groups if you were lucky enough to have them, because of expense and possibly also tensions between them. And you sure didn’t invite one person from Group A to a party populated by Group B, because it was read (by both Group B and the A person themselves) as you personally endorsing the Group A person as a new Group B person.

    Think of it as a result of High School Social Fallacies:
    1. You’re in or you’re out. You’re allowed to either sit together at lunch time and get invited to everything, or you are nothing and no one and may not speak to the group if any two or more of its members are gathered together.
    2. You do not have control over your social life, your friendship group’s collective opinion (or that of its Queen Bee) decides who you hang with. (A consequence of 1. Since someone being “in” affects everyone in the group, everyone demands a say in who gets to be “in”.)
    3. I am as cool as the least of my fellows, if someone awful gets “in” we will be reduced to their level.

    Thus, if your school is like this, she may not have invited you because her friends will see it as a declaration of He Is One Of Us And Now Goes Everywhere With Us. This usually peaks a bit younger than your age, but there might be remnants.

    Post-high school socialising is (usually) quite different: an invitation to a party is a token of “I want to hang with this person and/or have him hang with these other people, for this event, because I think it will be a fun few hours” rather than the high stakes of (both Geek and High School) Social Fallacies where it is a declaration of Forever Friends and Forever Group.

  7. kathleendonohue said:

    “Pretty much the worst thing you can do to deepen your friendship with this girl and get invited to this party (or future parties) is to present her with a well-reasoned argument for why you *should* be invited. I also counsel against auditing your encounters with her for signs of how much she likes you, how much she likes you relative to her other friends, how much she *should* like you, and how much talking at her at a certain party or something she said about being glad that you can be friends has moved the value of this friendship up or down on some kind of Friendship NASDAQ.”

    In my weaker moments, I still fight the urge to do this. I am 37 years old.

    The arguments I have formulated for why I should be someone’s best friend/girlfriend/business partner/housemate would have won Supreme Court cases. It’s a real pity that’s not how the world works.

    • JenniferP said:

      We’re geeks. It’s how we do.

      • Sooo true. Your response adequately summed up my feeling on this.

  8. Admiral Backwards said:

    This is fantastic. Thanks!

    • Admiral Backward said:

      I also really appreciated the advice for the “Mayor of Friend Zone,” which was the post that originally brought me here.

  9. This response is incredibly accurate. Its a summation of my life, as well as for most nerds. The only exception to that would probably be I am an unemotional nerd, which means, I don’t really give a crap about other people the majority of the time. Other than that though, right on.

    • JenniferP said:

      You’ve replaced “emotions” with “thoughts.” Not uncommon.

  10. I find that the best way to get invited to parties is to host one. If nothing else, it proves you enjoy hanging out with friends in groups, rather than just one-on-one, and can put you in the party-invite metal grouping. They don’t have to be big or fancy, just something where you do the planning and the inviting. An evening of board games with people you already like and who like you works perfectly well.

    That said, this is never advice I would have taken back in high school. I was far too shy and awkward to risk planning a party and would have spent the entire time fretting that no one would attend. It took until college to realize that I enjoyed hosting and that I find it a low pressure way to further friendships with people I don’t know well. So, your millage may vary but it is worth keeping in mind.

    LW, I’m glad your situation worked out so easily.

    • JAT said:

      I think I’m still getting over the 6th grade birthday party nobody came to. Or called to let us know. After saying they’d come. In September, so I had the rest of the school year to get through with people who (as I saw it at the time) had conclusively proved they did not want to hang with me. And all of that party food to eat up, too.

      So, yeah, I no longer make a lot of food and invite people over, like EVER. I do, however, go to potlucky things with food I personally like, so if nobody touches it I can gladly take it home again, and I have been known to say, “Would you like to go to…” though I’m still working on doing that more often.

  11. LW said:

    Also, your comment about the ‘friendship NASDAQ’ is terrifyingly accurate. These things are everywhere – we can’t forget about the Romantic Interest FTSE 100 either: ‘today she smiled when I approached her. 10 points!’ ‘today she was the only person to laugh at my joke! We’re up!’

    • maggie said:

      It actually makes me cringe, thinking back to high school! Thankfully I don’t do it anymore.

  12. Um…. do what you would do with any other friend (cool?! who cares a friend is a friend, wherther geek, girl, whatever). If this girl is your ‘friend’ she should enjoy your company and want you at her party. Chances are she either 1) forgot or 2) didn’t think you would want to come.

    A simple… “Oi, where’s my invite?!” should do the trick. :) good luck!

  13. The birthday girl sounds like a vivacious, friend-rich person and I suspect that in the long run, you will be a far more appealing friend to her if you have an active, interesting life outside of your friendship with her.

    Yes, this is excellent general advice. People want to be friends with you because it is fun and rewarding *for them*. People who come across as needy or desperate for friendship are a total turnoff. The more fun you project outwards to the world, the more fun you receive back.

    Now that you’ve been invited to the party, go and be a fun guest! And be sure to focus the vast majority of your attention on other guests, not just your host. Hosts love to invite people to their parties who can have a good time and socialize vibrantly without a lot of direct attention from the host. If your host (and others) see you having fun and contributing positively to the fun had by other guests without requiring host effort/attention, you will find yourself on the list of “fun party people”. No host wants to invite someone to their parties who is too clingy or otherwise requires effort and handling.

    • kathleendonohue said:

      This is so true. Some friends had introduced me to a friend of theirs who’d just moved to my town and didn’t know anyone, so as a friendly gesture I invited him to a friend’s casual birthday party. The first thing he did was snark a little about the food and music, then he followed me around and sort of shoehorned himself into all my conversations. While nothing he did was horrible in and of itself, I was in no hurry to include him in anything else we did after that.

      • Admiral Backward said:

        How is it that so many people (me included) learned to socialize by complaining?

        • JAT said:

          I think in the hope that I and the person I’m complaining to will bond over our shared disdain, which is SO MUCH COOLER than shared enjoyment. How pedestrian and conventional, to find the party (or the movie, or the class, or whatever) immediately enjoyable!

          Wow, I’m ashamed that I even understand that.

  14. Chantelle said:

    That description of a geek describes me to a tee – but I have never thought of myself of a geek. Oh my! Perhaps it is time to face the truth!

    Anyway, this is great advice. As someone who is guilty of some of these things myself (but in recovery), moving on with your life and friendship after something like this really works out for the best in the long run. Long, agonising and awkward conversations about “why didn’t you invite MEEEEEE is really not the way to go. Enjoy the party!

    • Chantelle said:

      Oh dear, forgot to close those quotation marks, which will now be hanging unresolved for all of internet eternity :(

  15. Sam1 said:

    The Germans have a really interesting attitude toward all of this. In the German language one does not make friends, one finds friends (Ich habe ein freund gefunden; I have found a friend). This is generally true in their outlook, and I wish it would make it to the United States as well. There is a belief here that one can turn someone into a friend with enough effort. THIS WILL NEVER HAPPEN! People will either like you for who you are or they wont.

    • JenniferP said:

      I love this. You make (or find) friends the same way you make lovers – you meet, there is a spark of recognition that tells you this is one of your people, you build on it. It’s not something you can achieve, and it’s certainly not a zone where you redline people you don’t feel like sleeping with.

  16. SarahTheEntwife said:

    Oh, that geek description is so accurate. Thank you.

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