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#560: It’s *your* party, so why would you invite people who put you on edge?

Dear Captain Awkward,

I’m organising a house party for my 21st birthday, but I’ve run into a dilemma which I don’t know how to resolve. Backstory is, I was dating this woman, let’s call her X, for over half a year. We split up before January. It was my first real relationship and the breakup really, really hurt me badly, and I’m not sure I’m entirely healed yet. Having said that, me and X are on friendly terms, and I like to think that neither of us harbours genuine ill will against the other. After a long period of no contact, X and me started talking against and she invited me to her house party a few weeks ago. I went, and realised that it was a terrible mistake to go. I was pretty unhappy for a few days afterwards. Since then, we’ve still been in contact but only on a fairly light-hearted context.

So, that’s the history behind it. My dilemma is, should I invite her my party? My gut feeling is to say, hell no. I know that if she comes, I won’t enjoy it, and I’ve never organised anything like this before and I’m a bit shy at the best of times so I want to be 100% on the top of my game that evening. Also, some of my friends have a pretty big grudge against her (she never got on well with them when we were dating, and they’ve not exactly warmed to her since we broke up), so I know it wouldn’t make for a very pleasant atmosphere. That all sounds very clear cut, and I don’t expect that she’d want to come anyway even if I invited her. The problem is, since she invited me to her most recent party, and I was also at at her 21st birthday last year which was an event that was very important to her, I feel that not sending her an invitation – even though I don’t think she’d accept it – would be a really nasty snub to her. We’ve also got a few mutual close friends who I want to invite, so she will know if I don’t invite her.

She’s not a bad person and I don’t want to be rude to her, especially since she’s been nice to me and has tried to make things up with me, but I don’t want to potentially spoil an event that’s supposed to be happy. Doubly so, since I’m graduating soon after that and it’ll be one of the last chances to properly hang out with a lot of the other people who are leaving as well. Please help me out!

Sincerely,
Unsure about how not to offend my ex

Dear Unsure:

You can invite anyone you want to your party, and you don’t have to justify it to your friends. You can not invite anyone you don’t want to your party, and you don’t have to justify it to your ex. Good reasons: “Felt like it.” “Didn’t feel like it.” “Forgot.” “Thought about it, decided not to.” “Can fit only 8 people in my living room.” Your party, your money, your booze, your house, your space = your rules about who to invite. 21 is a good time to learn this, so, happy birthday!

You don’t have to be friends with your ex at all. Even if she’s not an inherently bad person. Even if she’s trying really hard to be cool. Even if you’re friendly, more or less, you definitely don’t have to be good friends with her or let her back into your inner circle. An invitation is not a contract, or an order.

Say you agree with both me and your own gut, and you don’t invite her. Say she finds out that you had a party and didn’t invite her. Say she invokes Party Smeagol and actually brings it up with you and tells you it hurts her feelings. Awkward! What can you really say? “I’m glad we’ve become somewhat friendly again, but I wanted my birthday celebration to be uncomplicated.” “Oh, didn’t realize you’d want to come to that. Maybe next time.” 

You don’t have to work hard at this lady anymore. Happy birthday!

Edited To Add: This Miss Conduct piece on how to figure out who to invite to what is great.

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113 comments
  1. Myrin said:

    Aah, the dreaded party invitations.

    My relationship with my mother is pretty much as ~perfect~ as it can get, but the one thing I will never stop to bring up somewhat angrily when a topic like this comes up is how she wanted to make me invite someone to my birthday party when I was a little kid just because that person had also invited me to their birthday party that was before mine.

    Oh my god, I still remember the rage-outs I had when in that kind of situation. My logic was “But I didn’t force them to invite me, they did it because they wanted to. Sucks that I don’t want to invite them!” which maybe is a somewhat childish way of expressing it, but the basic logic is something I still stand by although I haven’t been on either side of that kind of situation in a long time.

    • storyranger said:

      My mom had a rule that you had to invite either everyone in your class, or everyone of your gender. So me wanting just my friends (aka, all the guys in the class plus one girl) was absolutely out of the question. And when my mom told me we couldn’t afford to have everyone one year, and I would only be allowed to have the girls (most of whom I hated and who hated me) I stopped having birthday parties altogether.

      Until I was 19, living away from my parents, and threw myself my own 19th birthday party with only 6 trusted friends and a kick-ass baking theme. Learning to exercise my right to control MY event was the best thing ever, LW. Happy birthday!

      • Myrin said:

        Ugh, that sounds like… not fun. :(
        Thankfully, my mum was only ever at the “wanted to make me invite them” stage because I was like the most stubborn child in the world and she knew that in the end I would never do something I don’t want to do (I’m like a mule, they say). Also, she quickly had to admit that 1. she wouldn’t want to have people she didn’t like at her party either and 2. the actual reason she wanted me to do that in the first place was because she felt like the other mothers would judge her for it, not because she actually really wanted me to invite these kids. Which is definitely something that happened, btw, they always blamed her for my “unsocial streak” when this is just what I am like (still!) and what she’s like, too, actually, but in the end she just couldn’t bring herself to force me to do something like that against my will. Happy ending! :)

        • TO_Ont said:

          Wow, I don’t think I was _ever_ allowed more than about six kids. And all the birthday parties I went to as a child, except for 2 ever, were about the same size. That was how it worked — your parents gave you a number – let’s say 4, or maybe up to 8 if you had generous parents with a big rec room, and you told them who of your friends you wanted to invite (and it usually wasn’t only school friends). It was a very rare parent who was willing to have a party for the whole class. Like I said, it happened twice in my life.

          I can’t imagine my parents ever being willing to host a party that big! And they would have been even more unwilling if some of the kids weren’t even good friends of mine. Why would they be willing to provide free babysitting and entertainment and food for a crowd of random children for an afternoon, if their kid didn’t even know half of them well? The idea sounds totally insane to me. The only reason they were willing to let me have as much as six friends over for my birthday was _because_ they were good friends of mine and it was a special treat for me.

          However, my parents’ way was pretty normal where I grew up. They might have had a harder time if they felt like there was pressure from other parents to do things a certain way, or if other parents would be offended.

          • Baytree said:

            Yah, that’s how parties worked where/when I was a kid. Except the standard number was more like 8-12 guests, especially for older kids, and with the expectation that it’d be outside and kind of potluck style.

          • I thought the rule was generally one guest per year of the child’s life?

            The trouble I had was that I went to an independent school where there were only 7 in my class… You couldnt not invite the one everyone hated. And then there would be the pressure to include younger siblings and friends – your own and your friends’… Sometimes I wish Id been in bigger, co-ed classes!

            oP, invite who you want. If you think your ex migt try to tag along, email them to say something like ‘just for friends who like [hobby] / the [thing] crew, hope you understand. All the best.’ But if that isnt a risk, leave it and just do your thing.

            Have fun.

          • Jane said:

            Yeah, that was the way it was in my family as well — my mom said I could have either five friends for a couple hours in the afternoon, or one friend to stay overnight for my birthday. (I always picked the second — awkward and introverted.)

            She did do “whole class” initiatives, shall we say, on occasion — the first three years of my school life she made a little Christmas stocking for every child in my class and filled it with tiny toys (like, silly putty and a strip of stickers and some hard candy.) I think that was her attempt to establish social standing for herself among the parents and me among the other kids, without having to deal with the stress of having a bunch of screaming children in her home. Later she took the somewhat easier option of regularly sending treats with me (did you know that fourth-graders love mozzarella cheese sticks??? That was literally the most popular birthday treat I ever handed out.)

            This subthread is super interesting to me — I think that in a different school I would have been bullied (fat, awkward, smart) and in retrospect I know I was excluded from the vast majority of birthday parties/social events/play dates of my peers, but I also don’t think I would have particularly welcomed invitations from then (a la the “whole class” rule.) Even having five people I chose myself over for a whole afternoon was stressful for me as a little kid.

      • Bunny said:

        Ugh. I remember when my mum pulled the “lets invite your whole class to your birthday” thing of a couple of years. The worst part is, she was doing it because everyone was bullying me and she was convinced that if they just got to spend time at a couple of parties hosted by my family that they’d realise I was awesome and magically start liking me.

        In the end it just made for some really awkward birthdays where I found myself avoiding most of the guests and really, really wishing I could’ve just had the half a dozen people I did like and the star trek theme I wanted.

        • I was known to sit in a corner alone reading during my own parties. Your Star Trek party idea sounds awesome and I would have partied with you. ;)

        • Myrin said:

          Can I just say that I’m not surprised by that outcome at all? (I’m really sorry about it, though. *Jedi hugs*)
          The children who bullied me when I was eleven actually were my friends in primary school and were at my nineth and tenth birthday parties and it didn’t make them continue liking me (although I’m not sure if they ever liked me at all or if I really ever liked them, but that’s an issue for another day).
          So I’m not really sure why someone would think forcing bullies to interact even more with their victims would somehow make them… what? Not bully them anymore? How’s that even supposed to work? In my experience, children bully other children because of certain reasons, stupid as those may be – for me, it was that I was the best in class and also ugly. Them attending a birthday party of mine doesn’t magically make me not!best-in-class and un-ugly to them.

      • Twitchy said:

        Ugh, my /school/ had that rule. It was awful. I was a shy kid who liked small parties, and most of my friends were boys anyway. My mom let me break the rule, which was great, and there wasn’t really any way the school could enforce it.

        I remember one time when I was really little I said I didn’t want someone to come to my party, because we weren’t really friends. Mom said, “Well, if you don’t invite them to your party, they might not invite you to theirs.” And I just said, “Well if we’re not really friends, why would I want to go to their party anyway?” And bless her moments of listening to her children, she just said, “Huh. Guess you’re right,” and left it at that.

      • The “invite everyone, or everyone of your gender” thing was actually a rule at my primary school. When I turned 8, my parents didn’t want to invite the whole class when I didn’t get on with most of them, so they insisted we break the rules by inviting all of the girls plus the two boys I was friends with. That Monday we started the school day by going round the class and telling everyone about our weekends, and at some point my teacher turned to me in front of the whole class and asked accusingly “hang on — did you just invite some people to your party and not others?”. I stammered out that I’d invited all the girls, plus my mum had said that I *should* invite , and I claimed that my (then 4 year old) brother had invited . The teacher accepted this, but I can’t imagine the boys were thrilled to hear me tell the whole class I’d only invited them because other people insisted…

        It’s so nice to be a grown up and be able to invite people if and only if I want them to come!

        • Jenni said:

          My mom’s only rule was that I couldn’t invite all the girls in the class save for one. Although the one person I would have liked to leave without an invite was the bully of the class, I’m still glad for her enforcing the rule, as it would have made me the bully in turn. As an adult, I’ve still enforced that rule that you either invite everyone in the group or max half.

          • I like that compromise between what I recall kid!Hershele hating about the “whole class” rule and what stepparent!Hershele understands the intent to be.

            (Though I don’t think Ostroparents even considered letting me invite just the boys, not that I would have wanted to.)

          • Jenn said:

            That’s the thing. I can understand why the ‘invite whole class or the kids of your gender’ rule isn’t ideal, but at the same time I’ve seen and been a victim of kids using parties against each other.

            And while I wouldn’t want to go to the party of someone who didn’t like me, having it rubbed in my face that I wasn’t invited wasn’t fun either.

        • EdelC said:

          I think schools who have this as a rule are overstepping the mark, even though it is clearly well intentioned. What if families cannot afford a party of that size, what if it is a shy kid who is overwhelmed at school, or is bullied..so they have to have that overwhelm/bullying in their home, where it is supposed to be safe….

          Who a family can or wants to invite into their home is not for a school to dictate.

          • Kacienna said:

            Seriously! The whole idea of the school having rules about what families do in their on homes on their own time just fills me with White-Hot Rage!

          • TO_Ont said:

            Yes, I totally agree with this. That is WAY overstepping some boundaries in a major way.

          • MamaCheshire said:

            The rule at my school is not that you *must* invite everyone, but that if you distribute the invitations AT school they have to be to everyone in the class (or at least everyone of the same gender). Sometimes this gets misunderstood as Must Invite Everyone(tm) but at least in SecondKid’s kindergarten they gave the parent names and phone numbers and emails for everyone in the class, so if we wanted to do anything privately we could.

            Then again, this year the class size was 13 in FirstKid’s class and 14 in SecondKid’s class, so reasonably manageable. I think we actually HAD five at FirstKid’s party (which often happens because FirstKid’s birthday is usually the first week of school so it’s REALLY short notice to pass them out at school) and about 10 at SecondKid’s.

            One of SecondKid’s friends just had his mom e-mail me for an invite because he’s shy and easily overloaded and did NOT want the whole class there.

          • Linden said:

            Wow, that’s crazy. My kids’ school doesn’t have a rule like that. I’ve never even heard of such a thing.

            My kids are twins, so they have their party jointly. They are each allotted 10 invites, and since they have friends in common, they negotiate with each other over who invites who. Since they aren’t inviting their entire class (and since they are in separate classes that would be 60 kids), I instruct them to give the invites directly to the attendees at recess or lunch, where it won’t be rubbed in other kids’ faces.

          • staranise said:

            That kind of rule is technically supposed to prevent social bullying. My school didn’t have that rule, so girls would show up at school one morning with a stack of invitation envelopes and make a big point out of who they gave the envelope to, and who they passed by as a deliberate snub. It made birthday party invitations a really excruciating form of aggression because technically the perpetrator wasn’t doing anything wrong. (Full disclosure: I was ostracized all through elementary school and social aggression against kids is an important cause to me.) I don’t think it’s a perfect solution, but schools are working to reduce the opportunities kids get to pull that kind of stuff, so a lot of kids these days don’t get to distribute invitations at school, pick their seatmates, or choose sides for sports teams.

          • mehting said:

            In the US, I suspect a rule like that would be unconstitutional. Freedom of speech! And association! Kids have it too (less, but they have it). Also, yes, super over-stepping, and intruding on parenting.

          • Sparky said:

            I too remember invitations being passed out in grade school. Any system that keeps this from being used as a tool to exclude any of the children sounds good to me.

            In collage there was going to be a Valentine’s Day party among my group of friends, but couples only. My asexual self was not half of a couple, so I wasn’t invited. I would have been oblivious about this party occuring, none of my paired friends were thoughtless enough to say anything to me, but the hostess told me in front of everyone that I wasn’t invited because it was a party for couples. I know she was trying to be kind, but it didn’t feel that way at the time. I would have preferred not knowing about the party to knowing there was a party, and why I wasn’t invited.

          • Jenn said:

            Letting your kid be a bully to other kids is not a constitutional right. But then I think people are missing the point.

            The rule isn’t to control what kind of part you throw, the rule is there to attempt to prevent kids from being assholes to each other.

            My school had that rule, but they also said if you didn’t want to invite everyone that was fine, just the invitations would have to be issued in private. Meaning if you only wanted five friends you’d have to call them, or ask them at recess, or lunch, or after school.

            What you couldn’t do is pass out invites to your five friends in class and talk about the great party you leaving the other kids out of.

        • storyranger said:

          And rules like this are so narrow minded about how children form friendships. Like, “of course a girl can ONLY REALLY be friends with girls, so there is no way she could truly mean it that she only wants boys at her party.” Because gender is the sole deciding factor in the closeness of children’s friendships!

          I could have lived with a 50% rule, because I could have prioritized and had the most important people to me there, not just all the ones with whom I happened to share some socially constructed identifiers.

          Also, from experience, being invited to a party just for the sake of the person’s parent’s not feeling like a social outcast is really awkward because it’s usually totally obvious within the first 5 minutes that you aren’t really needed.

          Giving invitations at your own discretion is one of the primary joys of adulthood.

          • TO_Ont said:

            I think any actual official school rule about birthday parties is wrong from a school. It’s just not up to them, sorry. Parents have the right to decide who they invite into their home or not, and what rules they enforce in their own child’s life.

            However, when it comes to what’s polite and kind, I agree that I’d avoid inviting almost everyone in a clearly-defined group and leaving out just one or two. If you don’t genuinely want to invite everyone in some well-defined group, then it would be better to make the party much smaller than the whole group. Or if you want a big party, make it a big mix of people from different parts of your life, and not all from one ‘group’.

            Though even there I can think of occasional exceptions….

          • boo said:

            Agree – I think that a better rule (if one is needed) is a simple one; no handing out party invitations on school grounds. That’s all that’s needed to avoid pointed exclusion and embarrassment.

      • My mom’s rule (which seems extremely sensible in retrospect, but which no other moms mentioned so far in this thread seem to have used) was that you could invite the number of kids as the age you were turning. So, for my seventh birthday, I could invite 7 kids, etc. This kept the party sizes substantially smaller than class sizes (especially considering church and non-school friends) so there were no obvious snubs. And the party sizes were age-group suitable. What parent wants to supervise 25 7-year-olds?? Any parent looking for a birthday party rubric, I can recommend this rule-of-thumb. :)

        • storyranger said:

          I LOVE THIS! This is perfect!

    • garlicknitter said:

      This sounds like old-fashioned manners, where when someone entertains you, you must in your turn entertain them. Now, there are some aspects of old-fashioned manners I like, or at least find interesting (like if everyone is drinking a toast to you, you shouldn’t drink yourself but smile your thanks and blush modestly if you can manage it), but, yeah, kids’ birthday parties? Maybe the kids don’t have to be miserable for the sake of their parents’ social standing?

      • mallard said:

        I think there’s a vague idea that kids aren’t capable of having nuanced feelings about each other, and that the only reason one child might possibly not want to spend time with another is if that child is absolutely TERRIBLE. And few parents want to tell another that their offspring is absolutely TERRIBLE.

        • MrsMorley said:

          I think it’s a recognition on the part of parents and teachers that some kids won’t be invited to parties otherwise.

          • twiggles said:

            As the perpetual new kid with poor social skills, this was me. Let me tell you, when the birthday girl invites only girls and excludes just one, it stings.

            This is way too complicated for a school policy, but as a parent I am thinking of a 50% rule: the moment you invite more than 50% of a major demographic (boys, girls, class, team), then you have to invite 100% of that demographic. To avoid inviting everyone, you can choose to have a small gathering. I know, not entirely fair to the kid, but elementary ages kids aren’t known for their broad view on social ramifications of their actions.

          • the invisible one said:

            twiggles: yup. I wasn’t the new kid, but I was one who only got invited if the entire class was invited. Same with elementary school valentine’s day cards. (Usually a parental edict, I don’t think the school had a policy.)

          • lengarion said:

            I disagree a lot with this. While it sucks badly to be left out of a cool party that “everyone” is going to, nothing can reasonably be done about that.
            - Getting a forced invitation -> the others will make the kid pay + kid will be miserable there anyway.
            - Forcing the party host to invite other kid or otherwise invite none/less kids -> unfair treatment + kid will feel like their party was ruined.

            I’ve been to my cousin’s daughters (H.) birthday parties the last few years where family + other guests of the parents sat together while the actual friends of the girl hung out by themselves.
            My cousin’s best friend would be there each year and bring her own daughter (M.) along, although the kids never really liked each other.
            This one year when H. turned 13 she had begged for M not to be invited. Her ‘cool’ friends were there and she wanted noting to do with M.
            It was painful to watch. Of course M showed up – no-one had warned her. H threw a fit and was told to either suck it up or send everyone home.

            In the end, H’s day was ruined and M sat with us adults the whole afternoon and evening. It was very uncomfortable. I don’t see how not being invited in the first place could have made it any worse for M.

          • @theinvisibleone – We had that “everyone gets a valentine” rule in all my classes growing up. There were still at least two years when I had fewer valentines than everyone else. Ouch.

          • JenniferP said:

            As children were taught that it was not okay to dislike anyone, because God said that you had to love everyone. So “I only love you In God’s Way” was a sick burn on the third grade playground, Charlton Massachusetts, 1983-4.

        • *sigh* Yes. I have a whole story from when I was eight, and a creepy girl in my class was obsessed with me. I disliked her strongly, but she had spun this whole story about how we were best friends, and all adults believed her; meanwhile she was a serious Level 10 creeper of the type that grown men aspire to becoming. When the girl eventually manipulated adults into inviting her to my party (a long story) and I firmly rejected her advances, she tried to set herself on fire.

          Infinite facepalms. And apparently, though we were both eight-year-old girls, the other parents thought it was my fault because I’d led her on, only to cruelly reject her friendship in public. (Thankfully my own parents were like “That is BULLSHIT and you are BULLSHIT and look how CREEPY that kid is.”)

          • JenniferP said:

            10,000 YIKES.

          • Wow. That kid needed help for sure. Part of that help should have involved other parents not acting as though setting oneself on fire is a reasonable response to not being invited to a party.

      • WhenSheWasGood said:

        Even with old-fashioned manners, though, it doesn’t have to be reciprocated in exactly the same way. Someone hosts you in some way, then you host them in a some way. So the parent could just invite the other kid over for a play date or something. My guess is that it’s just easier to invite them to a birthday party, plus the parents are probably thinking that it instills a sense of fairness, and that this is what they’d want for their own kid–to not be excluded from a party for a child who had come to their own child’s birthday. But doing things that way doesn’t really teach your child proper manners *or* how to navigate the social world as a grownup. It’s taking the easy way out now and making things harder for your kid later as an adult.

    • My mom insisted that we invite kids by grade to birthday parties. So I could have all the fourth graders, but if I wanted to invite one third grader, I had to invite all the third graders. (Since class sizes at the time were 3-6 kids per, this was not a huge number variance.) But in that case it was because we were living in a super-duper-tiny missionary community where everyone was up in everyone else’s business constantly, and she’d made the mistake of letting my older sister invite only preferred friends to a birthday party once; there’d been months of social ramifications for my mom with angry parents after that one.

      And she actually explained this to me. The number of people available was small enough that if I only invited some, I’d be inviting a majority with a few kids left out, and those kids would feel deliberately snubbed, and their parents would be angry, so…sorry, kid.

      Once we moved to a place with bigger classes, though, I could invite whoever the hell I wanted. Invited 8 kids out of a potential 10 looks like a lot more of a snub to the leftover 2 than it does when you invite 8 kids out of a potential 54.

  2. Suzy said:

    Ugh, I could have done with something like this for a milestone birthday of my own. My situation is slightly different in that the individual concerned is a friend, not someone I was in a relationship with but is very much someone whose company now makes me full of a generic rage and very little patience. This person is very much someone who possibly would have confronted me (I hate confrontations) and may have tried to bully/guilt me into inviting them, and possibly dragged other people in. Also they were in a hobby group with me so it would have been AWKWARD. So I wound up inviting them at the last minute. Thankfully they didn’t turn up. But thank you, Captain for reminding us that we don’t have to invite people who we don’t like being around to stuff.

    • JenniferP said:

      It’s okay for some people to be “that obnoxious story-topper guy I run into at friend’s house 2x/year” person, and you don’t have to invite that person to your own stuff just because your other friends like him.

      • Suzy said:

        I KNOW. And it’s not worth having them there being all “oh I’m so hard done by because X,” when in actual fact most of the problems they have stem 100% from the fact that they are a giant asshole. Or interrogating people about someone might have said about them. This happened at my wedding with someone they barely know, when in actual fact this other person DID NOT TALK ABOUT THEM AT ALL, shockingly because the world doesn’t revolve around you!

        • delurking said:

          You could totally be talking about my former best friend. One of the many reasons I cut off contact with her is that she would give me a guilt trip if I didn’t invite her to hang out with my other friends — including a female friend she’s never liked and has gone so far as pretending to be sick once she found out this other friend would be going.

  3. boutet said:

    “You don’t have to work hard at this lady anymore. ”
    Oh my god this. Looking back at friendships that fell apart, this is huge. Otherwise it’s like you lose all the best parts of the relationship but keep all the worst (the work, the anxiety, the guilt) and that just sucks.

  4. I’m sorry you’re going through this. I know it’s hard. I say no. Don’t invite her. This is your party. It’s all about you now. At least on this day. So don’t invite her. If you guys run into each other and she asks why you didn’t invite her to your party be honest. Tell her that you didn’t feel comfortable inviting her because you didn’t enjoy going to her party. Tell her you haven’t yet healed 100% and you just needed some time. That’s it! Enjoy your 21st birthday party. DON’T invite her. :)

  5. *sings* It’s your party, you can invite who you want to… if they were my ex, they’d be out of luck tooooo…

    • Polychrome said:

      ha ha ha ha ha perfect.

  6. Mris said:

    I actually lost a friend because she wanted me to use my bridesmaid status to guilt the bride and groom into inviting her to their wedding. And that was a big dish of nope with nope sauce and some OH HELL NO on the side! “But I’m friends with the other people who are going, and it’ll be–” Nope! “When the other people in our social circle have gotten married, they’ve chosen to–” Nope! “I feel like they really ought to consider–” NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPEROONI NOPEREENO NOPE I DON’T THINK SO NO.

    Practice on smaller events so that when it comes to larger events like a wedding or the birth of a child, you are practiced at the saying of nope. It will serve you well in things large and small.

    • fir3dragon said:

      “NOPEROONI NOPEREENO”
      This is the best. I like you and we should be friends.

    • Suzy said:

      Wow, what a total cow. It’s like “If they wanted you there, they would have *invited* you. They didn’t forget, wedding guest lists are laborious as fuck, they know who’s there.”

    • lengarion said:

      My parents tried to pressure me into inviting my uncle + family to my wedding. My alcoholic, sexist, “I hate all foreigners, especially Americans and Russians”- uncle. To a wedding where the groom was an American and half of his friends either Russians or Americans. And pretty much everyone was an atheist and/or gothic. It would have been a disaster. With only about 2 dozen guests, there was no weird corner to hide him in.

      On the good side, it made me realize what a jerk my father is. He cared more about keeping his face to my uncle than his daughter having a nice wedding.
      I still would have given in though, hadn’t it been for my husband pointing out that *he* was paying for the wedding and *his* day would have been ruined, too.

      The privilege of being a party host is that you get to decide who’ll be there.

  7. Hell, if you feel like you really want a solid excuse because “I just didn’t want to” is hard to say, use the fact that it would be awkward with your other friends who don’t like her. You want a drama free birthday, not people being tense at each other.

    • Beth B said:

      I’d be hesitant to do that, because it can easily smack of “Look, [i]I[/i] like you fine, it’s just that a lot of our other friends find you really annoying!” Which is a sucky thing to do to anyone involved. If it’s all open and up front, such that you can go “Well, mostly I invited This Crowd” and be sure she’ll respond with “Oh, yeah, I get it, I’ve never meshed well with those folks and we all know it,” then fine! But otherwise, it can get into magnifying hurt feelings rather than minimizing them.

      When in doubt, go with “Oh, sorry!” and no explanation. Or any of the Captain’s other good suggestions that don’t involve other people’s feelings — “Oh, sorry, didn’t mean to hurt your feelings,” or “Oh, sorry, I just was trying to keep it a small party,” or “Oh, sorry, maybe next year,” or whatever suits you and lets you change the subject to something more neutral. If she keeps pressing: “Look, I’m sorry if your feelings were hurt, I didn’t mean to make you feel left out. But I don’t get why this one party is such a big deal to you…?”

      • Beth B said:

        Oops, good job with the font tags, self.

      • piny1 said:

        Honestly, I don’t like this approach either. I think that if she does actually say something like, “Hey, that hurt my feelings,” the subtext is probably, “What’s the deal?” It’s reasonable to step back and clarify. She knows about the breakup, after all, and she probably doesn’t want drama simmering under the surface. I think the most straightforward solution would be to simply tell her the truth: “I care about you, and I’m glad we’re on good terms, but the breakup was difficult and sometimes I still need space. I hope you can understand – I don’t want you to feel bad, and I didn’t do it to hurt your feelings.”

        AND THEN you can be like, “…Yeah, I got it, but I don’t want to make a big thing out of it, because space. Ta!”

        “I don’t get why this party is such a big deal to you,” is disingenuous: it’s not that it’s a big deal to her. “I don’t get why you’re reading some sort of deeper meaning into this thing I did because there are, in actual fact, all kinds of dramatastic feelings swirling around in my head and heart,” is not fair. “Why would you think there are feelings, there are no feelings, how crazy of you to perceive feelings!” is not fair, especially since nobody in the history of human contact has ever been able to deliver that line in any other way than, (CLEARLY AGITATED:). It’s also different from, “I don’t want to talk about this.”

        And if someone says, “Hey, that hurt my feelings,” “Oh, sorry!” is kind of an inadequate response. If you have zero interest in a relationship with that person or are like whatever, sure, but it sounds like these two people are tentatively working out a aquaintanceship with mutual-acquaintance complications, and in that context you can’t just be like, “Oops, guess I did!”

        At the very least, LW should be aware that it won’t just imply, “No feelings talk, please!” This is fine, depending on the intended outcome!

      • fir3dragon said:

        I’m a big, big, huge fan of “[Statement]” with little or no explanation. “I’m sorry” works or “I wasn’t up for it” or “I can’t,” or any variation thereof. What’s the point in explaining? It’s neither up for negotiation, nor is it fixable if it’s past.

        • piny1 said:

          I don’t agree with this. I don’t think anyone is entitled to an explanation, but an explanation can definitely improve an apology. “I’m sorry, I just wanted to be by myself,” and, “I’m sorry, I was just busy that week,” and, “I’m sorry, I just wanted to have a small dinner party,” can be helpful. They can make feelings less hurt.

          Nobody is entitled to a certain level of contact or degree of friendship – and it’s on us to be grownups about it and not try to guilt our friends into liking us more. And nobody is entitled to know why they were not invited to something, or entitled to argue about someone’s stated reason for rejecting them.

          But some of the time you need to know what the relationship is doing – and in this particular case, this ex lady has to deal with an enormous amount of really fraught ambiguity. She may reasonably want to know whether she’s being frozen out – or whether this person she basically likes needs additional space from her. This is probably awkward for her too.

          And, well, some people, e.g. quite often women, get edged into this, “I am having bad feelings [about your obvious bad feelings]!” because they’re not allowed to assert that other people are having bad feelings. “You hurt my feelings,” is an approved feminine way to say, “Hey, do we have a problem?” That’s a fair question, and it is okay to say, “No, I just [whatever].”

          If LW just really does not want to deal with this, then they shouldn’t. Talking about things does require effort, sure. But it’s not unproductive.

        • EdelC said:

          I love the non-explaining statement too, my favourite is ‘I am sorry, but that doesn’t work for me’…if the answer is ‘why’ ..you say ‘sorry it just doesn’t’…….fini

          • I always end up feeling like those automatons are brain dead, though.

          • Karyn said:

            . . . automatons?

      • I really disagree with your recommendation of “Look, I’m sorry if your feelings were hurt, I didn’t mean to make you feel left out. But I don’t get why this one party is such a big deal to you…?”

        For a start, it’s an if-apology, not a real apology for presumably real hurt feelings. Worse, casting her concerns as “making a huge deal over this one party” is immensely invalidating.
        The subtext of the whole phrase is “you’re wrong for having bad, wrong feelings and opinions.” She’s an ex. The two once cared about each other. They’re now trying to be friends. They do care about each other. Friends are allowed to mention it when a friend is acting weird towards them, they’re allowed to try to fix problems between them, and without knowing what the exact issue is it’s hard to know how to behave going forward -in this situation, it could be one party with external influences, she could have upset LW at the last party, or LW could be freezing her out of their life completely.. Asking what’s wrong, as she did by bringing up hurt feelings, is a normal reaction, while telling her she’s irrational for having that reaction, denying there’s a problem when there clearly is, and refusing to take her seriously is just rude.

    • piny1 said:

      I think this is a really unkind thing to do to this woman and to all of the LW’s friends. Even if it were true, and even if they weren’t quiet about it. They shouldn’t be dragged into any of LW’s ex drama, or used as an ex-drama human shield. And this exacerbates the original problem, it doesn’t solve it.

      • Sheelzebub said:

        I agree with this. Short of feeling unsafe around someone (which doesn’t sound like the case at all here), I would not ever be rude or nasty to a friend’s ex or current SO. It’s their party, they are my friend, I want them to be happy and enjoy it. Don’t use me as the heavy, though. Just be honest.

  8. Laboratory Unicorn said:

    OH MY GLOB LW this was me three years ago. It actually kicked me into reading Captain Awkward.

    I was turning 21, like yourself, and I was having The Most Shit Year. I wanted a party where I wanted to have all my friends at the time over, but this started ending up in a massive snowball of bad people wanting to come along. I was feeling very friendless at the time as I had just been kicked out of my uni where most of them were and I was starting over somewhere else.

    The course of that evening I had-

    One guest turn up with his ex, make out with his ex, call his boyfriend in another city and hid in my bedroom because he said he was a terrible boyfriend.

    One guest trash our living room from sheer bear can power. I was still picking up cans weeks later behind sofas, in sofas, behind the TV, etc.

    One guest try and hit on me incessantly with my boyfriend standing there (we both told him politely to go away).

    Oh, plus flatmate who kept on making fun of me for being kicked out of uni and getting frustrated at my efforts to still be nice to him.

    All these people were people who either asked to come but I wasn’t keen on inviting them (urgh social pressure, have to be nice!) or felt obligated to invite. Needless to say, I haven’t done that since. It truly made me realise that my time is only worth it to people who make me feel happy.

  9. Guava said:

    Hey LW, I feel your pain! A couple of years ago, I found myself making bullet pointed pro/con lists about inviting one particular “friend” to my birthday party. The only positives to inviting her ended up being: placating her and avoiding the giant tantrum she would throw if she hadn’t been invited. There were so many reasons why I didn’t want her there. So many very good reasons!

    It got me thinking that maybe this person and I…shouldn’t be friends. Because I had come to realize that I really didn’t like her at all, I was just exhausted by her steamrolling tactics and tantrums every time I made a plan that she didn’t like.

    The Captain is absolutely right – this is your birthday, and you are entitled to invite people to your party who make you feel happy and good. Your gut is telling you that X is not someone who makes you feel happy or good right now.

    Should X have the chutzpah to confront you about not being invited to your party, I suggest: “I’m glad we’re getting along these days… but sometimes, seeing you still reminds me of our breakup, and I didn’t want to spend my birthday in that head space.”

    I think that’s as nice and clear as it possibly gets, and people who will try to argue you out of a position like that are not looking out for you, or good for you.

  10. MrsMorley said:

    I vote “don’t invite her.” It doesn’t matter that she’s a good person, she’s your ex, not your friend, and you don’t want her.

  11. Miss Congeniality said:

    Just playing Devil’s Advocate here for a bit – when I was 21 I was definitely the social center of my friend group/nerd club (being the lone extrovert in a pile of introverts helped). I organized ALL the parties, to the point where if someone else wanted to throw a party they’d ask me to do it because I was already on everyone’s party radar. I only found out a couple years after that there was a whole undercurrent within the group where people would measure their group popularity/acceptance by how close I was to them personally (ew, and also sad and teenagery).

    The reason I mention this is because along the way a friend in the group did something very, very nasty to me. I was furious and hurt and could barely stand to see this person without openly being rude about it. I told him we could no longer be friends and that I’d do my best to avoid him.

    There was a witness to this drama who later took me aside and explained how, because of my position, I couldn’t excommunicate the Mean!Person because of how it would disintegrate his entire social network. By not inviting him to parties and including him on large group outings I’d be ruining all his friendships, not just the one with me. The implication was that I’d be abusing my unasked-for popularity powers out of spite.

    So to avoid that awkwardness and be a nice person I kept Mean!Person around, at least for large parties – the result was a pretty utilitarian greatest-good thing.

    So I guess contrary to popular opinion, I’d argue that multiple factors need to be considered beyond “do I personally like this person? y/n) If an invite to your party has far-reaching social consequences, maybe think twice before shrugging her off?

    • JenniferP said:

      See, to me this anecdote says “def. do not invite, and also don’t invite the person who pressured you into it.” If people want to be invited they shouldn’t be shitheads, you have no “greater good” obligation to let them in your house.

      • Myrin said:

        I agree with this, Captain! I’m not really sure how party… attribution (?) works, but I think as long as it’s you who organises a party it’s also *your* party (no matter if it’s at your home or somewhere else). Like, we’re not talking about a party that is just happening where everyone can come and go (some kind of “open” thing at a club or something), but about the kind of party that *you* plan and *you* throw, right? Which means you get to call the shots. If you are in the position to invite someone, that means you are the decide-r, which also means you can decide to not invite someone.

        Also, “By not inviting him to parties and including him on large group outings I’d be ruining all his friendships, not just the one with me.” – I’m sorry, but I daresay people who want to be friends with him will continue to do so regardless of him showing up at parties. Or they can throw their own parties and invite him. Or *he* can throw parties. Many possibilites we have here.

        • mallard said:

          An argument could be made that teaching this guy that doing Mean Thing could have real and painful social consequences would actually be the utilitarian greatest good.

        • Re: Myrin’s final paragraph: No, he wouldn’t throw his own parties, and it’s extremely likely he would lose all his friendships. I’ve been in groups of introverts–it’s so easy to fade away, even if people still like you and want to hang out. But his doing a bad thing and losing all his social contacts as a result would be bad because…? (And it’s OP’s problem because…?)

          • Stardust said:

            Just wanted to point out that people below talked about experiences they had where a more introverted person DID throw their own party, so I really wouldn’t be as categorical about it (“No, he won’t throw parties.” You don’t know that. Maybe he won’t. Maybe he will.).

          • Kootiepatra said:

            Introvert here. I did a lot of mopey “boohoo people don’t invite me to things” as a teenager. I had very few friends. It sucked. It hurt. I am in no hurry to relive that phase of my life.

            However, part of growing up was figuring out that the rest of the world did not owe me a social life–I had to create my own. If I wanted to be friends with someone, I couldn’t just feel sad that they didn’t invite me to their birthday. I should invite them to coffee. I couldn’t just have self-pity over not being on the party radar (I was one of those people who wasn’t disliked, but was also sorta invisible). I could, however, throw my own party.

            Because I’m an introvert, I’ve never transformed into a super-hostess social butterfly. But I learned how to have friends. I learned how to initiate hangouts, whether large or small. Mean!Person needs to learn how not to be mean, and also needs to learn he, and only he, ought to bear the weight of maintaining his own relationships. Introvert or not, he can throw his own party. He may not want to, but he can, and it would do him good to learn how.

      • This, a million times this.
        You have to deal with some level of other peoples deals outside of your house, but it’s good to learn early that your house = your domain. So buh bye ex!

      • Phospher said:

        I invited someone who hurt me badly to a party I didn’t really want them at recently, for “greater good” reasons, but the thing is, it was the greater good for ME. I calculated that if I didn’t have them at this specific event, they would definitely know, it would –kind of rightly — be taken as I Do Not Like You Any More And This Is A Big Deal,whereas my entire goal is for there to be no big deal, nothing but calm indifference, ever again. So I thought I would end up being more stressed about them, their feelings and their possible reactions than if they just came and I talked to them about inconsequential things for five minutes. I also did it on the basis that on the other side of this one invite was freedom and I’d never have to do it again. And it was fine, I feel it was actually a pretty good brick in the “building your own closure” wall. (TBH I think there was even a subtle burn in being able to be all “Well, you wanted to be here, and you are here, and you’re getting bland friendly civility and NOT A DROP MORE and it SUCKS FOR YOU, DON’T IT.) But I wasn’t doing it to maintain that person’s friendships for them. No one should have to do that for someone who’s treated them badly.

        Also, there’s a difference between “intoverted” and “lazy and unpleasant.” Miss Congeniality, your dickhead acquaintance clearly wasn’t so introverted he couldn’t enjoy the bustle of a party, so long as he didn’t have to do the work of throwing it and got the benefits of your efforts without even having to bother to be nice to you. Even if he really, truly, could not throw a party to save his life, he could ask a handful of friends to the coffee shop without you. And even if he couldn’t do THAT, that would not be your fault or your problem. Your story reminded me of the Little Red Hen!

      • That’s how I’m reading it. People have no obligations to provide arseholes with a social life. The person who pressured Miss Congeniality needs to sit down and read the Geek Social Fallacies until they understand why it matters.

    • Mris said:

      Being a social hub is work. Even if you are an extrovert, you are doing serious work within a social network if you are the organizer. If people do not like how you organize things, do not have your social priorities, etc., the fact that you have previously been doing this work does not stop them from doing it themselves. I am an introvert. I organize parties, meet-ups, and other social events. (While disabled! and eating crackers and humming the theme song from the Mary Tyler Moore show! I promise, it can be done.)

      Here’s a somewhat more neutral example. If you, the social organizer, broke your leg, you would not be obliged to organize a dance party or a hike “for the good of the group.” If “the group” wanted to have an event like that while you were laid up with a broken leg, “the group” could find someone who was interested in organizing it, rather than leaning on you to do uncompensated underappreciated labor that, in that particular case, you wouldn’t benefit from.

      Mean Person is not more your problem than people who want to dance while your leg is broken. By all means, let them. But let them lift a finger to make it happen.

      If you had agreed to do something that was more a public service, such as being the president of a formal, organized club, okay–but those things have terms of service. You can resign. There are written rules about what Mean People can and cannot do and get kicked out. “But you’ve always done this before” is one of the worst ways people trample your boundaries; you don’t have to let them.

      • Monika said:

        This happened to our friend group when I (the organiser) had a nervous breakdown and landed in a mental institution. One of my more inteoverty friends told be about how she was at home on a Friday night (an odd occurance in our group) when another friend called and said “with organiser in the hospital we might have to organise ourselves a bit more”. It was a bit of a revelation.

        Now 3 years later I do a lot if the organising but everyone in the group pitches in sometimes. We get a greater variety of things to do also.

        I think I just ended up recommending a nervous breakdown.

        No. Don’t do that. But hopefully communication can render the same results!

      • Felicity said:

        “But you’ve always done this before” is one of the worst ways people trample your boundaries; you don’t have to let them.

        Just wanted to be the cheering section for this. This is so true. It can be really hard, because sometimes it means you have to explicitly restore a fallen boundary (“I know we used to hug, but I’m not comfortable with it any more”) but it is so awesome to remember that Present You is your boss, not Past You or other people’s Expectation You. *cheer*!

    • Alexandra said:

      I hear you say this, and all I can think is how much better my own life got after I stopped thinking like this, and stopped inviting people who were jerks to my house, even if that meant they were left out of parties “everyone else” was attending, or didn’t get to do activities they wanted to do, or actually had to be responsible for arranging their own social events if they wanted to see their friends. Being responsible for making sure that everyone in your friends group has a social life even if you personally dislike them sucks, and I am glad I stopped doing it. And the minimum price of admission for attending a party I am giving is not being mean to me.

    • Twitchy said:

      I’m glad it worked out for you. It sounds like he kept things cool and you struck a good balance by only inviting him to large group things. But imo, you weren’t responsible to be his social planner forever just because you were when you were getting along. He could’ve set up his own outings and gatherings, even if it would’ve taken more work.

    • Miss Congeniality said:

      Erk. It looks like I kind of derailed things a bit. Sorry.

      But just to clear up a few points, I was both social organizer and Leader of a Club to Whom People Looked for Guidance. The line between Me-Parties and Club-Parties was virtually nonexistent because college is weird. And at 21 I didn’t have a house, I had a dorm and shared space was the norm. On this special college planet the geek fallacies ran rampant, meaning my not being friends with Mean!Person could, in fact, mean the difference between him having 40+ friends who are cool and shared his interests or having all of them reject him because he harmed *One of Us*. I couldn’t justify it to myself and it did all work out, but again, special college planet.

      As far as the LW is concerned, I really hope you sort things out. It sounds like you don’t want to invite her, so don’t. If she brings it up it’s easier to respond with the truth than a lie. Something like “Sorry, I realized when i went to your party I wasn’t as cool with things as I’d like. I didn’t mean to snub you or anything, I just need more time before we see each other.” More time can mean never if you want, but while you might lose face a bit it resolves most other problems that could come up. Hope that helps!

      • JenniferP said:

        Your strategy makes a lot of sense, but I do want to go back in time and flick the person who pressured you to keep inviting mean guy in the nipple.

      • Just to double-derail, while I do think that social consequences for someone being a massive jerk are kind of… a good thing? I feel you hard on this as I’ve been on the other side, sort of.

        My partner’s flatmate had a history of being an arsehole to his girlfriends. She was also the hub of his social group. She was a passive-aggressive jerk to me from the day she met me, and basically he lost his entire friend group because he stopped being invited to things. (Before it got to that point of course there was the wedding he went to but I wasn’t invited to… because they “didn’t think we’d still be together by that time”. -_-)

        His opinion, and mine, is that they obviously weren’t really his friends. But it still sucks.

  12. EdelC said:

    Organising parties are work but the compensation for that work is that you get to have fun, if having person X there means that it negatively affects your fun (and the fun of your other guests) then person X does not belong there.

    additionally, I see my home as my sanctuary. I don’t want people in my home that make me feel uncomfortable, or unhappy. To me they pollute my sanctuary.

    In my opinion you should only allow people you are comfortable with, into your sanctuary. Put a bloody huge barrier in the way of the rest.

    Your home, your choice.

  13. Kim said:

    As reasons not to invite someone to your party go “Because they are my ex” is a pretty good one. If for no other reason than you might want to flirt with other girls at the party and your ex being there could make that uncomfortable.

    If your ex is a nice person and over you, she’ll appreciate that and wish you well. If she’s nice and not over you then she probably doesn’t want to see that anyway. And if she’s not nice then she doesn’t deserve an invite anyway.

  14. Shannon said:

    God did I ever need this advice about 3 years ago. From experience — don’t do it don’t do it don’t do it. A bad breakup in college left me mediating two different friend groups, one of which ~couldn’t understand~ why I’d leave my ex out of anything because she was part of the group too. The last couple years I just haven’t even wanted to do anything for my birthday at all because I just associate the whole thing with so much stress and anxiety and social maneuvering. It’s your birthday. You should be able to celebrate it in a way that makes you happy and comfortable, and as your ex she should be able to respect that — or learn to respect that.

  15. Would you feel okay with being proactive and telling your ex that you’re not feeling as good about things as you hoped you would? There wouldn’t be a need to even mention the party. You need space from her in general, not just on that particular night.

    Downside: You have to admit to her that she still affects you emotionally. (I assume this is something that bothers you, or you would have done the above already.)

    Upsides: (1) For every future situation, you won’t have to think about how to inconspicuously avoid her. (2) When she learns about the party, she won’t be surprised and hurt; she’ll understand why you didn’t want her there.

  16. fir3dragon said:

    My experience: I had a friendgroup for the past many years which I’ve drifted away from over the last while. It’s been painful and lonely, but I realized that they really weren’t my bag anymore. Two months ago, my birthday. I thought about it for two days: do I invite these girls to my bday dinner? I’m still kinda one-on-one friends with two of them. Do I invite just one, and explain to her why not the others? Do I invite two, and know the third will hear about it from them?? (The 3 are supertight.) Going over these scenarios I felt like I was in junior high, and I was getting a stomach ache.

    I sent out an email about the dinner, thinking that I had included the two semi-friends, plus real-real friends who I actually wanted there. Then I re-read the email moments later and saw that I’d erased the semi-friends’ names without remembering that I did it.

    I was grateful. I was relieved! I got relieved-er as the days went by. However my brain short-circuited, I knew it was the right thing because of all this great relief.

    I would have invited them for only bad reasons: because I felt like I “should,” and just in case they might later ask why. Instead I felt relieved and I even rehearsed to myself what I’d say if one of them asked. They didn’t. And when it came time for my birthday dinner I was SO GLAD THEY WEREN’T GOING TO BE THERE and had a much better time without them. I’m grateful that I didn’t “should” myself into what would have been awkward and totally not worth it.

    • Guava said:

      Isn’t it funny how events like a birthday bring certain relationships into such sharp focus? Besides it being a milestone, blah blah blah, I think the act of organizing a birthday event for yourself forces you to ask yourself, “Who do I want to celebrate my birthday with? Who makes me feel good when I’m around them?”

  17. LW said:

    Hey, it’s the LW here. Just wanted to say thanks to everyone for your advice! I’m fairly decided now that I won’t invite her. Also, Kim’s advice re: my ex’s presence being a downer on attempts to flirt made me laugh because I completely hadn’t realised about that kettle of fish! Definitely a good (if somewhat selfish) reason.

    • neverjaunty said:

      LW, I think one thing that might be tripping you up is that you are feeling bad about ‘should I invite a friend who upsets me’. Remember that X is not your friend. She is a person with whom you are on friendly terms but you do not have a relationship or, really, a friendship anymore. And so while all the advice about who to invite/not to invite here is excellent, you’re even a step removed from the annoying-friend-yes-or-no question. It’s more ‘should I invite somebody who isn’t my friend, isn’t a spouse/partner of one of my friends, and who makes me anxious’? That’s a pretty obvious no.

      • storyranger said:

        Remember that the relationship you have with someone, and the relationship they have with you, and the one that society says the two of you have, are three completely different things. I’m getting that you see this girl as “essentially nice and someone I am willing to be civil with but not my friend, really” and that is the ONLY view on the relationship that matters. Just because society touts the “exes should stay friends or never speak again” line every chance it gets doesn’t make that view of the relationship valid.
        Go forth and have an amazing party and do a little flirting for us all, k?

  18. therufs said:

    I personally would not be above mentioning offhandedly to Friends Mutual with Ex that you weren’t expecting to be so bummed out after having seen Ex last, and hoping they’d at least figure out to minimize your-party-related discussion around Ex. If you are less awkward than I, you might even not have to be offhanded about it.

    Also, happy birthday!

  19. “Forgot.”

    Hi, um, this is the one word in the advice that bothers me. Partly because it comes across as lying, partly because it opens an invitation to additional awkwardness when a clueless friend says “Well, no problem, let’s call them up now.”

    Unfortunately, I have a long bad history with this. As an introverted child, most of my friends, especially my best friends, couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t want to play with them sometimes, and often took it personally. So I got into the habit of little white lies to carve out some me-time without hurting their feelings, ignoring the fact that it was making me feel guilty about lying to them. I had a pretty major falling-out with one of them in Jr. High school over it.

    So I agree that you don’t need to justify your decision to adult friends. I just think it’s better to keep the deflection honest.

  20. panda flannel said:

    Ugghhh yes. The awkward-at-the-time thing that made my birthday party 1000x more fun this year was saying, “No, sorry, too many people” when my friend asked if his girlfriend could come. It wasn’t totally true, I knew he could see through it and was a little surprised, and I probably could have put up with her obnoxious bullshit semi-politely like I do all the rest of the time…but then I realized it was my own fucking birthday party. I can grit my teeth the other 364 days of the year.

    • Guava said:

      Seriously. Sometimes the price of one awkward conversation is so worth the payoff in peace of mind!

  21. Blue Meeple said:

    I’m sorry to post an unrelated comment, but awhile back I tried to join the Friends of Captain Awkward forums, but I never got an activation e-mail, so I can’t log on. I don’t see a way to contact the site administrators, so I’m hoping one of them will see this and can help me out. Thanks!

    • Hi Blue Meeple,
      The forum isn’t doing email confirmation at the moment, so if you try again you should be able to make an account immediately.
      *vanishes back into ether*

      • Blue Meeple said:

        Ok, now I’m confused. I tried to log in, it said my account is “inactive”, whatever that means. I tried to create a new one and it said that e-mail is already in use.

        • It may be your browser…?

  22. I’mma gonna say, life is my party, so why would I invite people who put me on edge?

  23. Kootiepatra said:

    This is timely for me. I’m in the process of buying a new house, and I know I will be needing to ask friends to help me move and paint and take down the gosh-awful wood paneling in the living room. I’ve already worked myself into a tiny bit of a tizzy over it, because there’s one person who might want to come help whom I do not want to be there.

    He’s a good enough guy, and we’ve known each other as casual friends for a long time, but he recently behaved like a grade-A jerk (including Facebook smear campaigns) to some people I really care about. It’s seriously damaged my trust towards him. I don’t mind that he doesn’t get along with everyone I know, but I DO mind that he stirred up massive drama over it. He’s never been anything but nice to me personally, so I’m not sure he has any idea that he’s in African violet territory right now. I might be willing to reconcile with him, but we have to actually reconcile–I can’t just pretend like nothing happened.

    And I’m not sure that’s a conversation I really want to have while I’m moving. Worst case, he finds out he wasn’t invited, and then we have the real conversation later, when I’m not exhausted and covered in paint.

    • With moving/painting help, you can always say you had plenty of volunteers, didn’t need to ask more folks. (That does send a quiet message that he’s not in the inner circle, too.)

      • JenniferP said:

        This is the perfect solution. “I had enough people, but thanks!”

  24. secretrebel said:

    I’d caution against saying: “Oh, didn’t realize you’d want to come to that. Maybe next time.”

    Firstly because I don’t think it’s a good idea to make your excuse for not inviting people that you didn’t think they’d want to come. What if they not only did want to come but think you should have damn well realised it? In general I think you should invite the people you want to see and let them decide if they’d want to come. That includes people who sometimes feel antisocial, people with dietary restrictions of access issues. It’s up to them to decide if they can cope with the company, the food and the venue. In my experience people hate being told that you didn’t think something wasn’t their kind of thing.

    Secondly what happens if their response is to say “I’d always like to come to your parties, definitely include me next time” and you still don’t want them to come. The you’re in an even more awkward position.

    So, be truthful. If they ask why they weren’t invited say “sorry, but I just didn’t feel I could cope with having you their” or “I thought I was ready to be friends again but then I realised I’m still bruised from the breakup and I couldn’t cope” or something that’s fair and honest – but as unhurtful as you can manage.

    But ultimately know that people are entitled to their feelings and if they want to be pissed at you for not inviting them, that’s their right. You can’t manage those feelings or talk them out of their reactions.

    If you don’t want them to come, don’t invite them and take the fallout.

  25. Emmych said:

    Yeah, pro-tip from someone else who was friendly with her ex: if it still hurts to be around them, you’re not obligated to hang out.

    I’ve pretty much worked out all the things I can around my break up, and my ex tried really hard to make things up to me, but I still can’t hang out with her because it hurts too much. There isn’t a logical reason to not hang out other than it hurts, and you know what? That is valid. I am allowed to cite that as my reason not to hang.

    And you’re allowed to cite that as your reason not to hang with your ex, if it ever comes up! I’m sure anyone who’s ever been through a break-up will immediately understand and not bug you about it.

  26. Neuroturtle said:

    I have personal experience as That Ex. I broke up with a person who was roommates with a Social Hub, and I lost access to most of my social group. Yes, it sucked. I may or may not have spent some time drinking alone and watching How I Met Your Mother.

    But I understood. It wasn’t about me. He needed them more than I did, and for something like your birthday I’d say that counts double. If she still wants to be friends I’m guessing she cares enough not to want to hurt you, even if it stings a bit.

  27. Sissa said:

    Birthday parties.. urgh. I have a classic childhood trauma story from when I was like 11 or 12 – I had invited the whole class (or as good as the whole class), and had been looking forward to that birthday party for weeks. On the day itself I sat by the window, waiting for people to turn up. An hour passed by, another hour passed by.. One friend came, the rest had gone to another classmate’s birthday party instead. I was never invited to that party, nor did I have any idea that she was going to have hers on the same day as I had mine.

    I was bitter for a long, long, long time.

    Ah, well… now I’m old enough to not have to care about my own birthday too much. :) Turning 26 next Saturday, whoop.

  28. Nina said:

    I was That Ex’s new girlfriend (sort of). Now-spouse and I got together in college right after he broke up with his ex and right at the beginning of the school year. We were quietly disinvited from all parties that year because spouse’s ex was one of the co-hosts of our circle’s parties all year long.

    It stung a bit, but honestly, we didn’t really want to be at a bunch of parties that were going to be SUPER AWKWARD for us too. We just made other opportunities to hang out with the friends in our friend circle whom we did want to see. Like Neuroturtle said, it wasn’t about us; it was about giving spouse’s ex space to get over the relationship. However we felt about it at the time, spouse’s ex was completely reasonable in not wanting to invite us to her house.

    Also, in retrospect, I’m glad we didn’t get any invitations because that would have necessitated a lot of complicated social calculations and second-guessing about what the correct answer was – did she want us to say no and was just inviting us to be polite or save face? Or were we supposed to say yes to show that there were no hard feelings and we were all totes friends still? Blech. Being disinvited was awkward in the short term but sooooo much better in general.

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