#711: Is it rude or wrong to invite myself to someone’s house?

The Captain's cat, Beadie, on her desk with a fat tail and anime eyes.
“HAI, I HAVE INVITED MYSELF TO YOUR DESK!” – this morning in my house.

Dear Captain Awkward,

I was recently called out for inviting myself over to my friend’s home to show off my new bike. It didn’t occur to me that that was what I was doing, I was just excited, don’t get to see her much, and the bike shop is close to her home.

I have routinely over the last year asked if she were free for me to drop in for a hug when fetching mail (I receive mail in the same building as her office) and that’s seemed fine. The only difference I can tell between this and the bike incident is that it was about a bike and it would be me dropping by her home rather than office.

I already add a fair number of caveats to my speech, my precise meaning often misunderstood. For example, I often add ‘in the (near) future’, when asking if someone would like to get together as a number of people thought I meant right now. I can’t tell if this is a serious enough thing that I should consider a caveat for this type of thing too.

I’m not sure if it’s germane to this issue, but I considered her until about a year ago my best friend. Even before then she’s become increasingly distant and I’ve been getting the impression that if I’m not in her life in a certain way, she doesn’t have space for me.

Regardless, I’m wondering how big a transgression this is- another blog said that inviting your self over to someone’s home is viewed as rude and presumptuous and should only be done seldom with a very, very close friend. Is this something I should be policing in my speech? I used to, when my father called called me on inviting myself over to a classmate’s home for her next birthday (I said let’s do x instead of y next year) when I was 7 or 8. Moreover, I don’t quite understand what I said wrong (I wish I could remember the exact words I used)

I’d appreciate any words of wisdom you can share.


Moderately Confused

Dear Moderately Confused,

The etiquette of invitations varies widely as to region, culture, relationship & history, personality, not to mention cellular phone ownership and use, and it’s a particular minefield for people who have anxiety around and/or trouble reading nonverbal or “unwritten” social cues. I also think that Ask vs. Guess Culture plays a part, where Askers figure “Why not, the person can just say no!” and Guessers are like “Arrrghhh how can the person not know better/I find it very difficult to say no to a direct request.” So I’m glad that you wrote in. Maybe by unpacking this for you we can make a lot of people feel more comfortable and less anxious about this.

Speaking for myself, personally, a same day text or phone call that says “I’m going to be in your area, are you free to hang out later for a bit?” from a friend is more than fine but an unannounced and unexpected knock on my door, like, “Hi, I’m already here – here to hang out with you!” is pretty strange. Once, it wouldn’t be a big deal, but if it happened often with a particular friend, I’d have to say “Can you call first” or “I prefer advance planning.” I mean, if my friend really has to use the bathroom, or their car needs a jump or their bike has a flat and their phone is out of battery, without question I’d want them to come to me rather than poop their pants or flounder for assistance, but I am *personally* not one for the serendipitous fun hangout at my house. Asking a little in advance gives me a chance to refuse if I’m busy or say yes enthusiastically (and shame-clean) if I’m not.

Again, that’s just me, now, in a large American city where most people I know have cell phones. In the time before cell phones, or when I’ve lived in more rural settings or traveled outside the U.S., the norms were and are different. It also varies depending on how close my relationship is with someone. Is this someone I’ve invited to my house at one time or another? Has their baby barfed on me/Do we spend a lot of time in each other’s houses? Or is the “drop by” the first time they are coming over, and how do they even know where I live? It wasn’t always this way. In college, in dorms or group housing situations in the early 1990s, friends were like vampires: Invite them in once and then they were pretty free to come and go, and there would always be that one person who doesn’t pay rent but is nonetheless always around. Now that we’re grown? Call first.

I can’t say what’s objectively right, but I can say that I think this particular friend of yours might be somewhat like me in these preferences relative to you and how they see your friendship. “Home” vs. “work,” “surprise!” vs. “planned,” and “you inviting yourself” vs. “her inviting you,” speak to escalating levels of intimacy. Taken together with the overall vibe of your friend drifting away lately suggests that perhaps a mismatch in reciprocity in this particular friendship. Repairing this friendship might involve giving your friend some space, planning things more in advance (“Hey, I’m picking up my mail tomorrow at 2pm, do you have time for a quick visit then?“), and in not going to her house unless she specifically invites you there. Whether inviting yourself to someone’s house is just fine or not okay in general, you have information that dropping by this particular friend’s house is not okay.

As to your other question, about how you and other people in your life seem to interpret time and intent differently around invitations,“In the near future,” “Soon,” “Later,””Sometime,” all mean different things to different people, and this also varies widely as to region and culture. For example, my friend M, told me about a cultural quirk where he grew up in Brazil. Imagine the following conversation happening when two Brazilian friends who haven’t seen each other in a while run into each other in public.

A: “Hi old friend, so good to see you!

B: “Nice to see you! You should come by the house later!

A: “Later, I’ll definitely be there!

B: “You’d better be!

If I overheard that I’d think that A is surely going to B’s house later that day. But, as M. explained, if there is no specific time indicated, it is not an actual invitation, just an expression of being glad to see each other and intending to make plans to hang out soonish. “Come for dinner tonight at 8:00″ is an invitation, “Come by later” is “Hey, glad to see you, we should catch up at length soon.” I haven’t spent time in Brazil, so I don’t know if that’s a Brazilian thing or a dudes-who-grew-up-with-M-specifically-where-he-grew-up thing but it is a real thing, and M. has had to rethink and clarify it for American friends now that he lives here.

That’s one culturally-specific example, and I don’t want it to create a spiral of you/everyone-who-reads-this second-guessing the reality of everyone’s invitations, but I think there is something that you can adapt from it, dear Letter Writer: If a “soon”/”later”/”in the near future” suggestion by you or invitation from someone else seems unclear, clarify it by suggesting or asking about a definite time and place. 

Example #1:

You: “I really enjoyed meeting you, I’d love to get together sometime soon.”

Them: “Sure, that would be great.”

You: “So happy to hear it. I’ll text you early next week and we can set something up.”

Example #2:

Them: “I never get to see you. We should hang out later!”

You: “‘Later’ like tonight, or ‘later’ like, let’s look at our calendars and set something up?”

Them: “Calendars!”

You: “Great. Can I text you tomorrow?”

Example #3:

Them: “This was great, we should do this again sometime.”

You: “I agree. I’m free next Thursday, if you want to try for then?”

They will say yes or no and you will figure something out. If they are always “too busy,” skip* to the end.

Example #4:

Them: “I want to see What We Do In The Shadows.”

You: “Me too. Any interest in a Saturday matinee?

Them: “Saturday is bad, but could we do the 2pm on Sunday?

You: “That works. Meet you at the theater at 1:40?


I think many of the people in your life will be grateful to you for placing things firmly on the space-time continuum. We’re in a cultural phase where “Are we still on for tonight?” is an actual question people text you 15 minutes before you’re supposed to meet them, and it’s so great to hang out with someone for whom “Come by my place Saturday at 9:30” means I will go by their place Saturday, at 9:30 without any further confirmation or negotiation being necessary. You can find other people who mesh with how you like to do things by being that person and modeling the behavior.

Example #5

Imagine a group of coworkers or classmates or casual acquaintances you know from your board games group or whatever are discussing their weekend plans. Imagine you are friendly but not close friends with all of these people, and let’s look at what’s good “inviting yourself” and bad “inviting yourself” behavior.

Person #1: “I have my cousin’s baby shower on Saturday.”

Red light means stop. You know this, I’m sure, but do not invite yourself to the baby shower. If you were invited, you’d already be invited. Your script(s) are: “That sounds nice/Are you looking forward to it/Where is it/I hope there are no diaper cakes.

Person #2: “I’ve got to clean the house, we’re having people over on Sunday.”

Red light means stop. You know this, I’m sure, but do not invite yourself to this gathering. It is at someone’s home, and if you were invited, you’d already be invited, or the person will use this conversation to specifically invite you by adding “If you are free, you are welcome to come.” Your script(s) are “I hope the weather is nice/that sounds fun/Is it for a special occasion or just hanging out.

Person #3: “I’m doing house stuff, too. Gotta install the air conditioners and figure out how to assemble that Ikea desk.”

Yellow Light. If you are super-handy and you want to help, you could throw that out there, “I love an allen wrench. Do you want a hand?

If the person enthusiastically responds, like, “THANK YOU, I WAS HOPING SOMEONE WOULD SAY THAT, COME BY AT 11?” then you are invited.

If the person is like “Erm, I think I got it, but thanks!” let it drop. You didn’t do anything wrong by offering, but respect the no and do not insist or continue offering, like, “Well, here’s my phone number in case you get stuck,” etc. Let it drop now, and eventually you may become good friends with this person and have the pleasure of building their KALLAX.

Person #4:It’s Free Comic Book Day Saturday, so I’m gonna go find a store and pick up some stuff to read.” “Going to a street fair devoted to tacos.

Green light means go. You could say “I’m going to go to X Comic Book Store that day, want to join me?” You’re not inviting yourself along on their day, you’re inviting them along on yours. You could also say “Want some company for the street fair? I love tacos.” If they say any form of “Thanks, but…” or “That won’t work this time because (reasons)…” or “Aw, I wish I could but I have to…


This is where it gets tricky.

This is where I, a sincere, gregarious person who did not grow up understanding how invitations or reciprocity works, used to mess it up.

When I really wanted to connect with someone, I used to read the “soft no” as a problem that I could solve, like, “Oh, that’s not a problem, I can come to you instead!” “I will deliver the free comic books to your house, along with ice cream, and that random vacuum cleaner part you once mentioned in passing that you needed!” I looked at the reason for the refusal and ignored that it was a refusal.

“That sounds nice, but I need to find this part for my vacuum cleaner” means “No.” If you get one of these refusals-for-reasons, a good thing to do is to say some variation of “Gotcha! Another time maybe” and then talk about something else. “No” doesn’t mean “I hate you” or “You have bungled this invitation horribly,” it just means they don’t want to hang out with you right then, so, move on and don’t try to solve “no” equations for “yes.”

*Finally, we’ve talked about what to do if someone seems open to making plans initially, but you never actually seem to make plans, and this seems like a good time to review it.

If you try TWICE to schedule something with someone you don’t know very well,

AND they decline both times,

WITHOUT offering up an alternative or making a visible effort to make something happen,

…give yourself permission to stop making an effort to get onto their calendar.

Don’t do anything dramatic, or say “Guess you must not have REALLY wanted to go [hang] out sometime” or otherwise press the person for reasons or reactions. Just stop trying. You didn’t do anything wrong by issuing invitations, but either the other person isn’t interested enough to make you a priority, or they are interested but don’t have the bandwidth right now to make you a priority. Either way, the fact is that they aren’t making you a priority, so stop scanning “no” for signs and traces of a yes. Then, make a conscious decision to switch your focus elsewhere: on another new friend or date, on a hobby, on a great book you’re reading, on showing up in some way for the people you already know and love. Either the object of your attention will track you down when their schedule clears, or they’ll drift back into your orbit in some serendipitous way a few months down the road and you’ll have the opportunity to try again, or they won’t. If you can learn to be a bit easygoing about this, you will come across as a very relaxed, chill dude [person] who is not afraid to ask someone out [take the lead socially] but who doesn’t hold on too tightly. That’s an attractive quality. It’s also a good way to practice self-care, by saving your time and attention for people who reciprocate.

Intimacy and connection with other people means putting yourself out there, taking risks, and sometimes making mistakes. Letter Writer, I hope this gives you some clarity, and lets you put your dad’s mean voice in your head to rest. You were a little kid. You were learning. Let that one go, ok? The situations in this response aren’t sticks to beat yourself up with, they are ways you can be more confident and comfortable in making plans with others.

373 thoughts on “#711: Is it rude or wrong to invite myself to someone’s house?

  1. Excellent advice from the Captain. And just a side note: My number one pet peeve is people showing up at my house unexpectedly. I don’t care how close we are. Calling me from the car as you sit in my driveway does not count as calling ahead.

    1. And mine is people that won’t stop by even when they’re in the area, even if they are driving right by, even if they have nothing pressing to do, JUST because some people think it’s rude. I MISS the days when people would stop by and you could invite them in or chat briefly on the stoop, as suited the homeowner side of the drop by. Then again, those were people who didn’t expect you to drop every little thing to amuse them, and before living in a way that wouldn’t allow for friends to stop by without cleaning for hours weren’t a thing, either. Le sigh. It’s not for the better.

      1. Honestly this bothers me sometimes too, even though I don’t like completely unexpected visits. Like if they would call/text and say “Hey, we’re in your area today. We’ve got a few errands to run, so how about if we drop by in about 30 minutes?” that would be perfect. Ugh, why can’t people do exactly what I want them to??

      2. I never lived in those days. Possibly it’s an age thing or a location thing.

        I am so so glad I never lived in those days, and that people who know me understand that “Hello friend, I am here now, drop the thing you were doing and climb stairs and corral pets and get dressed if you weren’t wearing something street-appropriate and break your focus because after all, it will only be for a chat on the front porch!” does not fill me with joy.

        1. Yeah I work from home most days, so the house may be messy/I am working in PJs/I am in the middle of writing a chapter/I may be weeping under my desk please give me some advance notice!

          1. That’s me, too: I’m self employed and work from home, and unfortunately some people seem to think this means I am available to chat any time of day they happen to feel like it/ be nearby. (“Nearby” happens alot, because the supermarket is right across the street.)

          2. Same here. It’s both a blessing and a curse when people know you’re at home all day because it also happens to be where you work. I am good at putting on the Social Face when I have to, but I’ll be damned if I will summon it just because someone decided to drop in for the heck of it. Advance notice gives us time to put on Social Face (brush hair, brush teeth, put on clothes that don’t do double duty on a scarecrow or Halloween decoration, plus whatever tidying up around the house/shame cleaning we feel compelled to do) and to sort out our work/chore schedule around the visit.

          3. My French teacher taught me a great saying (in English, no less!) when I was in high school: “I own a phone for my convenience, not yours.” I apply this to the doorbell as well. Obviously it has practical caveats, but not answering would train people not to just drop in.

      3. The thing that you are missing, it sounds very much like you miss it from a privileged position of not having safe-space related anxiety. Those good old days are likely to have sucked for people with anxiety disorders/other mental health issues/chronic pain/chronic fatigue. The world has changed to respect those people’s boundaries, rather than requiring those people to (JUST) lower their boundaries to match yours.

        If you want to build that kind of social situation into your norms then it’s (JUST) up to you to tell your friends to stop by whenever they’re in your area.

        I am not even going to touch the remark about cleaning.

        1. Thank you! I was coming to say the same thing.

          I don’t have guests for the same reason I don’t have Facebook- I just can’t do that and keep any semblance of mental equilibrium

          Where I grew up there was an ‘open door’ culture. People literally opened each other’s front doors and let themselves in. Even as a kid it mortified me, people would laugh when I rang the bell or knocked on the door. My room was never a safe space, my parents would randomly trash it, tearing posters down, tossing the place for evidence of… fuck knows what, then throw out all of my stuff. Sometimes I’d be forced to stand there screaming and pleading with them to stop, which usually resulted in a beating for being so “ungrateful”.

          This house is my safe zone. Since I became bedbound I’ve had to have my parents here, in my house. Visits are preceded by five days of anxiety, and followed by days of needing to be loved, and held, and told that I am a good person, and that my parents are shitlords. I haven’t seen anyone else since I got stuck here, and it is horrible, but I’m vulnerable, and need to enforce my boundaries for the time being.

          It would be lovely to not have fear and anxiety due to an upbringing that showed me that I had no right to privacy, and choices or control over my life. Having my room tossed like I was a prisoner in a maximum security prison (into my twenties) means that drop-ins won’t ever happen. When I get back into the world we won’t be able to do spur of the moment stuff any more either, but my real friends understand that, and also respect my need for privacy.

          1. *EMPATHY*

            Sorry you had to deal with all that. I never had anyone randomly search my room, but I too have privacy as a trigger (my issues growing up are a pale shadow of what you went through), and boy do I understand. I have recently realized that these vague but powerful negative feelings I always had are called anxiety, and for me they always centered around dealing with other people.

            Shit like what you describe would scar anybody, and good for you for talking about it openly. Hope you resolve your health issues in some way, and are able to venture out again.

            Good luck!

        2. I totally agree with you–that comment seemed kind of shamey, like “things were so much better when people actually talked to each other” kind of thing that we get when the topic of talking to strangers comes up. (Some people love striking up conversations at the bus stop, whereas it’s my idea of a nightmare). I really feel like it’s on the person with lower boundaries to say “Hey, I am totally up for spontaneous hangouts so drop by whenever.”

          I do quite like the idea of a “I am around your area, if you happen to be free want to get a coffee?” message with no guilt if I am not at home/in the middle of an Avatar: The Last Airbender marathon/having sex/just don’t wanna, though. I am actually super social but also have anxiety, so you know..conflicts!

          1. Recently I’ve taken to IMing my friends if I’m in their area and have a little time. I try to make it clear in my texts that the visit is (a) optional and (b) short duration. Something like “hey! Just realized I’m in your neck of the woods, mind if I swing by for a quick howdy on my way home?”

            So far it seems to work. But, these are very close friends; if they sent me the same thing I’d be comfortable with a “love to see you, but I’m not changing out of my jammy pants or brushing my hair” type of answer. I don’t think I’d send the same sort of “can I drop in?” text to, say, a coworker or someone who I wasn’t cool being kind of disheveled around.

        3. I don’t even have any kind of disorder that would affect it, I’m just a huge introvert. About half of the time the idea of having an unexpected guest fills me with dread because I have used up all my dealing-with-people energy (probably some time in the course of my long work week) and the guest is interrupting my VERY IMPORTANT time alone with my xbox or a book.

          I love living in a super duper access controlled building where people have to call up to be let in because it makes it oh so easy to not be in to visitors without actually saying the words “Right now I would rather stare at a wall than interact with you,” because no one takes those words well even when they are true.

          My mother has a key to my home on the express condition that she never use it unless I have explicitly asked her to or I am actually dead.

          Also I don’t care how YOU (or the poster above you) feels about the underwear on my floor, I’m still picking it up before anyone comes in.

        4. Just wanted to say that as someone with a (diagnosed) anxiety disorder and various other other mental health issues who had their teen years in those days/that sort of a culture, I also miss them. My interpretation isn’t that the world has changed to respect people’s boundaries, it’s that the world (as I experience it) has changed in response to technology and moving to a big city from a small town and that my anxieties haven’t grown less because boundaries are different, they have just shifted their arena.

          Back in my teens if I was too anxious/busy/unpresentable to talk to an unannounced house caller I would either not answer the door or ask my parents to say I was out. Or if it was only a medium anxiety day I could have a brief chat with them on the stoop/porch and then decline the offer to hang out saying I was in the middle of something. For me there actually felt less pressure to accept these impromptu invitations than there sometimes is with people pre-arranging by phone. They allowed me to make soft nos and those soft nos were more often accepted, because hey, we’re asking if you’re free right now so if you say no we’ll go do our thing and move on with our lives instead of sending a bunch of follow up texts trying to lock you in to a date.

          That’s just me though and I appreciate it’s different for everyone. But I wanted to say it isn’t as simple as saying people with anxiety must have hated that prior culture.

          1. You’re right, I was oversimplifying – I didn’t mean to invalidate your experience. My apologies, Manattee.

          2. No problem Anna Sthetic, your comment was important too, I just wanted to put across another perspective. 🙂

          3. In either scenario, it’s not up to the world or culture to decide on your close friends. You could just speak to your friends and tell them what you want. You could then and could now. It’s not that different.

        5. Hoshit, I missed the cleaning remark the first time.

          I’m in the “I love random visitors” camp, but I’ve also got a very strong case of “friends accept me as I am” fallacy when it comes to those unexpected visitors intersecting with chores.

          And I never, never drop by someone else’s house without warning! If I’m in the neighborhood I’ll text and say “hey, I’m having dinner at X if you want to join” but that’s the extent.

      4. I can see the conflict between desires, but it seems like it might be easier or at least less violating for people who want unexpected visitors to encourage them to drop by whenever than for people who dislike it to tell people to go away.

        I mean, I don’t want to live in a way that allows for friends to stop by without cleaning for hours.

        1. Yeah, eselle, this seems like the best compromise/solution. I grew up in a neighborhood where everyone was always dropping by each other’s houses all the time, and I HATED it. I would hide behind the couch if I was the only one home and someone rang the doorbell, in a place where I was invisible from both the front and back doors. If I was upstairs I’d peer around the corner of the stairwell where I could see down the windows at the top of the front doorway so I could tell who was ringing, and if they were reasonable enough to take no for an answer. I definitely prefer the anonymity of living in an apartment in a city famed for its unfriendliness.

          1. one of the best things about the living room couch in my current house is that I can skulk in the corner and pretend I am not at home if I don’t feel like answering the door, and I am literally impossible to see from outside the house.

            and if someone doesn’t go away and my dogs aren’t already loose in the house (and therefore at the front door barking at the person to GO AWAY), I can also from this position get to wherever the dogs are kept — without being seen, if I am careful — and let them loose to express their barky opinions up against the door glass.

            I suppose if someone REALLY didn’t want to go away I could also let the dogs outside, but that seems more antisocial than is necessary. (I have no qualms about putting the dogs outside if I spot proselytizers or door-to-door salespeople coming down the street, but I won’t put the dogs out if someone is already inside the yard.)

        1. Also door-to-door scamsters, like the kind who would find my grandmother alone at home and give her a long high-pressure spiel about a fake charity until she wrote them a cheque for thousands of dollars.

      5. I live in a neighbourhood with a culture like this–it was built about a century ago and gets a lot of foot traffic, and many people stop and chat on their stoops or run in and out of each other’s yards. My neighbour especially has people just wandering in and tapping at her kitchen window or joining the party on the stoop. Architecture and city planning has a lot to do with it; I can’t imagine it happening in suburbs where houses are widely-spaced and hard to travel between.

        (For myself, it’s exhausting and I dislike the constant stream of people; but I try to be friendly and pleasant, and dream of days when she’s moved out or I’ve moved somewhere more secluded. Different strokes and all.)

        1. Ha, I grew up in a similar neighborhood culture- but in kind of a hippie community where there were few fences and a lot of windows. There were also a lot of community events like potlucks and things, and common areas where fruit trees were up for grabs, so it was part of the whole package, I think. But I also grew up with the unstated understanding that if you bump into your neighbors mowing the lawn or want to drop off a book and chat, you didn’t hang around forever and expect them to re-schedule the afternoon. Kind of the Regency idea of a 15-minute social call.
          But I moved away, and now that I am well out of college anyone who came by unannounced would definitely get a “are you ok? Is something the matter?” response from me, so.

          1. I’ve often considered having a certain day be my “at home” day, as was common in the Regency period. On that day, between these hours, please feel free to drop by and take tea. Otherwise, leave your card with Jeeves, and I’ll return your “call” at my earliest convenience.

          2. Faerierebecca, that is an excellent idea! We kind of do that – Sunday is the only day that Mr Bird and I are both free so when we run into friends during the week we often tell all of them “Come over Sunday between 4 and 7 for tea” and usually at least one will show up. We do our weekly cleaning Sunday morning anyway so that’s also the cleanest time of the week!

      6. There’s nothing wrong with communicating your wishes for your friends to drop by. But there’s a lot wrong with painting people’s legitimate reasons for disliking unexpected people dropping by as some sort of irrational priggishness, and the cleaning remark is just gratuitously nasty.

      7. Here’s the difference between your pet peeve and the pet peeve of the person you’re replying to.

        If people aren’t showing up at your door because they’re worried it’s rude, you just have to let your friends know it’s okay: “I love visitors, so feel free to drop by if you’re ever in the area. No notice necessary.”

        If people are showing up uninvited at the door of someone who doesn’t like it, that someone would have to have a conversation asking them not to do the thing they are doing, possibility coming across as unfriendly in the process and creating some awkward tension in the relationship. Asking people not to do something they’re already doing is much more fraught territory than letting someone know it’s okay to do something they’re not doing.

        That is why people default to simply not doing the thing that some people find rude. The fact that you don’t find it rude, and would love for people to do it, is valid. And it’s also a problem you can fix, without awkwardness or hurt feelings.

        Also, your tone is coming across as really abrasive and dismissive, just so you’re aware.

        1. Oh, and I forgot to add: people who live in a way where they have to clean for hours just to have people over? Are usually dealing with various mental issues that prevent them from taking care of household necessities, and they don’t deserve to be shamed for that just because you happen to like drop-ins. Those mental issues existed twenty, forty, and sixty years ago, too. Please take your high horse out back and shoot it.

          1. Physical issues too. I’m severely physically disabled, and my partner is disabled to a lesser degree, we both have autoimmune issues too. She’s my full time carer and she has a job, so housework is one more stressor. If she’s low on spoons then the choice between feeding us and changing me vs tidying up, then the housework will have to be deferred.

            Her depression means that sometimes shit just doesn’t get done, but her mental and physical health outweigh the need to vacuum or wash up.

          2. I interpreted the person you’re responding to as talking about the idea that your house has to be pinterest-worthy before guests can enter it, which I resonated with. (I’m not saying they were saying that, or that you’re wrong to feel affronted, just giving my read). I have to say that that’s something that I admire about people I know who do make their preference for casual drop-in visiting known without turning into Martha Stewart every time – they aren’t stressed out that there are dishes in the sink or that the bathroom’s grimy. Meanwhile I prefer for casual-visit to mean “let’s go out to the coffee shop”, even though that really strains my budget, because I both have executive function issues that affect my house and experience a lot of shame over those issues. My house is not actually that much messier than some of my friends’ who don’t mind saying “shove over the laundry basket and nudge the books out of your way, welcome to my home”. But my shame level is much much higher and so I never have people over without a sometimes-tearful marathon clean that leaves me too exhausted to enjoy it.

            If you read, for instance, advice columns or domestic humor from eras and neighborhoods that did casual visits, you’ll find lots of stories of people turning the lights off and laying down on the floor to avoid visitors. I suppose the modern equivalent is mostly not responding to a text for six hours and then going “whoops, phone was off”. Which is why I despise despise despise Google Hangouts, but that’s a completely different story.

          3. I’ve disabled Hangouts on all my devices. I use Handcent SMS instead. I was really angry when they torpedoed Google Chat, because at least that had the option to be invisible.

          4. I am just a very messy person (which is sometimes exacerbated by depression). And I’m usually ok w/ that. But I’m not ok w/ other people seeing that (especially when it’s “messy” instead of just “cluttered”). My very best friends know I am a very messy person and in the past tried to convince me that they didn’t care (but I care!). I also figured out that I’m just not that comfortable having people over – not a born hostess, I guess. Now they just accept that they cannot ask to be let up to my apartment pretty much ever – instead they ask if I want to do something or meet them downstairs. If I’m ok w/ them coming up, I will invite them (and they know it). They’re terribly nice like that – they understand that it makes me uncomfortable, and so they don’t put me in that position anymore. Also, the very few times I’ve had someone text because they were walking by, they usually invited me down for a walk, rather than inviting themselves up into my space. And if I’m in the area of someone’s place – I don’t ask to go inside, I usually ask if they want to go do something (usually whatever I was on my way to do anyway). Of course all of that is also because I live in Chicago and we live w/in walking distance of each other and shops and things. It would be different in the ‘burbs or rural areas, I assume.

          5. Seriously. I’m just generally a slightly messy, cluttered person. Couple that with a dusty house due to old heating systems, three cats who I swear shed their entire body weight every week, anxiety and depression, and just having other stuff to do, well, my house does need a couple of hours of cleaning to get company-ready. It’s not some kind of moral failing. It’s like the whole late/early thing. You preference is not a moral standing.

          6. Re: Purple0 (sorry nesting fail)
            Yes to this “Meanwhile I prefer for casual-visit to mean “let’s go out to the coffee shop”, even though that really strains my budget, because I both have executive function issues that affect my house and experience a lot of shame over those issues.” and “my shame level is much much higher and so I never have people over without a sometimes-tearful marathon clean that leaves me too exhausted to enjoy it.”
            I have ADHD and this is a thing I feel a lot. I never quite mastered the maintenance part of cleaning, so having people over is a BIG DEAL.

          7. Yeah, there are lots of reasons somebody might feel like they need to clean for hours to have people over. All the adults in the household work full time, they have kids, they have pets, they have physical disabilities… couple any one of those with feelings of shame over a cluttered or messy living space, and you’re there. When you’ve got more than one of them going on — working full time PLUS kids/pets/whatever — you don’t even need a particularly high level of inculcated shame to feel that way.

        2. I’ve never considered this dilemma from this particular angle (already doing something vs. not doing something).

          This may help put to rest frustrations I sometimes feel about issues where my preference runs counter to that of most people. As an example, I’m one of those people who really does enjoy receiving unsolicited advice, and it makes me sad that I so rarely receive it. I seem to decode unsolicited advice as a show of caring and a genuine interest in my needs. Provided it is offered in good spirit and without unpleasant tone, I regard it as a ‘gift’ that might be useful to me.

          Perhaps it’s an issue of having strong boundaries, not sure. That it would never occur to me to perceive that others regard me as less-than for possibly benefiting from their input may also help. Knowing that I am under no obligation to implement whatever advice I receive makes all the difference. Now should the advice-giver start badgering me to see whether I followed their advice, that’s something else again.

          Anyway, I’m pretty much resigned to the fact that giving unsolicited advice is a social faux pas, so am trying to focus on other ‘gifts’ that others might offer me instead.

          1. Re: ADHD Girl (also sorry nesting fail)
            SOLIDARITY. I’m inattentive-type ADD. Members of my family have actually used my disorganization as the butt of jokes (probably out of the misguided belief that they can embarrass me into becoming a neat freak), and then they wonder why I refuse to let them into my home.

          2. Personally, I’m of two minds on that. Sometimes I want the advice. Sometimes if you give me the advice I will bite your head off. For my part, since most of my friends are similar, I try to make a habit of going, “hey, do you want advice here, or are you just venting?”

            As people get to know me, they learn that it’s usually best not to give me advice unless I directly ask for it (because if I want it, I will). For the chronic advice-givers, this usually takes me repeatedly saying “I know you’re trying to help, but I’m just venting right now so I don’t want advice, thanks.” I used to get REALLY angry about it, but eventually I realized that most people aren’t my horribly abusive family: they are genuinely trying to help, and will stop once you tell them that it’s not helping, rather than continuing until you start crying uncontrollably and agreeing to do whatever they say. Yeah. My family’s got some issues.

            In your case, maybe it would help if you tried throwing out lines like “if you have any advice, feel free” when discussing your problems? Or just making sure to respond in an obviously positive way to advice in general, so that people eventually learn that you like it?

            This kind of stuff is hard, but I firmly believe that there are solutions that will make everyone happy without anyone having to feel ashamed of their preference, goddamnit.

      8. @D-

        ‘people that won’t stop by even when they’re in the area, even if they are driving right by, even if they have nothing pressing to do, JUST because some people think it’s rude.’- Do you actually know that’s why, though? I mean, if someone said ‘I was driving by but didn’t want to drop by in case it was rude’ (or even if you said ‘I saw you driving by, why didn’t you say hello?’ and they said that was the reason) then you could reassure them that you’d be happy for them to come by any time. And if they still didn’t come by then, well, at least you tried. But you might have luck with at least some friends.

        BUT….is it because you assume that is the case when you happen to know someone was in the area and yet didn’t drop round? What counts as ‘nothing pressing?’ Maybe they want to go home and do a Netflix marathon or something. That’s they’re decision as an adult. I hate to say it, but what if they just didn’t feel like seeing you that day? That’s allowed too. The issue of social anxiety has been brought up already, but maybe they have, say, a job that saps all their social energy and they want to spend their day off resting and browsing tumblr?

        To be honest, I’d be really freaked out if I found out someone I was friends with was apparently judging me for not dropping by. I’d probably start avoiding their neighbourhood, tbh. I once traveled to my old uni town to check out my old haunts (also birdwatching. They were birdwatching haunts). A friend of mine lives there and I don’t get to see her that often. But I didn’t tell her I was in the area. I was there to do a hobby that most people aren’t interested in and that I was going to spend most of my time there doing, and the rest of it resting. Some people would probably consider this secretive and dishonest, but tbh I’m not sure she would. She’s also introverted with a limited social energy budget. So if neither of us minds, what does it matter?

        Also, I don’t really agree that there was a certain time when these things were normal and now it’s all changed. There are so many places and cultures out there, maybe it’s still normal for some people? Maybe it was never normal for others.

        1. “Also, I don’t really agree that there was a certain time when these things were normal and now it’s all changed.”

          I agree with you. It’s very common for people to recall the past in a way that reflects an idealized world, or at least one that mirrors a happy period in their young life. They don’t see the big picture, as the big picture conflicts with their fantasy. For every person of their youth who joyfully offered hospitality to all comers at any time, there were plenty who turned off the lights and made sure they stayed out of view of the windows so as not to be put on the spot by unannounced visitors.

        2. Yeah the idea of being judged for passing through and not stopping and diverting your route to go see someone every time? Like… I dot userstand it. You’re not the queen and they have shit to do. Why view it as a personal offence? If you’re a very social person and if you do know how to stick to a time limit then leave, awesome. But so many people want to hang out all day. Or they’d end up interrupting the host through the usually flurry of getting-all-their-shit-done-before-they-inevitably-have-to-go-to-work etc phase.
          I’m pretty social in that I’m at clubs almost every day of the week and so when I’m not I have to cram in stuff I actually WANT or NEED to do. Or I’m burnt out and demand me time just because. If I’m doing my stuff and don’t have the emotional currenncy to make awkward small talk with an acquaintance in the street I’ll darn well duck behind a tree and hide.

      9. Agreed, although as you say I understand why some people can avoid it, with the cleaning and entertaining. But having grown up in the country, where you weren’t likely to be going past Auntie Jane’s house that frequently so why not stop and say hello while you’re going past, I have felt mildly hurt when this doesn’t happen. Like, most of Mr Bird’s family lives in Nearish Smaller Town, and often have to come to Big Town where we live for shopping, doctors, etc. It definitely hurts Mr Bird’s feelings to find out later that his dad, who we have a good relationship with but are only able to see a few times a year, was in Big Town all day with plenty of free time and didn’t stop by (or call to see if we’d be free that day).

        I think, overall, this is one of those situations where there’s no one solution, like Everyone Must Always Call In Advance And Schedule Plans And Never Drop By. You just have to use your words to figure out what works for your own personal social circle. I personally would have been thrilled if OP had dropped by to show off their new bike but clearly that doesn’t work for their friend.

    2. SERIOUSLY this is a big one for me. Don’t just show up. Even just 20 minutes notice for me to put on something more like real clothes and get the dogs situated and get the house straightened up a bit makes it so much better. I’ve known a lot of people who are fine with people just showing up and I know that’s their thing and I’m not trying to shame them and say it’s wrong (if anything, I envy them) but I just don’t understand it!

    3. Also, if you say you’re coming around X time, come around X time. If you can’t, at least call to update me! There was someone who I was expecting at, say, 1 PM, and she didn’t turn up until 9, and it scared the crap out of me, because it was after dark and–surprise!–SHE DIDN’T CALL TO INFORM ME.

      1. Or – if I say, to, in a completely made-up situation, to my dad’s sweet elderly Midwestern cousin, “Oh sure come over for lunch the next time you have to be in town to go to the VA. Oh. Next Thursday? Let’s see – I have body pump at ten — stop at the store – home at noon, shower – yeah – how about one, one thirty?” do not show up at 12:30. While I am still in the shower. And my husband, who works from home and had not planned to eat lunch with us because he is working, has to let you in and entertain you.

        Honestly. Midwesterners. So on time it hurts.

        1. Never, under any circumstances, ever, show up to someone’s house EARLY. Showing up 10 minutes early to a business appointment shows organization and interest and a willingness to wait respectfully in the lobby until they’re ready for you. Showing up to someone’s house even 30 seconds early– there is no lobby, and shame-cleaning is a thing. 5 to 10 minutes late is compassionate.

          1. This is a serious problem in our tabletop games groups. Some people love regularly showing up 30/45 minutes early every time to the point where we’ve started saying “doors open at 6” because otherwise who even knows. My friends had it even worse with a guy who would show up at their house literally hours early. I never got why they didn’t tell him to go away, but I am clearly meaner than them. Often the person will say “oh keep doing what you’re doing, I won’t be a bother” but having somebody else in my house is not relaxing or conducive to me doing things I was in the middle of doing.

          2. (When I am up for visitors) the people welcome in my home fall into two categories: Family, and Company.

            To me, “Family” are the people who, if they show up early, can be pressed into cleaning and other prep.

            “Company” are the ones who can’t, and therefore shouldn’t show up early.

            (Very few “Family” have any known genetic relationship to me.)

          3. Can’t reply to twomoogles here, so I’m getting as close as I can. Sorry!

            When our tabletop gaming group was new to one another, I had a few bachelors who would show up at my place early. Sometimes an hour early. Sometimes right as I was getting home from work. I announced a Rule that “anyone who shows up early is working”, and the next time those same bachelors showed up early, I handed each one a chore. Wash all these dishes and put them in the drying rack; you, here’s a vacuum cleaner and there’s the living room; you, I need these potatoes cut into sixteenths and the chunks then put in this blue bowl here on the counter. Have at.

            They went to it cheerfully! Maybe they were being “good guests”, maybe they were grateful for a way to feel involved, maybe they thought they were bribing the GM to be kind on the next critical botch.

            They also only had this happen to them twice before they stopped showing up early.

          4. What is it about gaming people that makes them like this? At least my friends ask, but – we make plans to meet at a specific time, me and a few friends, and invariably one of them will text the host and say “hey, I’m ready, can I come over now?” and it’s, like, 3 hours early. Usually the host says yes and then everyone else gets texted and comes early, and then we’re hanging out for 9 hours instead of 6 and it’s kind of awful. Because while there are people (very extremely few people) I can happily hang out with regularly for 9 hours, they are not them.

          5. One of my flats about ten years ago, when we had our housewarming party a guy turned up about three hours before the usual start time – about 6 I think, and even at 9 you wouldn’t expect many people to have arrived yet. It was a wide social group that had a mailing list where events were announced, generally one or two a week, and there were pretty established protocols for the types of event (drinkies = earlier, no dancing, quiet enough to talk and socialise; parties = later, music, dancing, acceptable to get drunker; anything else all details laid out specifically). Apparently he was known for it, and it was about the only thing he was known for because hardly anyone actually knew him that well.

          6. I shame-clean in front of people all the time. I guess it’s not really shame for me, though? More like quasi-grudging, quasi-cheerful “wellp, this is what society expects houses to be cleaned like, so I’m getting there slowly” stuff.

          7. I also hate it when people come early– when I’m still cleaning or dog wrangling. But I can’t quite think it’s rude to be five minutes early. I mean, that’s a short enough time that a drive can easily vary by that much depending on how you hit traffic lights. Or even the clock on the host’s wall being a couple minutes slower than the one in the guest’s car.

            I personally would lean toward expecting people at least 5-10 minutes early or late and talk to them if they go beyond that and it’s a problem.

      2. Ah gosh, my mum does that all the time! “Oh, I’ll come round to yours on Sunday at 3pm!” becomes me and the husband anxiously Cleaning All the Things and then she doesn’t turn up until half 5, by which time we’re usually gearing up to prepare the evening meal! Then she’ll stay for an hour and a half!! STOP THAT, PEOPLE. I don’t understand why some people have such an issue with keeping visitees updated if there’s gonna be any changes. A little “heyyy I’m gonna be about an hour or so late!” wouldn’t go amiss, would it? Then we’d all stop being kept on tenterhooks waiting for the arrival of the person.

        It reminds me of waiting in for a parcel, or the electrician. Hey, I’ll turn up between 8am and 6pm! When will it be? ANYONE’S GUESS! Can you go to the toilet without panicking? Hell no!! Don’t even start playing that game you wanted to play, or reading that book you’re reading, because god forbid you’re in the middle of something when someone arrives!

        (I’m sorry I have a lot of issues around this sort of thing ahahah)

        1. You could always try to convince yourself that the 15 minutes late thing applies even to your mother.

          Mind you, mine is always early so I’ve never had a chance to try this — but it could work.

          If she says 3pm pick something fun to do, and leave your house at 3:15.

          You can be nice and tell her you’ll be leaving for fun thing at 3:15. Or you could leave her wondering why you weren’t there. Later you could even tell her that you assumed when you hadn’t seen her that she wasn’t coming by.

        2. Yeah, that’s what bugs me: I understand Things Happen, but to just turn up hours late without an explanation and then expect that the host will want to stick around and talk? No way.

          I mean, most of the time I expect people to at least call ahead, unless an emergency occurred, but to ring my doorbell after dark when you said you’d be here in the early afternoon, without an explanation, is ridiculous.

      3. That goes for online engagements too. *grrr* still stinging from getting stood up repeatedly by two separate people (for different events) last fall. The main reason I was even playing Destiny was to try to reconnect with someone.

    4. Calling me from the car as you sit in my driveway

      However, if I am waiting for you to pick me up, please do not text me to say you are waiting. Please just

      1. Get out of your car
      2. Walk up to my door
      3. Ring the doorbell
      4. Wait for me to open the door and join you.

      There. Was that so hard?

      1. I really disagree with that, for two reasons:

        1. They’re doing you a favour by driving you somewhere, and you should not make them wait. Ideally, if possible, you should be on the look-out for their car and come out as soon as you see them. If you’re running late, it should be up to you to text them.

        2. You have to walk from your door to their car anyway. But why do you want them to walk from their car to your door and back again regardless of the weather? What if it rains, or snows, or if it’s swelteringly hot outside? Do they really need to get out of the car in these conditions because of your preferences?

        1. Number 1: All of this. If I am picking you up at a certain time, best practice dictates that you are at the door, ready to go. If I am 5-10 min early, then I will walk my ass up to your door and knock.

          1. @lizzieonawhim: Ugh, yes. My neighbors’ friends all seem to find a “perfect” place to park while going in to get their friends: RIGHT THE HELL IN FRONT OF MY DRIVEWAY SO THAT I HAVE TO DO SOME WEIRD STEERING WHEEL MANEUVERING TO PARK MY DAMN CAR. Ugh, LA driving/parking sucks!

      2. I don’t see what’s wrong with this type of text (or phone call) in general, though if a person has anxiety about getting texts / phone calls, I wouldn’t do it so as to respect their feelings. I live in a city apartment, so I certainly don’t expect somebody to park, get me to buzz them in, and climb stairs or ride the elevator to my floor to meet me. That could take 15 min, and it doesn’t save me any time! My spouse prefers to wait outside so as to offer minimal inconvenience to whoever is doing us the favor of driving. However, I don’t always like to do that because people don’t arrive right on the dot, so it can mean standing around in rain or cold weather. I have mild recurring plantar fascitis, so standing can get uncomfortable. My ideal is a phone call from a passenger as the driver gets close, or a phone call by the driver from the loading zone. But if the loading zone is filled, the driver ends up inconvenienced, so if the driver has no other passengers I’ll do what my spouse prefers and wait outside for them.

        Anyway, you’re describing this as though everyone knows what’s expected, which is what I disagree with. The big takeaway from this post is that a lot of preferences are situational and individual.

        1. Seconded! My best friend lives in a large apartment building downtown in our mid-sized city. To go to his door I’d have to find a parking spot (often tricky, could be blocks away), pay for parking, walk to his door, and use the buzzer – which just calls his cell phone anyway! Similarly, when someone picks me up, it’s easier for them to text me because I live in a basement apartment that you enter through a gate that locks from the inside. I’m not going to go out early to unlock the gate so they can come to my door – especially when it’s -40C and icy outside, which it can be for months at a time here!

          It is interesting to see all the different perspectives here – it really is individual-specific!

          1. Yeah, definitely– my building has a lock on the front gate that can only be opened with a key, no buzzer/code to punch in/etc., so my friends have to text me in order to get to my doorbell anyway; I would rather they just text me and have me run out to the car to save them the trouble of parking! That said, it’s definitely geographically specific as well as individually; I can imagine that in a suburban neighborhood like the one my parents live in, where street parking is free and widely available, parking and coming inside might be a nice thing to do (although it’s definitely not expected! Back in high school when I lived in that neighborhood, people would more often than not wait in their cars unless they wanted to stop in and chat before we went wherever we were going). But in a city, where street parking is hard to find and the only option is to circle the block forever or else park in such a way that someone’s driveway is blocked (ahem, see my rant a few comments up), it just doesn’t make any sense to do that unless you are specifically planning to visit the person’s home before going out.

      3. My boyfriend usually texts me to let me know when he arrives because the social dance of

        “Hi, I’m here for your daughter”
        “Hi, sorry our dog is all excited you are here”
        “Hi, sorry, I’m right here, let’s go now; love you parents”
        “Bye have fun!”
        “Bye oops grab the dog please”

        is way more hassle than “He’s here; I’m leaving now” especially since I’m usually fleeing with a handful of stuff that hasn’t quite made it into my purse yet. And besides, when he rings the bell or knocks on the door and then takes like a giant step back it’s very awkward. So it works better.

        Hilariously, when he came to pick me up recently he was going to come to the door and ring the bell, but I’d seen the car drive up and was ready to go. He was like “uh, okay?” and I was like “dude you never come up and get me anyway; sorry!”

      4. This is another one that varies greatly depending on culture and region. I think it’s easier for both sides to send a text. Car might be down the street a bit, person’s doorbell/buzzer might be confusing, person might not want to get out of car and feel texting is easier, person inside might be ready to go but using their last few minutes to do something else like dishes instead of sitting outside in the cold waiting, etc

        I also generally text people a heads up when I’m coming over for a planned visit. “just got off the train, be there in 5 min” Then they won’t be surprised when I buzz them or ring the doorbell a few min later

      5. A downside to this is it can feel like you’re expecting the person to ask you to come inside if they need a few more minutes. Which might be fine, but might feel invasive depending on your relationship with the person (I frequently carpool with people I don’t know well, who I’m in no way on a ‘visiting each other’s houses’ kind of relationship with).

        It’s kind of irrelevent in my case anyway, though, because I have no driveway or parking so someone coming to pick me up may or may not even have the option of leaving their car (if they find free street parking close – but I wouldn’t expect someone to find a parking spot and then come to my house, especially if it was winter).

        Ideally they text you when they’re on the way so you know when to be ready, so you can just be waiting for them anyway.

      6. Or you could be waiting on the porch/by the window and ready to go, since someone’s being nice enough to pick you up?

        1. That depends a lot on the setup of your home/street. I can’t necessarily see people driving up unless I’m perched really awkwardly by one particular window (and not out on the porch because then there are hedges in the way), and if I don’t know what their car looks like anyway it doesn’t help. I’m certainly going to be packed and ready to go, but it tends to be easier for both parties if they just call me when they’re there, or even when they’re getting close so I can get to the curb and wait without having to then find out that they’re stuck in traffic and are going to be 15 minute late.

          1. I only meant this to be directed at the idea original idea up top, that someone picking someone up is obligated to park, get out of their car, and ring the doorbell, instead of calling from the driveway (which I believe is ridiculous).

      7. This is really a cultural/different strokes thing. I’d never get out of my car and go up to someone’s door when I haven’t been specifically invited; that would be really rude to me.

      8. I have to disagree strenuously as well. For me, the polite behavior for the person waiting for the ride is that they come out to the car with no prompting. You watch for the car and come out, or even sit on the front step and wait for your ride.

        If I’m waiting a while, I’ll text you and let you know I’m here. Again, only one of us HAS to be out in the weather in this scenario. Especially ride-share to that conference, carpool, etc.

        The exception would be for a traditional date. In that case, politeness would dictate that the person picking up the other person would walk to the door and ring the bell.

        1. Oh god yes. Also for saying goodbye to the people you just visited. You talked 10 seconds ago, could you zip it with the honking??

        2. No kidding. I am sitting here listen to someone honk their horn every 20 seconds for, I don’t even know, 5 minutes? 10 minutes? This happens here every. Single. Day. I keep thinking about going and finding the car and asking them to cut it out.

      9. I used to live in a basement apartment. I’d rather get a text than have them come down the steep staircase to get me, or have to keep running up those stairs to see if they’ve arrived.

    5. OH GOD ME TOO. Pretty much my favorite thing about my house is that, once I’m in it, no one can interact with me unless I want them to.

      1. Some people get really ticked off about the idea that I can CHOOSE whether to answer my door/phone/text/email, and that just not wanting to interact at that moment is a good enough reason not to answer. Like alarmingly angry as if I have broken a major social rule or something. It was really bad in the dorms in college, but w/ the phone/texts, some of my people still get a little shirty about it when I just turn my phone off so I can have some peace and quiet and eliminate temptation to putz around on apps for no reason. I don’t understand it. I am not at your beck and call.

        1. “Some people get really ticked off about the idea that I can CHOOSE whether to answer my door/phone/text/email, and that just not wanting to interact at that moment is a good enough reason not to answer.”

          Had a neighbor knock over and over for 45 minutes, and then YELL at me when I came to the window, demanding I tell her why I wouldn’t open the door when she knew I was home. We actually moved to a new unit in our complex to get away from her.

    6. Whereas I would be absolutely fine with a call or a text from the driveway but ringing my bell without warning runs the risk of sending me into an anxiety spin. Which goes to show how very individual the boundaries are.

      1. Totally individual. I’m like this too and I have an anxiety disorder. Unsolicited doorbell I’ll never answer but texting from the viscinity I feel like I can easily refuse, “Sorry, not a good time, maybe next time” or “sure, let’s meet at the cafe though, my house is a mess”

    7. We have a mutual friend who does this semi-regularly, and I love him, but I am a little feral cat and unexpected intrusions into my territory make me antsy for the rest of the day!

      He only ever is here for 15 minutes and he’s been my husband’s friend for more than 20 years so I don’t feel as if I can be as agressive about my boundaries as I normally am. Especially since I kind of see him as a big brother to me.

      But NONE of my other friends do this, at least not after the first time.

    8. It drives me up the wall too! I love short-notice hangouts, with close friends or family who I feel comfortable saying “no way, my house is a sty and I wanna have a nap” to if I need to, but hearing a knock at the door when I’m not expecting anyone makes my blood pressure skyrocket.

      My SO’s (large, close knit) family is terrible for this, especially since my SO is building a house right now and we have an adorable newborn baby. We’re living in the finished basement while the rest of it gets done. Not only do people knock on the door randomly to see how the house is coming along, but many of them just WALK RIGHT IN! I can’t wait until we have the house finished so I can start locking the door again. It seems like every time I’m breastfeeding the baby topless I hear my MIL calling, “hello?” from upstairs. Ahhhh!

  2. Yes to all this. All of it. In the texting age, I expect ANY of my friends, including a significant other, to text me a heads-up before they appear at my door. My home is my sacred space, man. Also, usually I don’t have pants on.

  3. “Asking a little in advance gives me a chance to refuse if I’m busy or say yes enthusiastically (and shame-clean) if I’m not.”

    +1 to this. I am an outgoing introvert. I really like to have control over when I am around people. I really, really need time to myself, and someone showing up to my house unexpectedly, no matter what, makes me feel uncomfortable and encroached upon.

    It’s funny, because my boyfriend is the opposite. I always check to make sure it’s OK that I come over, and his response is “It’s always fine for you to come over!” Except for, you know, the times that it’s not, because he’s busy or working or having a roommate meeting or doing one of the many things he might be doing. For me, it is always better to err on the side of asking first.

    1. I am right there with you! I have a people-energy budget made out for the week, and when people show up without asking, it annoys me at best-and also can be exhausting, depending on how high cost my week has been-and just the disruption to my budget without warning makes me annoyed. I recognize that this is more my problem than theirs, but I like my budget!

  4. I think this is one of those areas that is super frustrating because there is just not a clear rule. Certain people, certain times in my life, I have been 100% okay with showing up unannounced at their place and vice versa. Other people, other times in my life, not so much. It’s all about the relationship you have with the person and where you are in your life. In this particular situation, I don’t think you did something WRONG/horribly rude, but your friend is now giving you the cue of “please don’t do this.” So, you just gotta respect that for her, at least for right now, invites to her place are a no go. I’m not sure if you’ve already responded to your friend or not, but if not I think the correct response here is a simple — “Hey, sorry, didn’t mean to invade your space! Hope to catch up soon.” And then let her be the next one to reach out.

    1. yes exactly on the “no clear rule.” i have had friends who text, “i am walking past your building! want to come down and get food?” and it’s not a problem (or at worst i’ll say, “whoa still in bed but come up and i’ll get dressed and then we can go.”) and i’ve had friends who say “you walked by my apartment? why didn’t you tell me?? i would’ve invited you up!!” and i’ve also been very upset when people just presume i’m available at any time, because sometimes it comes across as a lack of respect, like oh surely i have nothing going on and am just available whenever you happen to be around. the trick is that i can never tell when it’s going to be one way or the other. so definitely think you are spot on with your advice and response here, especially about letting her be the one to reach out next. maybe she’s going through something that has nothing to do with the LW and needs space from everyone!

  5. I agree I don’t want someone showing up at my house unexpectedly without calling ahead. I don’t live my life in such a way that I’m always prepared for unexpected visitors. I may be asleep. I may have moved all the furniture in a fit of spring cleaning and there’s nowhere to sit. I may be doing nude dancing. Or maybe I just had other plans for the next hour and now I’m going to be behind on the day. People who know me know I’m a call or text ahead person. People who don’t shouldn’t be dropping by anyway.

    The days when everybody was on the same schedule and you knew which hours people were awake and prepared to receive visitors are in the past

      1. Oh ha! Good one AthenaC! You should totally come by – and I mean that in the most Brazilian way.

        1. Ha! Well, then, I accept! In the most Brazilian(*) way, of course.

          (*) You know, nude dancing “in the most Brazilian way” has some interesting implications …

          1. I actually thought about the nude Brazilian implications but I couldn’t figure out a way to phrase it that didn’t include them. So I guess the implications will just have to come along too.

          2. (ran out of nested comments)

            but where will the implications sit if you’ve moved all of the furniture? Their legs might get tired!

    1. Yeah, my schedule generally involves napping for several hours in the middle of the day. People who “drop by” are unlikely to find me conscious or appropriately dressed.

      1. Seconded.
        (Also, what’s with assuming that people will be at home? I have appointments, errands, etc.)

        1. My gran is old-fashioned enough that she has actual calling cards with nothing but her name on them, so if she drops by someone’s house and they’re not home, she tucks the card in the doorframe to let them know she was there.

          1. I want to live in the world of calling cards. I think Laura Ingalls Wilder imprinted that on me.

        2. I think it’s one of those relics of when a Good Woman didn’t go out much during the day and/or when basically everyone was on the same schedule(or when people lived in a small town and if you weren’t working in some way you were at home.

    1. Oh yeah. “Where IS the floor?”

      But I fight against that urge, because, if they are going to be my friend, they might as well see my clutter up front and be okay with it.

      1. Clutter is one thing… trying to (unsuccessfully) clean up after 7-, 14-, and 44-year-old males in my house is something completely different.

        Friend: “Is that… poop in your sink… and… on the wall…?”
        Me: “Probably.”

        That’s what I mean. 🙂 No one should have to see that.

      2. Seriously. I will take five minutes to make sure the chairs and table are usable and that there are no bras hanging to dry or sex toys sitting out in common areas. But I am not likely to become someone whose housekeeping and decorating skills occasion effusive positive comment. Ever. And I don’t want to raise expectations falsely and unsustainably.

        1. Yup. Pick up stray underwear and small rolly toys that might result in a death if someone tripped over them? Absolutely. Clean the dishes in the sink? Maybe. Do something about the many, many piles of random crap and books and papers and and….


        2. Indeed. I’ve decided that the purpose of my house’s mess is to make other people feel comfortable about their own houses’ mess. This will never be the kind of spotless home where I trill “oooh, I’m sorry it’s such a mess!” as I blow imaginary dust off very expensive knickknacks.

          1. I think it was Phyllis Diller who said that she used to, when people arrived to visit and it looked as if a tornado had hit the living room, say in a plaintive voice, “Who could have done this to us? We have no enemies!”

        3. If the floor isn’t crunchy, the table isn’t sticky, and all of the furniture in the house is usable as furniture, I’m ready for company!

    2. Sometimes when my bathrooms have gotten out of control I purposely invite someone over on the weekend to induce a shame-cleaning because I will live with a much grosser toilet situation than I would ever allow a guest to see.

      1. I wonder if perhaps we are related distantly. I invite my parents to visit with the intended side-effect of getting the darn house cleaned up beyond: “Oh, uh, the mail is all in one pile, and I think I’ve collected the worst of the catumbleweeds.”

      2. Hah. I just had my birthday party, so I had a bunch of friends over last weekend, and my apartment hasn’t been so clean since….I threw my birthday party last year, I think. I so need to have more people over so this happens more often.

  6. Thank you for this post! I am one of those people who might indeed be home when a friend calls, but that doesn’t mean I’m not working on something/enjoying my precious downtime/up for entertaining a guest at any given moment.

    I’ve run into a cultural problem with friends who, I think, want me to invite myself over: they’ll describe an event like watching a movie at their place and express surprise that I wasn’t there, but I never received an invitation or even knew that the event was taking place. I want to hang out, but I’m not psychic!

    1. I’ve struggled with that, too. I was raised that it’s unforgivably rude to show up to any gathering, no matter how casual, without an explicit “Would you like to go to X event?” But then as I grew up and encountered casual, after-work, anyone-who-wants-to-come-can-come events, I was finally told that I was isolating myself by expecting an explicit invitation because “that’s not how it works.”

      Okay, then, (and I do appreciate being included finally!) but how was I supposed to know that anyone and everyone was welcome? I’m still not sure how one knows the difference without being told explicitly so I still err on the side of isolating myself / not imposing my presence on people.

      1. Oh god. When I was a wee child, my family was visiting with another family, and when my parents were ready to leave, they went around and asked each kid if we wanted to leave or stay and keep playing. I chose stay and keep playing bc, as a naive young thing, I thought that being offered that option meant that option was available for me to choose. How wrong I was. My parents chewed me out in the car when they came to get me for inviting myself over to someone’s home (which I was already in and had been asked if I wanted to stay). As an adult, I simply can’t bring myself to go or do anything that I have not been explicitly invited to. Attempts to join group events have gone horribly wrong (like going to lunch when someone asked, “who wants to go to lunch?” and realizing once I was there that the invitation was actually only for men, which I am not), which just reinforces my need for an explicit invitation. I wish there were a rule book which everybody would follow.

        1. Gah. I don’t know if it was the same kind of thing for you, but my father and stepmother were always doing the “I’m going to ask you what sounds like a question but it really isn’t and then shame you for failing to have manners I haven’t actually taught you and oh what an embarrassing child you are” game. I don’t know why, still. It can’t have been fun for them, can it?

          Anyway. I grew up thinking I’m socially odd and terrible at body language, but it turns out I’m just odd. I’m actually good at reading body language and other social cues, when everyone around me isn’t lying to me all the time.

          I’m also really careful not to ask my daughter for her preferences unless I really plan on taking them into consideration. Like, if she’s playing with toys in a waiting room and we have to go, I don’t say, “so, are you ready?” because of course she isn’t. So I’ll just tell her we have to go in two minutes, so please start picking up. It’s also one of the many reasons she doesn’t spend much time around her grandparents.

          1. “I grew up thinking I’m socially odd and terrible at body language, but it turns out I’m just odd. I’m actually good at reading body language and other social cues, when everyone around me isn’t lying to me all the time.”

            YES SAME. I thought I was so bad at reading people, but it turns out that I’m completely average. It’s just that my family builds onion layers of forbidden feelings, and it was impossible to guess which ones you were supposed to notice & do something about and which ones “didn’t exist”. Hey, these new gaslights I bought, aren’t they great?

            I also thought I was bad at social cues because “reading social cues” seemed to mean so much more than just interpreting someone’s face and words correctly.
            Good communication was supposed to go basically like this:
            – noticing the feeling
            – understanding whether the feeling “counts” in reality or “doesn’t exist”
            – understanding the ENTIRE backstory to the feeling
            – understanding what the other person wants you to do or say about it
            – doing that, or reacting in other appropriate ways, without letting on that you noticed the feeling (VERY IMPORTANT)

            In desperation, I basically self-diagnosed as autistic and followed the advice I found on the Internet – I just started to straight-up name what I saw and ask about it. To the surprise of literally zero Captain Awkward readers, using words turned out to be what most people wanted! And when I started to get actually good social advice (this was just the start), “talking about feelings and thoughts” and “using your brain for meta-cognition about emotions” turned out to be what most people thought of as really good communication – not training wheels or compensation for lack of real communication skills, but a highly sought-after ability.

            It’s like I had been taking math tests all my life under the impression that being good at math meant that I was supposed to just intuit the answer, and that doing anything to figure it out was cheating… and then finding out that I’m allowed to actually use math! I mean, math can still be hard, but it’s sooo much easier than solving math problems WITHOUT doing math, haha.

            Uurghhrggghh you bet that any child of mine will be raised with a HUGE feelings-related vocabulary (I pretty much only knew “happy, angry, sad” until… my teens?) and we will talk social situations to DEATH. Their DNA will be rearranged to spell “people are different, try to tactfully and honestly ask what’s on their mind”. They will never ever have to believe that they are inherently bad at being people. NEVERRRR

          2. @Jackdaw

            “It’s just that my family builds onion layers of forbidden feelings, and it was impossible to guess which ones you were supposed to notice & do something about and which ones “didn’t exist”. Hey, these new gaslights I bought, aren’t they great?”

            Yeah, mine, too. At this point I just deal with it by acting like I’m an idiot and I believe everything they say.

            “Hey, you seem upset, is everything OK?”
            “I’m fine.”
            “Oh, great! Pass the ketchup?”

            “I’m so happy you’re dating that nice… [race] person.”
            “Me, too!”

            “Oh, you’re a vegetarian now? That seems… healthy.”

            They get so angry. I know it’s immature, but I don’t want to cut all ties, and I have to deal with them in some kind of way that doesn’t make me feel so anxious and on edge.

            But I’m also very careful to err on the side of caution with their boundaries, because I know they won’t tell me if I violate them; they’ll just be angry and pretend not to be.

      2. Oh, this is me!

        If I know the people in question well enough I will sometimes just be explicit.

        “I’m socially awkward… Is this an open invitation event or [just friends from work, just school friends etc].”

        I’ll only use that one if I know that friend in question will be able to say no and we can laugh it off, and usually give an out. Even if it’s not exactly only friends from work invited, it gives a socially polite reason for friend to say that it’s not an open invitation.

        1. I like the idea of just asking directly, but I’d be uncomfortable using the phrase ‘I’m socially awkward’, even in a joking and self-deprecating way, unless I really knew and trusted the people.

          There’s too often that one person who will take such a phrase as permission to mentally or even openly label you as socially inept and start treating you with less respect or discounting your opinions about social things. I mean, some people like to do that to others anyway, but I hate to give them such good ammunition.

      3. Been there, done that. It’s safer in any situation to assume a no unless you give me an explicit yes. I’ve had way too many experiences of feeling like I’m intruding to do otherwise. I also generally deal with social anxiety and nothing brings it to a head like uncertainty of being welcome. So yeah if you want me around you’re going to have to TELL ME THAT, or I’m going to mope at home wondering if I’m inherently unlikable.

    2. Yeah. I briefly tried to date this guy who would tell me his plans for the day that was half the time an invitation and half the time not. So I would say “oh well I’m free this afternoon too if you want to hang out” “actually no because reason” OR “that sounds like fun!” the next day “why didn’t we hang out yesterday?”

      This was actually THE reason we didn’t end up dating. It infuriated me.

      1. I had acquaintances that did that to me (hence not friends). They would be all excited to go out on Friday night, explicitly invite me but not set up any details, then the day before or day of, I would text “so where are we going and when?” then hear nothing back. Or better yet, they would drunk-call me at midnight screaming “WHERE R U?!” like, “uhh, at home because I thought the plans were canceled since you never got back to me.”

        I stopped hanging out with them for several reasons, but this was a main one.

    3. I have this problem, too–I canNOT invite myself somewhere, even if I know the host would be happy to have me. (This, I think, arises in part from the opposite problem–if someone were to suggest that they come along to something I had planned, I would have a VERY hard time refusing them even if I really didn’t want them to be there. So then I instinctively want to police myself away from being That Person, etc.)

      However, I have partially solved this with my close friends by bravely using my words. When they said, “You should’ve come!” about some past event, I would say (cheerfully!), “I wasn’t invited!” And then, if they feel differently about this issue, they say something dismissive, and then you 1) KNOW that they feel differently, and 2) can say, “I’m just not comfortable showing up somewhere unless I have an invitation.” And then–again, this works best if you’re close, I think–maybe they remember to invite you in the future. I think if you can spin it into an actual conversation about invitation styles a la this comment thread, it is more likely to stick in people’s brains. If it happens again, rinse and repeat.

      In re: not knowing stuff is happening, I think that, a lot of the time, is a function of how plugged in you are to a person’s day-to-day happenings, whether in the meatworld or on Facebook or what-have-you. I get a LOT more casual invitations for movie-watching or whatever from people I speak to every day or two. This obviously requires some negotiation about how many social units I’m willing to invest in which people, and how enthusiastically they respond. Talking/texting/chatting with one member of a friend group every couple of days can pay great dividends on group events, I have found. Then you can say, “What are you doing later/tonight/this weekend?” and they’ll say, “Hannibal marathon with X and Y, want to come?” or even, “I was thinking about heading down to the new brunch place,” and you can try something like, “I’ve been meaning to check that place out!” which is not QUITE inviting yourself along but can land you an invitation.

      Anyway, like the Captain was saying, not all strategies work all the time, but consistent application of methods can get you places. With friends along!

      1. It didn’t occur to me before you said it, but it could totally be a function of the fact that I’m not so plugged in with most of my friends’ lives when I’m not hanging out with them face to face. I don’t tend to have long Facebook/text/IM chats with people, I use those things mostly to send direct invitations when I’m making plans. But I did start noodling around on Twitter more recently, and all of a sudden I started getting more invites from my friends who use Twitter as much as I do.

      2. Oh, that’s a good point. I have a Facebook account with a lot of people friended but rarely log in, so I miss things from time to time because people assume that, if you’re on their friends list, you will see their posts. My current circle has enough meetups coordinated through non-Facebook means that I don’t mind missing the occasional Facebook-only one, but when I lived in a different city with a different social circle I actually picked one person I was closer to and asked her to be my Facebook mole — “If you see a whole-group invitation go out via Facebook, could you email me about it? I want to come to stuff, but I don’t log in that often so I miss a lot of posts.”

      3. I once had a friend invite himself along on a trip to Europe. It…turned out ok, but I sort of wish I had subsequently invited one or two other people, because it was kinda weird to travel with this guy (he wasn’t even a CLOSE friend, I have NO CLUE what he was thinking).

        Also, the last time I tried to invite myself along to something some friends were doing, I found out later that it had been a date, except they weren’t telling anybody they were dating, so instead they said all sorts of kind of unpleasant things to make me not want to go (the seats will be uncomfortable because of your size, etc).

        So yeah, no, I don’t invite myself along to anything again ever.

  7. ““Come for dinner tonight at 8:00″ is an invitation, “Come by later” is “Hey, glad to see you, we should catch up at length soon.” I haven’t spent time in Brazil, so I don’t know if that’s a Brazilian thing or a dudes-who-grew-up-with-M-specifically-where-he-grew-up thing but it is a real thing, and M. has had to rethink and clarify it for American friends now that he lives here.”

    It’s absolutely a Brazil thing, hahahahaha. It makes foreigners crazy

    1. Actually, when I moved to northern California from the Midwest I found the culture was somewhat like this. People would say to me things like, “Oh, we should get together soon!” and I’d say, “Yeah, let’s do that!” Then I’d wait for them to call me, because in the culture I grew up in, a person wouldn’t extend themselves to say we should get together unless they really wanted to do that, and maybe they just had to go home first and check their calendar and the person who was on the receiving end of the invitation shouldn’t call the other person, because it would be rude and demanding to not take them at their word. And then people wouldn’t call, and they’d say things to me later like, “Oh, I didn’t hear from you so I thought you didn’t want to get together.” So frustrating, as is that other Northern California custom of texting someone on the day of an event to say, “Are we still getting together at X time?” Well, of course we are — I agreed, right? And I put it on my calendar, right? All the needs to happen after that is showing up, right?

      1. Oh man, the “are we still on for X” question is really baffling to me! I don’t get it a lot, but I did only start hearing that from people after I moved to San Francisco, so maybe it is a regional thing.

        1. It happens in Chicago, too, and I hate it (although I’m used to it). If we set up a specific time, place, and activity, then I am definitely going and so are you, unless one of us says otherwise!

        2. I used to do that because I’ve had several friends (or “friends”) who had a tendency to cancel at the last minute. Constantly. Even things they planned. Even if it was their idea. So for a long time I didn’t trust that any plans were real until they were actually happening.

        3. Sometimes people will ask me this less than two hours after the original making of the plan. I have yet to learn to hide my confusion.

      2. I am definitely guilty of the “are we still on” thing. I completely plan to be where we said, when we said! but I’m concerned about *your* plans. I picked this up with friends who were perpetually late unless they got explicit reminders, though I’m old enough now not to have patience for that kind of thing. I also have this insecurity that most people don’t really like hanging out with me, so deep down, I’m kind of concerned that they might’ve changed the plans and forgotten about me when they let everyone know OR that they changed their mind about hanging out with me but haven’t come up with a graceful way of canceling. I think I feel like the confirmation text allows for that while still letting me save face if those fears are realized? I’m not saying this is rational, but tell that to teenage me, who was so quiet that people did actually forget about her!

      3. I do that whole “are we still on?” thing probably anytime I have plans that were made more than a couple days in advance and don’t involve tickets purchased in advance. It’s never occurred to me that anyone would find it rude! I do it just because sometimes things do come up at the last minute, it’s easy (for me at least) to bungle scheduling when social plans are made far in advance. And maybe it’s just me, but honestly? I like offering (and getting) a friendly out so that nobody feels pressured to miss, say, their favoritest band ever that’s playing a special last-minute-announced show just because we had plans to sit around watching TV.

        But I guess this goes hand in hand with another (also common in my social circles) practice, that of regularly making tentative plans that are never executed. I can see how someone would find that rude. But when everyone’s pretty busy, it’s often easier to just be more fault-tolerant than to try in vain to be a flawless scheduling robot.

      4. I feel like this is one of those things that might stretch further than just Northern California–people on this coast are flakes, and there’s a pretty big tolerance for flakiness in a lot of social circles, and as a result some of these customs cropped up as a response to the general flakiness. It helps if you accidentally miss out on something or are late, because people are pretty forgiving of schedule changes and mishaps, but it makes scheduling things with folks whose social expectations are different a little fraught.

  8. I don’t mind people inviting themselves over as long as I have some notice, and of course if we’re pretty good friends to begin with. Like there’s a huge difference between dropping by unannounced and saying something like “Cable at my new place won’t be hooked up till next week, can I watch Nurse Jackie with you at your house on Sunday?” But navigating that kind of thing can be pretty tricky, and you do have to kind of gauge how close the friendship is and what the other person’s preferences are before you say something like that.

  9. For me I think the drop-by depends on how lengthy and intrusive of a visit it’s going to be. If a friend texts me to say “Hey, just bought a new bike at the shop around the corner, can I stop by on my way home and show it to you?” then I won’t mind coming out onto the driveway for 10 minutes to admire the bike and catch up. I *will* mind if they then invite themselves into my house, which I may or may not have cleaned recently, and the 10 minutes turns into 2 or 3 or more hours of unplanned socializing.

    1. This right here. If you’re going to “Drop by” don’t plan to be here for more than 10 minutes. If I am up for company, I will invite you to come in, sit down.

      I’ve dropped in on people, but I make it a point to A) ask if this is an okay time/are they busy/etc and B) not be more than 10 minutes unless I am absolutely sure it’s okay to hang out for a bit (ie. said person has said, hey why don’t you stick around for a while, in pretty much those exact words).

    2. Absolutely agree.
      Also see “I’m planning to be in your neighbourhood geocaching, are you home for us to stop and say hello / join us for one of the caches nearby?”.
      Its not “I’m coming to see you”, its “I’m coming past you, and thought it would be nice to see you”.

    3. Oh man, indeed. INDEED. (As long as no one decides they get to see the inside of my condo, we’re cool. No one needs to know how I live.)

  10. This is a hard one, sometimes. I’ve drifted into the “no stopping by my place unless plans were arranged in advance/there is an emergency” field, and I think it was because when I was growing up, there was a family of relatives who would come over to our house, unannounced, sans invitation, CONSTANTLY. I literally hid from them a few times, even though my mom told me I was being rude. From my perspective, THEY were the rude ones, “just dropping by” and then lingering….forever.

    Because they were not ones to take a hint. Their visits were usually a minimum of 2-3 hours, and it wasn’t uncommon for them to stay for the entire day on Saturdays and Sundays. They would assume that they were invited to share meals with us if they happened to be over at our house when we were about to eat. My parents put up with it because faaaaaaaaaaammmilyyyyyyyy. I was relieved when they moved out of state.

    I also used to belong to a religion that included unannounced visits as pretty much a matter of course, and I hated those, too.

    I have a “No Soliciting” sign outside of my door, and usually I don’t answer it if I’m not expecting anybody (after peeking through the spy hole to see if it’s someone I know. Granted, part of the reason is because I’m probably not wearing pants, either, but I hate unexpected visit awkwardness.

    1. In my experience, “No Soliciting” signs are ineffective. Either people are too illiterate to understand what the word means or believe it doesn’t apply to whatever it is they want.

      Unfortunately, it has also become increasingly common for burglars (disguised as solicitors) to case a home by ringing the bell to see if a residence is unoccupied. If no one answers, they will then go around back and pry open a window or patio door to gain entry. This tactic has become so commonplace that many police departments counsel residents to always answer the door via intercom or by asking what the visitor wants (while keeping the door closed). The point is to let them know that someone is at home, yet while not opening the door to a potential home invasion. Our small city (which has a low crime rate) gets a handful of this type of attempted burglary each day, so I don’t think the police are being alarmist.

      It’s a drag having to answer the door, as I would prefer to ignore solicitors. It’s just no longer prudent to do so, unfortunately.

  11. Does anyone else feel really weird even discussing plans with someone if you aren’t inviting them to join you? Especially re: the Geek Social Fallacy that if you invite a few members of The Group to do a thing, any other member that learns about the thing should also be invited?

    1. I had to train myself not to. I don’t put up with the GSFs these days, but yeah, I totally used to feel stressed about it. But I normally make plans when I’m with bunch of people, particularly when I’m at school? And it’s hard to weasel someone away from the group for that kind of thing?

      But at this point (now that I’m more confident with myself, which was the hardest thing) I don’t feel obligated to invite All Members Of The Group but I also don’t feel like I have to shepherd anyone’s feelings. I mean, we’re all grown-ups now, and a valuable adulting skill is learning that you aren’t automatically awarded an invitation because you’re Part Of The Group. Also, that not getting an invite isn’t actually a reflection of your friendship with someone nor is it proof that you’re a horrible bad person that no one will ever love. All it proves is that you didn’t get an invite to that event.

      If someone is discussing a plan in front of you, they know you’re there! They would invite you if they wanted! Pretty sure it didn’t slip their mind.

      1. uhm. i agree with a lot of what you’re saying, being part of a group does not automatically mean that you are invited to all the things, that is very true. however. the idea that not being invited in no way reflects your relationship with that person? come on. if i don’t get invited to something, i for one will find a reason why. maybe they thought i wouldn’t like it, maybe they knew i was busy, or maybe? they just didn’t want me there. that’s okay. we don’t all have to be the best of friends, but when i get signals that someone doesn’t want to spend time with me, i don’t think of that person as a friend.

        and if someone who has acted like we’re the best of friends doesn’t invite me to something i would have expected to be invited to, and then proceeds to talk about it non-stop in front of me and acts like we’re still super close? i think of that person as kind of a douche. that may just be me, i guess.

        again, we don’t all have to be friends. but even adults have feelings, and if you expect someone to be your friend you should treat them like one.

        (when i say “something i would have expected to be invited to” i mean something others in a similar or seemingly less close relationship with them were invited to. i do not mean: we talked at work once and she didn’t invite me to her wedding.)

        ps. captain awkward i found these tips really helpful, thank you 🙂

        1. I think Miss Manners would concur that it’s incredibly rude to discuss plans in front of those who have been excluded (not by accident, but intentionally).

        2. Word. There are people who use boundaries as a tool for good and people who use them as an excuse to be douche canoes.

        3. I can definitely see where you’re coming from with all this. So, the reason I phrased it like this is, when I’m at school, I’m normally hanging out at the smoke pit with 10+ other people. So we talk about plans past and future all the time and we expect people not to be weird about it. It would be different if I was hanging out with two people and then only plotted with one of them.

          It still doesn’t necessarily reflect your relationship with someone though. Maybe the venue is small. Maybe there are sub-groups within the group that function well together, and the person is only inviting one particular sub-group. Plus, I’m mostly talking about making plans with friends who aren’t BFFs. If you’re not my bestie, I don’t think you have a right to an explanation for why I invited you to Event A but not Event Very Like Event A. The reason is that I didn’t invite you.

          1. i hear you, and i for sure do not think you should have to explain to people why you do not want them glued to your side at all times. i’m just saying that “i didn’t invite you” is not a reason, but “i would rather go with my bestie” is. mostly this is something the other person would figure out on their own, not something you would tell them. i think it does reflect your relationship, and that is not a bad thing!

            …except when you don’t think of the relationship the same way. it can be hurtful to realize your best friend does not think of you as their best friend. really, i would be careful of discussing plans you made with someone who wasn’t invited, partly to avoid hurting their feelings, and partly because, as someone else mentioned, it’s just not that interesting if you’re not involved. not to say you should construct an elaborate web of lies, just don’t go on and on about it.

        4. I sent out the wedding invitations to all my friends. I then, with friends who I had invited, discussed details of the plans and ideas and asked for opinions. About three weeks out, I did a last run through the response list, and figured out that one friend who I had been discussing the wedding with had never responded. I called her up, hey, I’d love for you to come, haven’t heard back, let me know. She had never received the invitations (thanks, post office!), and enthusiastically said she’s be there. I asked her something along the lines of oh gods, what have you been thinking of me these last months, with all the details and no invite? She said said I was the one getting married, I could invite whomever I wanted. I said yes! I can! I want you! And it was all good.
          A different friend also didn’t receive her invite, and she very reasonably expected to. She whined about it to someone else, who told me about it. There was a short and unpleasant phone conversation, and I mailed her a new invite. She made it to the wedding, informed me the night before she was supposed to arrive at my house that she would be staying with someone else, and left the wedding early.
          Sometimes, the people issuing invitations have just screwed up. However, I am still friends with the first person.

          1. yeah, unfortunately sometimes when you hurt someones feelings it doesn’t help that it was an accident. :/ logically it would! but people are not always logical.

            (i am forever accidentally hurting people’s feelings, i often don’t even realize for weeks.)

      2. I disagree. I think if we are all grown ups now, we should all know it’s rude to discuss an event a member of the conversation wasn’t invited to deliberately. (As opposed to, we work together and you are telling me about your kid’s wedding shower or whatever.)

        Moreover, I think it’s self-absorbed to assume that your social acquaintance/friend that wasn’t invited to a thing particularly wants to hear all about how much fun you had without them doing whatever thing it was you were doing. Again, it’s probably fine in passing, as in “yes, Susie Cream Cheese mentioned her mom had come to visit when she and I had coffee the other week” or whatever. Even “hahahaha, I get what you mean. It’s like that one time Johnny England went a wandering” without saying when that one time was. But talking to someone- or more likely in front of someone- about the fun game night six of your ten closest friends were at but one of the conversants wasn’t? I think it’s a good time to keep the recounting of the event to yourself.

        I say this, and I am a pretty easy-going person about not being invited to things. I am old enough and have talked myself through this sort of thing enough, and busy enough with my own life, that I generally respond to “we went out and did this fun thing we didn’t invite you to” by saying “oh, really, that sounds nice!” and I mean it. But I do think it’s actually not very polite to do it. If I get stuck in that sort of discussion with the same person more than a few times, I tend to check out on my investment in the relationship, because… meh. There are a lot of things to talk about in this world.

        If someone asks what I am doing or was doing [at such and such a time] and the detailed answer is “something fun without you.” If I answer at all I say “I had dinner plans with a friend… how was your weekend?” or “I had a bunch of stuff going on- I am actually kind of glad to be back to work.” But that’s really about it.

      3. To me this seems rather mean-girlesque. Sure, you don’t have to manage people’s feelings, but planning a movie marathon for you, Chewy, Chip, and Fred when Dale and George are sitting with you and generally part of the gang seems odd–you do have people’s numbers and know how to use the group message function?

        I mean it’s not only that they aren’t invited, but they’re excluded from the conversation almost by default. I think things are different if there wouldn’t be any expectation of an invite–my co-worker’s weekend plans, for instance, are common Friday conversations–but in those situations people don’t have feelings to manage.

        I’ll also disagree that invitations aren’t a reflection of friendship. Not saying it’s bad if you are closer friends with Chip compared to Dale, but I’d say one of the key points of friendship is showing your friends that you like them and want to spend time with them.

        (Also with some of my college friends 98% of the time if they were talking about an event in front of me I was invited, but they didn’t realize that invitations were things that happened? Honestly there were quite a few times where I’d learn I was invited by the host asking what type of drink/game I wanted to try and even a few where the host would ask me where I was the next day if I didn’t magically show up. Not saying this is a sensible way to do things, but for anyone else reading–yes, sometimes it does slip people’s minds!)

    2. I’ll have discomfort discussing a plan with a person if it’s a plan that they could conceivably have been involved with. Like, we have the board game friends over for a movie… except that one. Well I’m not going to call that one up to talk about our awesome plans, or afterwards to talk about how awesome it was*.

      And if I were “that one” in a situation and someone brought it up before or after I would wonder if they were doing it passive aggressively and I would be reevaluating our relationship a bit.

      But. If the plans have nothing to do with me at all I have no trouble listening in and being happy for people doing fun things. And I don’t feel badly for talking about fun things with people in my life. I’m just careful to make sure that no one is going to see it as passive aggressive middle school behavior.

      *exception for family. I can’t always do everything with all the family. I am going to discuss fun things with family with other family, even though “family event” might conceivably include all family. It would be ridiculous to never mention my aunt to my cousin just in case she were upset that I ever did something with aunt that didn’t include her.

      1. “I’ll have discomfort discussing a plan with a person if it’s a plan that they could conceivably have been involved with.” I agree 100% with this. I also feel discomfort from the other side, when I’m the person who could have conceivably been involved but am not. Even if I’m entirely comfortable not being included in a particular plan, I’ll feel uncomfortable saying things like “that sounds fun/Is it for a special occasion or just hanging out” because I’ll worry that the other person might think I’m fishing for an invitation. But maybe that’s me assuming everyone else suffers from certain GSFs…

    3. In general I don’t talk about plans with Alice from which Bob is excluded in front of Bob. There are exceptions, lots of them.

      For example if Bob Alice Camille Davy et al all know that Bob and Gerry are going on their honeymoon starting on Friday, I will feel fine talking about the picnic on Saturday.

      Or if I’m entertaining Alice – who is my sister-in-law – I will feel fine talking about this family event, to which Bob- not my brother!- is not invited.

      But if I’m invited to Camille’s for dinner, I won’t assume that everyone we both know is also invited. So, unless Camille brings up her party in front of Bob, I’m unlikely to talk about it.

    4. Most of my social contacts are on Twitter so there’s a lot of very public conversation happening so my general thing is you don’t talk about it in front of someone who was actually excluded, but it’s okay if they just… weren’t specifically invited. It’s definitely a different dynamic from things like uni friends where it’s a smaller and tighter group that you hang out with them in person all the time though. (And the good thing is you can be like “I’m going to be in the CBD today, who wants to get lunch?” or “can someone come visit me this week and I’ll make cookies, studying’s driving me up the wall.”)

    5. Yes. This is a source of endless guilt to me. I finally had the realization a couple of years ago that all of my friends don’t necessarily want to hang out with each other…they don’t all like each other as much as I like them/they like me…and so maybe some of them are relieved to see me one on one, instead of in a group-forced-interaction situation.

    6. A friend of mine once gave me the run down of her husband’s birthday party, to which she had invited everyone in our friend group except me. I politely “umed” and “how niced” all the while thinking to myself, “you realize that you are telling how much fun the party you didn’t invite me to was, right?”
      So, yeah, don’t do that. It’s uncomfortable for the non-invitee, as well.

    7. Oh Lord, yes! I’m getting married in a little over 4 weeks (OMG OMG 4 WEEKS PANIC!!!) and there are a few people at church I’ve invited. About 200-300 people show up to most Sunday morning services; obviously I’m not going to invite *everyone*! I’m not even inviting everyone on the ministry team (I lead sung worship) – there are a select few I’ve invited, and there are several friends who have been invited but can’t make it, and it’s only natural that we do discuss the wedding (it’s a church wedding, so obviously we discuss it in church!); and yes, that means other people I have no intention of inviting will hear it being discussed. One of the other church singers was very obviously hovering and listening in and asking questions when I was talking about it to the music director (who is (a) a very good friend of mine and (b) actually going to be playing at the wedding) and a couple of other friends. It was obvious she was expecting an invite, but she’s not a friend – an acquaintance at best. I am NOT going to be guilted into inviting all and sundry thanks to GSF. I think she was taken aback when I said “It’s a church wedding so of course it’s open to the public – anyone in the congregation can attend.” She was angling for a personal invite. She didn’t get one, but it felt very uncomfortable.

      1. Congrats!

        I think big expensive things get a pass on the “discussing in front of others” thing. Like, weddings often include a cost per person and you’re not going to suck up that cost for everyone and their dog just because they want to come. But it’s also a huge life event (or can be, anyway) so expecting you to never mention it to non-invitees is kind of ridiculous.

        1. There’s a difference between “mentioning” and “discussing,” though, eh? Mentioning that you are getting married in a month and are busy with wedding planning, in the course of some other conversation, is hardly a taunt. Going on for eight paragraphs about what awesome food you will have, in front of someone who is not invited to eat the awesome food, is unkind.

          1. But arkadyrose was talking about wedding with one person and another person inserted themself into the conversation. I’m not sure why it would be unkind to continue to the conversation that was already going? If you enter an already-going conversation specifically about a wedding I don’t think you can claim that the topic is there to taunt you about what you’re missing out on.

          2. I was actually discussing the music for the wedding with the person who would actually be playing said music, so not even just a casual conversation about it; it could hardly have been construed as a taunt given that she was the one who came over and inserted herself. And I don’t actually talk about the wedding that much simply because I find it tedious when someone else keeps going on about something.

          3. Indeed, Arkadyrose did fine. What I’m trying to get at is that it was fine because Third Person inserted themselves, rather than because “big expensive things get a pass.”

    8. To me, it matters what sort of event it is. I wouldn’t feel weird discussing a one on one hangout around somebody else (“So when Andrew and I were having dinner at Moose Hut…”) because to me, one on one hangouts are just that. But something like a board game night or a party where everybody but one person was invited, yeah I’d avoid that because it seems mean. My friends and I are roleplayers though, and typically a tabletop game will only be able to have 4-5 players in it, so it’s pretty obvious not everybody could do it, and most people really like hearing about others’ games (to an extent, nobody wants a 4 hour rundown of mass combat) so it’s sort of accepted that people will mention games they are in that others’ aren’t and people are usually fine with it.

      1. I’m loving the fictional examples everyone is giving here. Moose Hut! I’m totally inviting Susie Cream Cheese to have dinner with me there. NONE OF THE REST OF YOU ARE INVITED. 😀

    9. Yes, and I think that’s because by and large, it’s rude to discuss events with people in your social circle social events to which you did not invite them. It’s not that hard not to bring occasions to which another person wasn’t invited in front of them. Some things, like the wedding situation below, I get. But why do people think the fun event that X wasn’t invited to attend is fun for them to hear about in any way at all? I mean, sure, some people might, if they’re really nice and interested in pretty much everything. But generally? Eh. Keep it to one’s self, I say.

  12. This is all excellent. I’ve had friends that I can show up at their place any time. I’ve been the house that friends can show up to at any time. But usually those friends are limited to the small number of people who have seen me ‘ugly cry’. I’m not the kind of person who would appreciate a random drop by. HOWEVER. If you are going to be in the neighborhood, and would like to meet up with someone who lives there, I might suggest a call or a text like ‘I’m going to be in your part of town, on Wednesday. Want to hang out? Maybe grab coffee/Indian food?’
    This is a more specific but still open ended suggestion that allows them to specify how much time they have to devote to hanging out, and pick a place that is convenient to them. Part of the ‘home visit’ dread in my life is the potential endlessness of it. That there’s no polite way for me to say ‘Welp, I’ve had enough talking, I need you to leave so I can take off my pants and binge watch Steven Universe for an hour before bed’.

  13. My rule of thumb is to not go anywhere where I have not been expressly invited (kind of like the vampires in the Captain’s hilarious trailer). I’d MUCH rather have a conversation like:

    THEM: “We missed you at [that Thing], why didn’t you come?”
    ME: “Oh! I didn’t know I was invited!”
    THEM: “Oh man, well definitely come along next time!”

    than be the person at the event where people are grousing “Why is she here?/Who invited her?/Nobody did, she just invited herself!”.

    If people want to hang out with you, my experience has been that they will issue an invitation, either generally to the entire group (“We’re meeting at the bar after kickball, everyone is invited”) or specifically to me (“We’re going to the Pun-Off after kickball. Wanna join, Wee_Ramekin?”). Anything less clear than that (ME: “What are you doing after kickball?” / THEM: “We’re going to the Pun-Off!”), and I assume that I am not invited. My personal “flag system” (to go with the Captain’s examples above) doesn’t include any Yellow Flags, because I prefer to err on the side of missing out rather than accidentally inviting myself to things. I don’t find that this crimps my social life at all, for what it’s worth.

    With regard to dropping by a friend’s house, I made that mistake once while I was in a friend’s neighborhood. I’m from a small, rural town, and in my small-town culture, people would routinely drop by your house if they were passing by and saw your car in the driveway, especially if you were close to them. So for me, it was natural to live that out as an adult in a city with a person I was becoming close to.

    My friend was not receptive to this type of hang-out (she is the kind who shame-cleans SO HARD, so I think an unannounced visit is a tiny version of Hell for her). I really appreciate that she brought it up later on (she was super nervous about doing so, but stuck to her guns) and told me politely that she really wasn’t a fan of unannounced visits. It didn’t affect our friendship negatively at all, just clarified a boundary.

    In the LW’s case, I agree that your friend is giving very clear “please don’t drop by unannounced” signals. I’d advise you to take dropping by her house uninvited completely off the table. You may also want to give her advance warning before dropping by the office; it sounds like she’s more receptive to surprise visits there*, but since you say you’ve felt her pulling away lately, it’s probably a good idea to double-check with her before popping in unannounced. I think showing her that you are aware of and respectful of her need for space will – conversely – whet her desire to spend more time with you.

    *I would guess that she is more open to work-visits because there is a built-in time limit to the visit. You can’t really pop by her work unexpectedly and hang out for two hours; she’s got stuff to do, and you both know that the visit needs to be kept short. An unannounced home-visit, however, doesn’t have a built-in time limit, and this might be part of the reason she is not open to them.

    1. There has never been a point in my life where it would make me angry if friends dropped by, but I, like you, only have Red and Green flags for MY visiting them.

      Like you, if specifically invited, it’s green; anything else is red.

    2. I’m the same way. If I’m not specifically invited I assume I’m not invited. It hasn’t worked as well for me though. People in my life have been annoyed I don’t come to something when they know I was in the room when they were talking about it. They think I’m being silly when I’m unsure like that.

      And to the subject of unexpected visits. I just recently reconnected with a friends who I lost touch with because of our different expectations. She thought I didn’t like her anymore because I never just dropped by to see her. And I thought she didn’t because she didn’t answer my texts. So we were both missing eachother and thinking the other didn’t want to be friends anymore.

      I’m not a fan of the dropping by. Absolutely not for me to drop by but also not for other people to drop by here. If I don’t know someone is comming the floor will probably be under a few layers of clothes and I might be unable to socialize at the moment, even if I would have loved to hang out if I had gotten time to mentaly prepare for it.

      1. I recommend Using Your Words: “I was raised that it’s rude to assume I’m invited to something just because it’s being discussed in my presence. If you want me there, PLEASE invite me directly so I don’t have to worry about my mother’s disapproval!” [light chuckle]

        I’ve had to deal with the opposite situation: “Hey, Drew, we’ve been discussing this awesome thing we’re doing and you should totally come along!” Me, inside: “I would rather floss my teeth with copper wire.” Me, outside: “Oh, I hope you guys have a great time; I just can’t.”

        1. It’s what I try to do, that’s when the comments about being silly comes in. I’ll say something like “I didn’t know I was invited because nobody actually told me I was, and I’d think it would be rude of me to just show up” And they’ll shrug and go, “well, of course you were invited! Why wouldn’t we invite you!?” And it’s always after the fact so by the time they’re talking about the next outing they’ve forgotten all about how I used my words before, and I’m just as uncomfortable inviting myself along as always. We’re all moving to different cities now so I guess it won’t be a problem any more with that specific group. But I’ll try and get better about using my words too.

          I don’t really see the problem there, you were invited, you didn’t want to go so you declined. That seems like a perfect little interaction to me, am I missing something?

    3. Yep. If I am not invited, I assume I am not invited.

      Kind of like enthusiastic consent… enthusiastic social engagement invitations are not the same as passive or silent asset to host/ failure to resist a self-invitation.

      I had a housemate once who was hosting a bridal shower for a mutual acquaintance, and it was supposed to be at our house. I wasn’t invited (I know I wasn’t, because I helped housemate put together the cute gingham ribboned cards while watching dancing with the stars). Later, after invites had gone out and the spares were given to the Bride, Bride told housemate to tell me I was invited verbally while at some other event. Housemate observed that I probably wouldn’t come if I wasn’t sent an invitation. I didn’t get one, so I didn’t go. I went to see my parents for the weekend and had a lovely time.

      Apparently Bride was really mad because… I am not sure why. But she didn’t like me much, and I didn’t care much, so whatever.

      To continue with dating parallels, I figure, if a social acquaintance likes me, they will act like they like me. If they don’t act like they like me (even if they actually do but don’t bother to behave like they do), they obviously don’t want to really be friends.

      It’s a pretty good rule of thumb for friending, as it is for dating, I find.

  14. An alternative to “let me stop by your house” is “I’m going to be in the neighborhood do you want to meet up?” This is a call I do not mind getting.

    If you, a person who lives in my giant city but not anywhere near the suburb where I live, happen to find yourself in that suburb, and want to grab a coffee/see a movie/a meal/a drink/a manicure. PLEASE CALL ME. (or text) I may not be able to, either due to existing plans, or lack of remaining energy for interacting with humans.

    However, as long as I have time to grab a shower and put on my going outside pants, you aren’t really imposing here. I only have to clean ME, I do not need to scour my house for stray articles of clothing and actually go through the three piles of mail on my dining room table. (However if it is D&D weekend I might just tell you to come over anyway!)

    One caveat to this is if you KNOW you’re going to be near me every Saturday at Noon, and you start texting me every Saturday at 11, I might get annoyed. If it’s going to be a regularly scheduled thing, then either setting up a scheduled hang out, or just giving me a heads up that this is a thing that is happening and that you would like to hang out is better.

    Here is how I think of this in my brain, if I am making plans I am always attempting to make plans to 1. Go to a place with someone, or 2. have someone to MY place/where I am going. I am never trying to “go along with them to a place they were already going/were.” Which, actually seems a little counter intuitive, because you’re asking them to make an additional effort to hang out with you, instead of you just tagging along, or showing up, they have to put on their going outside pants. But you’re still changing their plans when you do that, you’re just changing them in a way that is more difficult to say no to. It’s much harder to say no gently if you just want a quiet afternoon alone and someone is a block from your house wanting to come over and they can see your car in the driveway.

    Besides, you’re awesome and you deserve specific plans made to hang out with you, you are worth people’s going outside pants.

    1. Though I am just now recalling that in the small town where my partner grew up, just dropping by unexpectedly and saying hi is weirdly totally normal. Sometimes when we are in town visiting his friends will just stop in because they saw our car. I would hate everything about this.

      1. I grew up in a small town where unexpected visits were totally normal. Even now, when that is not socially normative, I’m mostly happy to offer spontaneous tea and low-grade hanging out if someone is in the area.

        But in Small Town, on the rare occasions when it wasn’t a good time for hanging out, no matter how low-grade, it was very hard to say that in a socially acceptable way.

    2. Your comment about “you deserve specific plans” reminded me of a friend (these days more of an acquaintance) with whom I would make dinner plans on a semi-regular basis. Without any advance notice to me, he would often invite along one or two other friends (of his, not mine). I was expecting to catch up with my friend one-on-one at the restaurant, only to discover that he had several friends in tow.

      We weren’t students for whom casual unstructured socializing is often more the norm. We were working adults with careers, although not particularly demanding ones.

      When I asked him about the surprise invites, his reply was, “I thought it was efficient to get all my social obligations taken care of at once”. I was already aware that he was inclined toward putting his own needs first in pretty much everything, but this disclosure was a doozy.

      1. “Let me help you be more efficient by removing one social obligation from your list.”

        1. Oh, lovely. So nice to know a person I thought was a friend sees spending time with me as a ‘social obligation’.

      2. Sounds like something Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory would do. Funny on TV (for certain values of funny), but not so much in real life.

  15. I second the excellent advice and on a side note, that movie is hilarious. What are we? Werewolves not Swearwolves.

  16. Hi all, long time lurker, first time commenter… I have seen this from both sides of the dropping by conundrum. I used to live in a house with several friends that was considered a party house, so we had random people dropping by all the time, and it was never really locked, as there was always someone there. Calling ahead was weird, heck, knocking on the door was weird, just come in.

    On the other hand, living in a separate home with my family… yeah, call ahead. I don’t think I know anyone without a cell phone, so let me pick up the random stuff that wanders out into the family room and put it back where it climbed out of.

  17. As someone who NEEDS a lot of being-away-from-other-humans time, I am deeeeeply unhappy when someone just shows up at my door. If you could just not do that, that would be awesome. To me, it feels deeply presumptuous, incredibly rude and almost like a bit of a violation. My space is not your space friend, it is mine and I want to keep it that way!

    A lot of it probably is the presumption of intimacy of “showed up at my house” compared to “showed up at my work.” My bathroom at home is also the guest bathroom and I kind of want to tidy up slightly embarrassing but totally normal hygiene products before someone uses it? Also my floordrobe? Plus it can feel for me like, whoa, are you going to do this a lot? Are you going to start showing up at my home when I was counting on alone time and I look like a raggedy doofus because I’m wearing an old tank top and a sports bra?

    The nice thing about a heads-up text is that it’s universally appropriate. Even with friends who I am 100% sure would welcome me showing up unexpectedly, it’s still a nice thing to do! Although I’ve occasionally had friends who would text me while standing on my doorstep, which, interestingly, is worse than either showing up unannounced or texting ahead of time. It’s like, oh for god’s sake, just knock on the fucking door at this point, it’s not like I can text you “go away” when you’re standing AT MY DOOR.

    Also, LW, I’m sorry to say this but it sounds like your friend is trying to pull a slow fade. I don’t know why–you can ask if you want–but she’s sending a lot of signals that suggest “I don’t want us to be as close as we used to be.” So that probably contributed to why she was unhappy with you showing up at her doorstop; she was trying to distance herself from you and you tried to force intimacy. I don’t think you did it deliberately or out of meanness, but it can feel that way when you’re trying to African Violet someone without telling them that’s what you’re doing. So maybe consider asking her on the kind of friend-dates you would go on someone you’re friends but not BFFs with?

    1. Oh man the people who will turn up at the door and then call/text. I am not good at dealing with such people. Seriously, my go-to method is to hide out of sight and pretend I’m not in until they give up and go away. Which makes it especially annoying when they then go and ring my *mobile phone* after failing to get an answer from my home phone. One of the reasons it is permanently on vibrate-only.

      Actually, I think you really nailed it with “!Plus it can feel for me like, whoa, are you going to do this a lot? Are you going to start showing up at my home when I was counting on alone time and I look like a raggedy doofus because I’m wearing an old tank top and a sports bra?”. Different people have different expectations for what a friendship will look like, and different needs re: social and alone time. And when someone turns up unannounced, without invitation, I do worry that the person might have a wildly different balance of needs to me, and that responding positively the first time sets up a precedent and an understanding that I am Cool With That.

    2. I’m also a huge introvert, but I don’t care if people show up at my work because work is People Time. I work in an open plan office (which I hate but deal with), so during work hours I just assume people are going to walk up to my desk and want something from me. I’m already in the zone, so if someone cruises by and is like HEYYYYY I WAS PASSING THROUGH, well, I was already mentally prepared for interruption.

      I think that actually makes me LESS amenable to unexpected interruptions at home because I’ve already used up all my people-dealing-with fuel fielding the expected-but-not-planned interactions at work. If someone is going to turn up at my FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE err I mean apartment, I need to mentally prepare myself.

    3. The whole work-home thing is pretty cultural though. Personally, I’m totally fine with friends just showing up at my house. I consider my house a family and friends and me place, and that works just fine. I absolutely don’t want to be visited at work, ever, by anybody. It’s work, which is a coworkers and customers and me place, and unless the friends also happen to fit into one of those categories I don’t want to see them.

      I’d also consider suddenly showing up at work a much bigger invasion of privacy. I have a particular set of habits, displayed personality traits, etc. for interacting with friends; call it a friend-state. I have a completely different set of habits, displayed personality traits, etc. for work related things, a work-state of sort. I also have a school-state, in my role as a student. Someone showing up at work means I suddenly have to juggle multiple of those states at the same time, and it is socially tiring. If I’m just at home, I can just switch from alone-state to friend-state and be done with it.

  18. I am deeply ambivalent about this issue.

    On the one hand, I would hate it if any but my closest of close friends were to show up on my doorstep and want to hang out. Even my parents call before coming over, and the only times I’ve said “no” are when I was too sick or exhausted to want to see them. I’m used to my home being PRIVATE space.

    On the other hand, I have this one friend who tends to make plans and then get busy with other things and forget to follow through, and Friend has told me more than once that I need to be more persistent about hanging out because Friend is borderline ADD and WILL forget to get in touch with me to arrange hanging-out time if I don’t press the issue. If FriendSpouse is busy, Friend has been OK with me just coming by, but (because *I* don’t like it) I tend not to want to do that, and the upshot is that a lot of FriendPlans turn into FriendMissedOpportunities because I’m waiting for a text or call because we’d already said we wanted to hang out, but Friend is assuming that I’ll take the initiative because I know that Friend will forget.

    (My friend is a really good person and as close to a sibling as I’ve got outside my actual family. My friend is also spacey as hell.)

    In the case at hand, LW, your friend has made it clear that just dropping by because you’re in the neighborhood is Not To Be Done, so don’t. A quick “I just got my new bike at that shop down the street, do you have a few minutes to tell me how awesome it is?” call or text would probably have been better, had you but known. But now you *do* know and can comport yourself appropriately with that friend. Other friends, other rules. As a general rule, though, calling ahead is never *wrong* and can save you a lot of “Oh, I didn’t expect visitors, let’s talk out here on the porch for a few minutes” awkwardness.

  19. Dear LW
    The Captain’s advice is golden. Golden. Here are some additional thoughts:

    – Don’t worry why things seem different stopping by work and home. I can think of lots of reasons, some of which have her unhappier with the work drop by

    – Recognize that for whatever reason, she’s pulling back. Your choices are to accept that and reduce your attempts to hang out, or to ask her directly what’s going on.

    I loathe that kind of conversation, I can’t initiate it. I hate it when someone else does. Other people find it a very productive way to be, however. You might be one of them. If you think you are you could try

    LW: I feel as though I initiate contact with you most of the time, and as if you don’t have as much fun with me as you used to. If this is true, what are some ways you think we might have more fun?

    Then listen.

    Best of luck to you.

    1. This. Obviously I am not the friend LW is referencing here, but having a friend of mine ask me if they could drop by “for a hug” while I was at work – on a regular basis – would be an issue. I’d agree it’s worth checking in with your friend, LW, to say something like “hey, I didn’t mean to intrude the other day and I’m sorry that I did. I’m also getting the sense that things are shifting between us a bit – is there anything I can do to help our friendship be as comfortable as it used to be?”

      1. This. The ‘dropping by for a hug’ comes over as very needy. Maybe I’m misinterpreting because I don’t know the LW or her friend but it seems much more intense than ‘to say hi’.

        1. Likewise – that does come across as very clingy and needy to me. Even if I were OK with hugs, I wouldn’t want to be repeatedly visited at work to hug – if nothing else, that would likely be viewed as incredibly unprofessional and quite likely disruptive to collegues. So not only would the OP be making the friend uncomfortable in her workplace, she’d also be distracting and inconveniencing her collegues. I’ve always been under the impression that you don’t disturb someone at work. You can make plans to meet up with them during their lunch hour, but you don’t interrupt them whilst they’re working; I don’t know if that’s a British (specifically London) thing though.

          1. Definitely not specifically British; my knowledge is patchy, but I know of no place in either Canada or the States where it is assumed to be broadly okay to interrupt people at work. (Hell, even the Geek Social Fallacies mention that “work” is a common class that people are allowed to prioritize in time and attention above friendship.)

            This doesn’t mean it can’t be okay in specific workplaces, or with specific people! But as a baseline, I would never assume “it’s okay to interrupt you for social reasons during the time when you are engaged in meeting your professional responsibilities to your employer.”

    2. I’m okay with that sort of conversation, yet it’s been my experience that most people are not. Instead they will be evasive.

      When I’ve broached the subject in a nonconfrontational way (using similar language) in the hopes of opening up a dialogue, I am always met with some version of, “No problem, I’m just busy with stuff”. Yet because these folks are in my social orbit, it’s pretty obvious that if they want to make time for some other activity or person (not necessarily even a friend) they can usually manage to find it.

      I’ve ceased making overtures entirely, except for polite greetings when I see them out and about.

    3. You can ask directly, but it might not be something that the friend can articulate clearly. Usually when I’ve asked for clarification about why a relationship is changing, the answer I’ve gotten has been, “Because of AMBIGUOUS FEELINGS, stop asking and leave me alone,” sometimes with a helping of, “YOU ARE DOING SOMETHING WRONG.” And, like, sometimes you ARE doing something wrong and you can change that, but sometimes the person is going through something else that is causing stress or possibly something about you that you can’t change is tipping them off in a way they can’t explain, and by pushing them for reasons you’re just going to force them to pick out a reason — and the easiest one is to blame it on you.

      So. Not saying you shouldn’t ask, but be aware that it’s not always going to end in the clear communication you’d like it to. Not everyone has great insight into their own emotions.

      I wouldn’t assume “stop by for a hug” means needy at all, so long as that’s something the LW previously asked for/negotiated with her friend. Some people are touchy with their friends and some people are not.

      I DO think it’s possible that being someone’s designated hug-person could get a bit claustrophobic, especially if you are not on for touch stuff all the time.

      1. Oh I agree that asking directly may not yield usable information. As I said, I find these conversations miserable. Her friend’s tendency to just withdraw a little makes it unlikely that asking will yield good results. But I could be wrong! Maybe LW’s friend has been waiting for just this opportunity

        I feel a bit more strongly than you about being someone’s hug person. At work.

        That’s not happening in my world unless the huggee is my SO or dearest friend. Or very close family. So anyone else asking for hugs is probably gonna be met with side eye

        1. We don’t have enough information to know whether this was appropriate in the context of the relationship.

          LW says they considered this person their *best friend.* That very easily could be in the category of very close family.

          There have been periods of many months for me, particularly when my mental health was poor, when I checked in with my best friends almost every day, and had they been physically available I might have asked for a hug too. When that was the case, they happily acquiesced. People have different friend relationships, different notions of what is appropriate at work, and different touch boundaries.

          It appears that the situation has changed, but I don’t think there’s anything to be gained by retroactively criticizing the LW for something which we can’t know the appropriateness or not of at the time.

          1. I apologize to the LW and to you for appearing critical. What works or worked in LW’s life is the issue, not my reactions to hugs.

            Thank you for pointing this out

          2. Also, hard as it may be to swallow, sometimes the person we think of as our best friend doesn’t consider us to be *their* best friend. And sometimes people drift apart and one person downgrades the relationship from “best friend” to merely “friends”. It hurts to be the one being downgraded, but when it happens the only thing to do is respect their wishes and give them space.

          3. Yes, arkadyrose, that’s true. But that’s not what’s being discussed in this subthread — the question was raised whether it was a priori needy to stop by someone’s work to get a hug. WE DON’T KNOW. We CAN’T know. What we can do is trust the LW’s perception of their own life and their own relationships prior to this point.

            This discussion is squicking me out because it is introducing doubt where there doesn’t need to be any. The LW has correctly identified that there is a problem with this friend and is taking steps to fix it. We don’t have to call their entire history of the LW’s actions being appropriate or not into question. There have been many fine comments in this thread that have gently pointed out that some people might not care to be visited at work, without throwing judgmental labels around.

  20. This sort of thing reminds me that the only era for which I know there were clear and universally followed rules about this sort of thing, it was Regency era England, when people* would drop by during a clearly defined period of the day for a morning call, for about 20 minutes, and your butler could declare that you were not at home if you didn’t want to see them.

    Sounds like bliss to me.

    Unfortunately, during the same era, houseguests could stay for months and you couldn’t ask them to leave.

    *by people, I mean the gentry and nobility, not ‘real’ people. This understanding of the rules is based on Heyer, Austen, and Mary Robinette Kowal, probably in that order.

    1. I think one of the key pieces there, too, is that there was a clearly-defined room for doing the visiting in, which was otherwise generally not lived in. I expect that this is remarkably relevant to the whole “I need to clean because someone is about to visit” issue — these days, houses are smaller than gentry-and-nobility houses, and we mostly don’t have parlors separate from living areas. (For values of “we” meaning the people of my generation that I know. It seemed like most people of my parents’ generation that I knew had a “living room” for visits, and a “den” for family.)

      1. It’s why some older houses on real estate listings have “reception room” in addition to “lounge”. The lounge would be where the family relaxed; the reception room is where you would receive visitors.

          1. The house I grew up in had a dining room (which was also the lounge) and a sitting room (which was more formal and if there weren’t guests you’d only go in there specifically for quiet time).

    2. I sort of wish being not in to company was still a thing one could do without being seen as a huge asshole. At this point I just put all the blame on my ridiculously small washing machine, and any time I don’t want company I claim I’m stuck doing laundry allll day so I simply couldn’t possibly or no one will have clean pants.

  21. Can I ask for some opinions on invite-twice-then-drop-if-no-interest when we’re talking about kids’ playdates? Is it the same rule? Does the relationship of the kids in question matter? When can you ask again, if ever?

    My son, who is 7, has a best friend at school that he adores. He is autistic and not great at social relations (and frankly, he is an apple that didn’t fall far from the tree in that regard). I have invited said best friend over for a playdate, twice, by email a week in advance each time. Both times, I got essentially a “can’t this weekend, sorry.” (I think once it was out of town, and the other was busy for some reason.) At this point, with another adult, I would definitely stop asking until I got some kind of positive movement from the other party. But it is very difficult to answer my son who keeps asking if he can have a playdate with T. Telling him that we have asked him twice, and now we have to wait for him to say something before we can ask again, just results in “but I really, really want to play with T.” Offers of inviting someone else over get, “Can we ask T instead?” I can keep redirecting that question, and even give a really specific “no, because,” but I really would like to invite T over, either to our house or to a neutral area like a local park.

    My last invitation was back in January, I think. My son and T still play with each other every day. At what point is it OK to ask T over for another playdate? Does it matter that T did come to my son’s birthday party (not at our house) last week?

    Social relationships are hard.

    1. That suggestion is for adults who don’t know each other all that well, not close friends like your son and T., and not children. January was a long time ago. I say invite T.!

      1. Kids’ social relationships are fraught with pitfalls! The way I found to get kids my daughters liked to come over was to have a ten minute scheduling convo with the parent: get as explicit as possible about times that work well for you, and times that never work, and ask specifically about their times, and then hammer it home. Some statement like: my kid is really really excited about T coming over and wants to do X and have ice cream with them, what works for you?

        The soft invite is way too easy to brush off, especially with the level of over-scheduling that exists at certain socio-economic levels. Depending on the age of the kids, you might get farther with a parent/kid invite – T comes with the parent at the moment, you feed the parent tasty adult snacks and have stuff the kids can eat. Visit with the parent while the kids bash about.

        Keep it short the first time, and keep everything as …controlled? organized? scheduled? as possible. You want things to go right for T, and your son to be happy with the results as well, and leave T wanting more. So there is one more game to play, one more thing to try together. So he’ll come back!

        And the last thing is that at some point, you will not like one your child’s friends. It shocked me when it happened – I am an open-minded person! but the child in question left my kid a quivering wreck after any play time. And at that point, you get to craft your own slow fade, being really really busy when their requests are made. It is weird, and faintly uncomfortable, and i never for a minute regretted it.

    2. It’s worth asking in terms of, “We would love to have T. over this month, when would be a good time?” It’s a little bit presumptuous, as the phrasing presumes that of course T.’s parents would be delighted to have the playdate–so if they for some reason aren’t okay with that, they’ll have to use their Adulting Skills and make their refusal more clear–but right now the ball needs to be put in their court with a little more firmness.

    3. I am so glad asking this question because it’s one I’ve also had, although in my case I’m on the other side of the fence – I’m friends with the mom, and her daughter likes my kids, but they can’t stand her. Since there is zero version of that conversation that is not hella fraught, I’ve opted not to have it, and instead stick to declining her requests to babysit and make plans for us that don’t include the kids (or if they do include the kids, I make sure that we’re not at home – it’s more of a problem when she’s in my kids’ space than when they’re all at, say, the beach).

    4. Every so often there is a shitty parent who doesn’t care if your kids like each other (because they don’t like you or your kid for some stupid reason), but I think you get maybe four asks, versus adult arrangements.

    5. I don’t have kids, and every once in a while I experience culture shock when other people talk about kid things. Things have changed since I was young. Like …

      If Son and T are friends, can’t Son invite T over himself?

      1. Depends on age and social skills; if travel is involved, the kid(s) in question may be too young to go on public transport/cross the main road etc. by themselves.
        Or if anybody has a disability of any kind (including being non-neurotypical, as in my family’s case) adult support may be needed if only for scheduling and transport.
        Or kids may not be up to remembering that they can’t schedule for X day/time because actually they’re supposed to be doing something else that was scheduled ages ago; yay timetable clashes!
        Basically, if they are young/less able enough to still need adult support for any aspect of getting to/getting through a visit, they can’t necessarily sort out an invite – unfortunately. (I wish it weren’t so, but in my limited and purely personal experience arranging any kind of social ANYTHING may range from difficult to impossible for an NNT young person)

        1. It gets even more clusterf*cky when you throw custody and visitation agreements into the mix. Me and my best friend, whose kids are really close with my kids, have our kids on opposite weekends… There’s often the necessity of figuring out “Okay is {kid} at her mom’s this weekend or her dads? What does this mean for transportation etc.”

        2. I don’t think it was all or nothing when I was a kid. There was often a pattern where Kid One would ask permission to invite Kid Two over, their grownups would give permission, the kid would do the actual inviting, Kid Two would ask their grownups for permission, Kid Two’s grownups would only give permission if they were able to give Kid Two a ride if needed, and then Kid Two would accept the invitation and visit Kid One. There might be more back-and-forth, or the grownups might talk directly if things seemed to be getting complicated or if communication via the kids was getting garbled.

          I think the general pattern was that the kids took on as much of the arranging as their age and ability allowed, and that gradually increased as they got older. I suspect the same general pattern still exists, because no one seems to talk about arranging playdates for teenagers. But with more scheduling and perhaps busier roads and less societal tolerance for kids walking somewhere by themselves, maybe the amount of arranging that a kid can take on at a given age and ability level has decreased.

          This is partly based on what I observed of other kids. I was not all that good at social interactions as a kid, and didn’t give or get invitations all that often at that age. So I certainly think it’s possible that some kids would benefit from more guidance/help at a given age than others, and based on Elizabeth’s description of the situation, her son definitely might be one of them. I don’t have kids and it’s been a while since I was that young, so I don’t want to speculate too much.

          Maybe Elizabeth could ask her son’s teacher how kids in that age range and their families generally arrange this stuff at their school? Then she would get an answer that’s specific to her local culture.

      2. Others covered a lot of this for me already, but the short answer is that at 7 and with autism, my son is really, really not ready to be placed in charge of inviting his friend over. He would not be able to remember to do it, would not choose a socially appropriate time and place to do it if he did remember, and would not issue an invitation that T would be able to understand, let alone accept. If I tried to have him call T from home to do it, I might be able to sit next to him and coach him through it, but I would have to talk to T’s parent then anyway to work out the logistics of time and place – we do not live within walking distance of one another.

        I probably will teach him to invite friends over the phone eventually, but my guess is that it will be one or two years before he is ready to start it. Right now, he is just barely able to call his grandparents on Mother’s/Father’s Day if I dial for him. His sister got to the point of being able to call a friend to arrange a play date around age 9.

  22. Note, your friend might just want a bit more space generally – it might not be anything about your friendship, they might just be a bit stressed with life generally and want to claw back some control/mental space/holiday/have a break whilst redecorating/re-training, and they might be back with enthusiasm later.

  23. I don’t mind close friends stopping by, especially if they call/text/email first to let me know they’re in the area. Most of the time it’s a welcome treat and diversion in my day. But I do mind when people try to invite themselves along when I already have plans, or show up unannounced when I’m entertaining someone else — and then give me shit about what I do on my own time, in my own house.

    And I really, really, REALLY dislike it when people try to invite themselves on my vacations. Or – even worse – try to get me to bring their kids along with my family on our vacations.

    I’m definitely a Guesser in the Ask vs. Guess dichotomy, but one thing that I’ve realized – I have friends who will ask, but they’re totally fine with cheerfully accepting my ‘no’ or ‘I can’t this time’ or ‘actually, I prefer to see that friend one on one,’ etc. Then I realize they’re not going to punish me, they really were just asking, and it’s no big deal going forward. The people who ask and then sulk/whine/wheedle when they hear ‘no’…that’s a big red flag.

    1. People… actually try to invite themselves on your vacations? On your FAMILY vacations?? I know some families like to plan a group vacation together, but I never encountered anyone just trying to invite themselves on someone’s personal holiday! That’s seriously a thing?? Ugh, I think I would be utterly gobsmacked if I mentioned a holiday plan and someone just assumed they could come with.

      1. Ohhhhhhh yeah. My SIL is the queen of this, but it’s also happened more than once with the parents of some of my kids’ friends. And it’s a multiple-day drive to get to Vacation Place…we don’t even have room for another kid in our car!

        Also, partner’s hometown friends live near Vacation Place, and they frequently call him to ask when we’re going to be there, and then they’ll just invite themselves out for a couple of days. Some will even have the gall to ask if they can bring groups of their friends — mind you, these are people I’ve never met before in my life — so that I can fucking host a group of strangers on my vacation! One guy showed up with his brother, cooked one meal, and then they sat on their butts and didn’t lift a finger for five goddamn days while partner and I did all of the cooking, cleaning and tidying. (Never again!)

        I told another one of these people, “it’s a small place, there isn’t enough room for everyone to sleep,” and they offered to rent an RV and park it in the yard!

        Of course we told them no. But it seriously blows my mind. Who DOES this?

        PS – Side note to LW: you aren’t doing this. The situations you describe wouldn’t bother me in the least!

        1. I know people who do this (I am not one of them, however). They are not uncivilized roobs — it’s just the norms of the very casual social culture in which they travel. These norms are most evident at weekends-by-the-lake, sporting activities in common, and any event where BBQ grills are in abundance. Everyone’s invited, and boundaries have a way of becoming more fluid than usual.

          In more structured situations (like my wedding) they arrived in event-appropriate attire with their “inside voices” intact, consistent with their middle class upbringing and higher education level. If anyone pulled up a trailer around back, they hid it well.

          1. That’s what my partner says (the part about the very casual social culture with BBQs and fishing.) However, we don’t live near Vacation Place, so we never get invited to their places, it’s always them wanting to show up when we arrive. My main issue is that everyone is so casual that nobody really helps with dishes/cooking/food shopping/cleaning/chopping wood/preparing bait and so partner and I end up running around from dawn till dusk, taking care of a bunch of drunk guys relaxing on our lawn and trying to make small talk with strangers. I really resent it.

        2. I once invited a friend and her boyfriend to Thanksgiving at my parents’ house… and the boyfriend, who I had met ONE TIME, invited EVERYONE HE KNEW. To dinner at not even my house, but my PARENTS’ house.

          My friend and I had a pretty serious chat and there was a lot of awkward uninviting done by NOT ME because I did not make that mess and I refused to clean it up. I didn’t even feel bad, they should know better than to accept an invitation from the boyfriend of the friend of the child of the host anyway, unless it’s an invitation to an 80s college movie kegger.

        3. Oh eek. That would all be my absolute idea of a nightmare. I think I’d find a different vacation place and then NEVER tell anyone else where we were going or when!

    2. I have a friend who clearly, desperately wants to be in my social circle and has tried to push the issue in a number of ways. The real standout is the time he came to a free preview of my show – well and good – and proceeded to hang around after curtain, and after notes, and until I had said, “Call time’s at 5 tomorrow, guys, see you then! Dude, uh, thanks for coming, let your friends know about the show. Bye everyone.” Nothing wrong with hanging out for a while after to see if the person is free after, but when it starts stretching into 45 minutes of that person’s professional obligations you need to take a hint.

  24. I’ve had people get upset with me before because if I am not expecting a visit/you have not called/you have not asked in advance, I straight up will not answer the door, period, end of sentence, unless it is an emergency of some kind. If you just want to come in and chat and you have not ASKED beforehand or something, not going to happen.

    Saying “Hey, I’ll be dropping by in about ten minutes!” is not asking, that is demanding. Do not do this, I will not answer the door.
    Saying “Would it be alright if I stop by for a bit in ten minutes? I’m in the area.” Is asking. That works, if I am available/up for a visit (I have a lot of health issues to deal with and sometimes even if I am not ‘doing things’ I just can’t handle having someone there) I can politely decline.

    Ask. Don’t demand. ASK. A no is a no. A soft no is still a no. Anything other than an enthusiastic yes is a no.

    1. Me too! I never answered the door if I wasn’t expecting an important delivery.

      1. For sure! The “never answer the door unless expecting a specific visitor” policy is also really true of people with stalkers. It can be terrifying to have an unexpected knock on the door.

    2. THIS. So much this.
      Also works for anything else you’ve been asked to schedule in advance.
      Ask means ASK.

  25. Even worse, for me, than people who show up at my door without warning and expect to be let in are people who show up my door without warning and expect me to come out. Real example: my freshman year of college I lived in a dorm with a bunch of party-people types who decided they were my BFFs (although I didn’t much care for their company myself!) One night at around midnight one of them (we shall call her Britney) woke my by pounding on my door with such ferocity that I thought there must be an emergency, so I opened the door. The following conversation ensued:
    Britney: We’re going out.
    Me: Ummm… have fun? You know, I was-
    Britney: No, WE’RE (gestures back and forth between me and her) going out.
    Me: Actually, I was sleeping.
    Britney: Well, now you’re awake, so get ready and let’s go.
    Me: Goodnight, Britney. (closes door, puts in earplugs to block out resulting temper tantrum, goes back to bed)
    I have not seen most of those people since many of them failed out after a semester, and I have not seen the remainder since I changed majors and no longer had to see Britney and her friends all the time, and I am so happy about it.

    1. This sounds exactly like the developmental stage that our kid is going through — she’s currently grappling with the fact that other people won’t always do things just because she demands it, and having temper tantrums when she gets confronted with that fact.

      She’ll be three in a couple of months.

      1. Seems like she might be ahead of the curve then, haha. So go her! Getting her terrible twos out of the way while she’s still two, like a boss!

      2. Okay, can I say, I find comments like this REALLY ableist. I’m someone with a developmental disorder, and commenting on other people doing bizarre and/or not-okay things with stuff that says they’re just like a three-year-old or ‘mentally twelve’ or whatever is really, really gross. Even if Britney WAS DD as well, that wouldn’t be the issue, and bringing in suggestions that she’s just like a three-year-old are weird and ableist.

        1. Thank you for saying that. It hadn’t occurred to me that it would come across that way, and I’m sorry.

  26. I wonder how much people’s feelings about this are influenced by their own lifestyles and how much by past experience. I know for me, it’s a bit of both.

    I am a messy person, who not only doesn’t wear a bra in the house but who habitually spends the entire day in filthy pyjamas with un-brushed hair if not planning to go out. If someone is going to visit my home, I need enough notice to get myself and the main areas of the house decent before they turn up.

    At the same time, I get really antsy about people coming over to “drop by” even when I do have a good couple of hours of notice. Because I’ve had way too many experiences with neighbours and friendlies (people who aren’t your friends, but who you are friendly with) just walking all over boundaries and inserting themselves into your day for HOURS. One time, someone who knew my other half turned up at my house where he was staying at around 4pm, and was still there at 9pm. And started pointedly talking about being hungry around 7pm. Like, dude. I’m hungry too. I actually wanted to start dinner like an hour ago. But you were not invited to this house for dinner and the fact that I am able to feed the person I am dating when they come over does not mean I am able or willing to extend my food budget to cover whatever rando happens to turn up at the door. You’re not even someone my other half considers a friend, just someone who knows him. At the time neither of us had discovered Captain Awkward or had the chance to develop any kind of decent social skills for kicking out people like that, so it was multiple hours of awkwardness while we both silently seethed and wished he would leave so we could go the gaming, fooding and sexing we had been hoping to spend the evening doing.

    So for me, personally, it’s “only come to my house if you have *asked to come and been told yes* and have given us a reasonable amount of notice, or if you have been explicitly invited. No matter how close we are”.

    My mum’s completely different. If you’re her friend and she likes you, she actively enjoys unexpected knocks on the door and “quick visits” that end up taking the entire afternoon. And will happily cook a meal for unexpected guests because she enjoys doing it. Although she gets annoyed if people she doesn’t like as much assume the same invitation applies to them, or if people turn up late in the evening, or if people turn up when they knew she had plans to specifically do something – like having to leaving the house to go to a party at 8pm, and a friend turns up at 7pm when she’s in the middle of doing her hair and getting ready.

    This particular aspect of socialising is difficult for everyone – so I hope LW doesn’t get down on themselves about it.

    1. For me I think a lot of it is upbringing. My mother always really, REALLY hated unexpected guests and visitors, and if someone showed up unexpectedly she would be icily polite until they left and then bitch about them for hours afterwards – and for the following couple of days. If we visited someone, it was meticulously prearranged and we would show up on the very dot of the agreed-upon time – not a minute sooner, not a minute later. If we were early, she’d make my father drive us around the block until the correct time. Visitors were expressly invited for a set time and there was a full house spring clean the day before. Looking back on it I can see my mother had some pretty serious anxiety issues that we kids had no clue about at the time, but the whole thing has had a lasting effect on me. I’m just better at saying “No, this isn’t a good time, I’ll catch you online later, bye now!!” when someone shows up unexpectedly, and I only attend events I have been expressly invited to. And if I get somewhere ridiculously early I will go walk around the block several times until I’m actually expected, or go to a coffee shop or something.

  27. So, I’d be interested to know how to handle someone once they’ve already shown up, uninvited and not particularly wanted, to social events. I have a friend whose cousin will consistently show up to small gatherings – dinner parties or tiny birthday parties, cocktail outings for girls’ nights out – because they were mentioned to her and she decided that, having been mentioned to her, this was enough to consider herself invited. There are really tough dynamics at play because FAMILY and also because it’s been going on for years. YEARS! Sigh.

    1. Well, one way is not to mention things to people if they’re not invited. I don’t know if there are specifics that make that difficult to implement in this case, or if it’s just not the norm in your social group, but in many groups it’s a common social convention that a lot of people follow anyway.

    2. Cocktail outings are one thing, because “oh, I’ll just pull up an extra chair” is hard to argue with. But the script I’d suggest for other events is, “Cousin, this is really awkward, but we planned for a specific number of people and I’m afraid we just can’t have you over this time. I’m very sorry that there was a miscommunication, and I hope we’ll have a chance to get together soon.”

      The script you REALLY need, though, is for your friend: “Friend, we like seeing your cousin occasionally, but she seems to think that any invitation to you includes her as well, and that’s not actually the case. Please don’t pass invitations along unless you’ve cleared it with us first.”

      1. It’s definitely been the type of thing where they expect four people to join them for their birthday dinner and BAM, Clueless Cousin is there already. It’s insanely awkward.

        And the worst of it is, just about everyone in the group aside from Clueless Cousin is aware of the problem, and has had their special events bogarted by her. If someone says, “Hey, this was a special event and you weren’t technically invited to it,” she throws a tantrum. It might just be easier to never mention social plans around her, but that’s not really a sustainable option…is it?

        1. Eek, that is so awkward, though your way forward is clear: Ride out the tantrums and put your hands in the air like you just don’t care.

          I didn’t say your way forward was easy, mind.

        2. Your cousin’s tantrums are telling you something, here.

          It tells me that she *knows* the world isn’t an open invitation for her to insert herself into other people’s social events. She knows because she has been explicitly told so and reacted – not by feeling embarrassed and trying to learn how to navigate social boundaries better – but by punishing people for telling her until it becomes easier to just “leave things alone”.

          She’s not quite as clueless as she comes across. She’s just rude. The solution is to not let her throw it back at you. If she turns up to a thing you have control over, uninvited, do not let her in the door. Tell her, politely and kindly as you would for anyone else, that she wasn’t actually invited to the event. And then Shut. Down. If she shouts at you? She still isn’t invited and she still isn’t coming in. If she makes a load of fuss and noise? She still isn’t invited and she still isn’t coming in. If she cries at you? She still isn’t invited and she still isn’t coming in.

          It will be more than awkward the first few times. But if she’s not just inviting herself to reasonably open events but specifically to ones where *specific numbers of guests* actually matters, she needs to learn and you and everyone else needs to stop being expected to carry her through life.

  28. Ugh, the labyrinth of invitations.

    I’m yet another person who doesn’t go to things unless explicitly invited. Even if the person talking about the fun thing is a close friend, I clarify whether I’m wanted there, and I try to do so in a way that doesn’t sound like I’m angling for an invitation.

    I think I’m so hung up on this(and really, I am; I obsess over it) because when I was a teenager, I was quite unpopular. People might suffer my presence, but a lot of invites were basically to everyone in the group but me and maybe one or two other fringe members. I’m used to being the awkward girl the group puts up with due to circumstance(classes, volunteer groups, tour groups, etc), the one asked to take the photos because no one actively wants her in them. I seem to have gotten better at finding people who actually value me, but I try my hardest not to impose… There’s nothing quite like the realization that through a misunderstanding, you’ve encroached on a group that doesn’t really want or like you.

    1. Yep. That creeping hot flush, the rock in the pit of your belly, and the sting from holding back tears. I used to envy people who seemed to glide effortlessly through social situations, sometimes I even hated them.

    2. Ugh, yes. On the individual level as well. I cringe looking back on ‘friendships’ where I was getting soft nos for literally months and cheerfully failing to put them into context (‘Hmm, maybe this person who is always busy and never calls me back doesn’t want to see me! Maybe it’s kind of odd that I still haven’t been able to give them their Christmas present by March!’), knowing that I was That Person please-will-she-ever-go-away. Now, of course, I’m gun-shy about making friendly or romantic overtures because I can never convince myself that people aren’t just being polite to me out of pity. Fun times.

  29. I have a dear friend who provides me with an interesting variation of this broader issue: inviting other friends of HIS along to plans that I (or others among our mutual friends) try to make with him. It’s run the gamut from casual weekend brunches out (okay, fine, I wanted to catch up with you specifically but I guess it’s cool that you brought three other friends I don’t know, fine, whatever, as long as they pay their share of the bill [hint: they never do]) to actual trips across state lines where someone we know is generously hosting and has to suddenly find room for an extra person. It’s…not good, despite his many other qualities, and so far the rest of us in this particular social circle have mainly tried to just preemptively account for it in our planning and roll our eyes at each other behind his back.

    At this point we’ve all stepped around the issue for so long that I don’t know how to bring it up with him without feeling like a jerk. I’m still trying to find the adult language to be, like, “NO, your roommate-with-whom-I-am-only-casually-acquainted is NOT automatically also invited when you come visit and stay in my apartment in my new city, h-how, why, why would you think that would be the case?” but…more kindly. And articulately.

    1. Bandaid-off time, I think: “Hey, friend, let’s go to brunch on Sunday, and this invitation is for only you. No extras!”

    2. This, 100%, and can I just make a plug for when you are dating someone, THEY ARE NOT AUTOMATICALLY INVITED TO EVERYTHING YOU ARE INVITED TO.

      I have one friend who was particularly egregious about this (oh, you invited your boyfriend to a brunch? With only girls? Followed by pedicures and an outdoor screening of Clueless? And now we’re all sitting here awkwardly because we can’t talk about dicks with him around? Without telling us?). She ended up getting invited to stuff a lotttt less, and then finally not at all for the better part of a year, because even if her boyfriend had been someone we liked being around (he wasn’t) it was always a gamble that she’d show up with him.

      She even brought a boyfriend that she knew I hated to my graduation dinner, uninvited, that my parents were paying for and was only for about six people, including my grandparents.

      It is completely ok to ask if other halves/thirds/whatevers are invited, but PLEASE be gracious about hearing no.

      1. I am always super nervous that when I say “hey, can Boyfriend come along to this big group thing we’re doing?” that people say yes just to avoid social conflict and they all actually are pissed or something. Because they’re way closer friends with me than him. Can you actually trust people to say what they mean and not get mad because you’re not a mind-reader?

        1. I take the view that if my partner is welcome then they’ll tell me “Hey, would you and D like to come?” or “D would be welcome too if he can make it!” If he’s not specifically mentioned then we both assume that the invite is just for me. Likewise if he’s invited somewhere and it’s an invite for both of us or he’s been specifically told that partners are welcome; if not then I’ll happily wave him off and have an evening in on my own with a good book and a bottle of wine and have some me time. We both think it’s only healthy for people in a relationship to have separate social lives as well as social things they do together – we’re not joined at the hip. 🙂

        2. I tend to go for “is this a partners-also thing or a just-us thing?” – it means they’re not being asked to make a statement of whether or not my partner, specifically, is welcome.

          1. YES. It’s harder to say no than yes, so phrasing the question in a way that they don’t have to say no makes a huge difference.

        3. Good question! Re: can you actually trust people to say what they mean…I wish you could, but sometimes, as we all know, you can’t.

          What my friend did that bothered us was:
          1. Not ask, just show up with boyfriend
          2. Show up with boyfriend to events that no other SO was invited to
          3. Show up with boyfriend to events that are pretty obviously not SO friendly (girls’ only brunches/nights out)
          4. Show up with boyfriend to events that had a small guest list, like a sit-down dinner that was being hosted/paid for by someone else

          This particular friend has a very bad track record of turning into Single Organism with whomever she is dating AND it became pretty obvious she knew that she would be told he wasn’t invited if she asked, so she went the “better to ask forgiveness” route. She is MUCH better about it now, because for about a year she was being left off of invitation lists completely because everyone got so tired of dealing with her vile, unpleasant, and eventually abusive boyfriend.

          You are already doing the right thing by asking, and if people are saying yes, then I would say everything is fine! You can’t be expected to magically divine that someone means no if you asked and they said yes.

          That being said, I would check in with yourself and ask, are you still spending solo time with your friends? When you show up to events with him, is he the only SO there? Are you also taking the initiative to plan things with friends? It can sometimes be tricky if you’re coupled up and everyone else is single (I’ve been on both ends of that). Asking first is the best policy, and it sounds like you’re doing exactly that, so carry on with your rad self!

      2. Haha. I once got taken by surprise by my cousin at her birthday party asking why my boyfriend hadn’t come. “Huh, you didn’t tell me to bring him along.” “What, do I have to say so specifically? Of course that when I invite you he’s also invited!”
        Er… yes, you have? He isn’t a part of me, you know, he’s another person that you can invite or not, and I’m not a mind reader to know you want him there unless you, well, say so specifically. If you haven’t either asked me to pass your invitation OR invited him directly, you haven’t invited him.
        Since then, I always ask my family if they want me to come or us both if they’re not clear about it. Arrangements with friends have all been clear so far.

  30. “Speaking for myself, personally, a same day text or phone call that says “I’m going to be in your area, are you free to hang out later for a bit?” from a friend is more than fine but an unannounced and unexpected knock on my door, like, “Hi, I’m already here – here to hang out with you!” is pretty strange. ”

    Yes! For me, it’s a bit like physical contact boundaries. I am a very cuddly person; if we are on hugging terms, 99% of the time I want a hug. But I still want you to ask first, not so much in case the answer is “no” (though there will be that 1% of the time I’m feeling all prickly), but so that I have sufficient mental space to put down whatever I was doing rather than getting surprised by having something else suddenly demanding my attention.

    I’m pickier about when I want to hang out if we weren’t already doing so, but asking even 10 minutes beforehand greatly increases the chances of me wanting you to come over, because then I have time to switch to social mode rather than “ack, an intruder in my happy little introvert bubble, go away” mode. And if I’m definitely not in the mood to hang out, it’s painfully awkward for everyone involved if I have to ask you to go away. Distance communication makes explaining that I’m doing something non-interruptible seem more polite and gives more hypothetical space for you to pretend I was actually doing something specific or about to run to an appointment rather than just not feeling sociable.

  31. It’s so dependent on individuals. Like my ex was anxious about casual invitations outside of her home (like at a nearby pub) that had less than 24 hours notice.

    It was a slight point of contention, because she had to put in unavailability requests (and had her rosters) two months ahead, whereas I’m lucky to have my roster a week in advance.

    She made friends with two girls living in her apartment block, and the other two were totally fine with seeing that the other was online playing a game and inviting themselves over. My ex was such a polar opposite person who needed her alone time unless specific arrangements were made.

    Me? Like other commentors I’m totally fine with a “I’m in the neighbourhood can I drop by” text, as long as the other person is fine with “actually, I’m really busy, maybe next time” as a reply.

    1. I am also like your ex, although for a slightly different reason: I have a lot of friends who plan things a long ways out, so if I get a last-minute invitation to something, chances are good that there’s already something in that time slot and I now have to choose whether or not to skip out on the thing I agreed to go to a month ago. I don’t think either method is wrong, but it’s hard to make them compatible.

      It also depends on how involved the last-minute thing I’m invited to is. Going around the corner for drinks? I can usually drop by before moving on to my next event. Potluck I need to bring an homemade dish to? I’ll probably decline, because that’s a lot of work I hadn’t planned on doing.

  32. What about a SO situation? I got reamed at (yelled at, sarcasm, etc) by my ex because I showed up early one night for a hangout. We had made plans to watch a show but hadn’t specified an exact time (he was assuming normal end-of-my-workday time). I had a cancellation at work and got to leave about 60 minutes early. I sent him an email when I left, and arrived 25 minutes later. My phone was broken so I couldn’t text, and I guess the sign of the times is that I didn’t even think to use the landline! (stupid). He hadn’t received the email and was furious. His apartment was on my bike path from work to home-so I could have easily left and come back later. I guess I thought that since we already had plans to meet at his apartment, had sent an email, and could have come back later easily if when I arrived wasn’t a good time for him, I didn’t even think about it. But it was one of the hugest fights of a very fighty relationship. I was always transgressing somehow and he would get so angry, and I was always left thinking, ‘wow I have no idea why we are in this situation’. I broke it off because I couldn’t take the conflict anymore.

    I would only drop by a friend’s house unannounced or just-announced in extreme circumstances. I’m an extreme introvert and wouldn’t want people dropping in on me either, but if it had been my boyfriend, I wouldn’t have minded. I would have just asked him to entertain himself while I was finishing up whatever or getting ready for whatever. Or maybe what I was doing would have seemed less interesting than an SO in the living room. He worked from home-so he thought it disrespectful to not treat his home like any other office. Although still-couldn’t you just say ‘dude, I’m still working, can you hang out for an hour reading before we watch our show? He wasn’t working when I arrived-he was naked, getting ready to shower.

    This situation really shook me. I wouldn’t have shown up unannounced (or just email announced) if we hadn’t already had plans. I am still wondering if I have no manners, if my expectations are all screwed up, etc, but a counselor will hopefully help with that.

    1. Wow, yeah, SO relationships can be really fraught, indeed.

      I was going to post something about how poly relationships can make this complicated, but your post points out that a lot of that really does get contained in two-person relationships too. In my poly case, my fraughtness has mostly been with my partner’s wife, but my partner and I could have had the same sort of issues earlier on in our relationship — it’s all about transitions from “guest” to “almost-cohabiting family”, and about where people are comfortable with the relationships going on that scale. One of our more memorable conversations was when she was really annoyed with where I was parking my bike; most of the issue was that she felt like I was in the guest-space where she couldn’t just say, “Hey, move your bike.” And I was parking my bike in the obvious spot and assuming if it was an issue they’d say something. Much communication later, of course, things were happier.

      And that’s really the hard part. With these, it’s not just about manners, and ways that those diverge, but about where the relationship is, and people having different ideas of that, and also about people having different feelings about what solidity of relationship allows what sort of casual space-sharing.

      With that said, your description sounds like the sort of thing I would certainly expect a person to handle gracefully even if it wasn’t okay with them, not to be furious about. (And, besides, my experience is that people meeting other people after work at “real” offices do show up early sometimes, and the expected thing is “wait in the lobby and entertain themselves for a bit while the person they’re meeting finishes up their work”.)

    2. When someone is yelling at you and trying to hurt you with sarcasm, it is because they have chosen to respond in a hurtful manner. Nothing you did “deserves” that kind of treatment; you didn’t prompt that with your manners or lack of them. Instead of telling you in a calm voice that he wasn’t ready to hang out yet, or asking you to duck out for another half-hour, or have a respectful conversation about how he felt upset about you coming early, he blew his top and attacked you.

      FWIW I think your manners were fine, and your reading on the situation of friend vs SO is pretty socially ept.

      I… wonder, and this is me being suspicious and on the lookout for odd behaviour as a profession, so I could be totally wrong and if so I apologize, but I wonder:

      If the intensity of his reaction has anything to do with the fact that he wasn’t working, but instead naked. Maybe he honestly was en route to shower with rubber duckie and towel, but, well. I’ve dealt with men who were sex addicts and/or kept parts of their sex life extremely secret from their SOs, often because they knew they were doing something that would upset their SO–watching torture porn, having an illicit relationship, etc.–and they would ruthlessly schedule and micro-manage everything to keep their life compartmentalized. “1600, masturbate to porn; 1630, cleanup; 1700, SO arrives.” So if any of the people they had carefully arranged in their schedule/chessboard had the temerity to break pattern and show up early or try to clean under the bed or anything that threatened to bring the two sides of their lives together they’d explode with rage–and since they couldn’t talk about the actual cause of their anger, they often used bullshit nonsensical excuses, like, “When you sweep for dustbunnies under the bed it implies you think I’m a disgusting person.” (Instead of: that is where I keep evidence about my affairs.

      Anyway, it’s experience that suggests to me that his anger, the lack of proportion in its expression, and the total non sequitur of you not respecting his work (I’ve shown up early at peoples’ work, they tell me to grab a magazine and wait) when he’s not working, is 100% not about you. Whatever actually made him angry (my tortured hypothesis, simple embarrassment at being caught not working, sheer cussedness) was probably very hugely not about you.

      1. I’ve had a personal experience with a partner that lived a very compartmentalized life because… let’s just say…. he had a lot of ‘realities’ to manage. Keeping a lot of lies straight is a very stressful endeavor. When an unexpected encounter is perceived to threaten someone’s carefully scheduled world, it doesn’t take much for them to fly off the handle. Then blame the person who triggered their explosion.

        1. I didn’t realise the combination of cheating and micromanaging was a “thing” until just now, but I’ve experienced it too. An ex-partner of mine used to plan their scheduling (work, social and romantic) very tightly. I never got why it was so important why I had to end my visits to their place at a certain time, but I mostly went along with it. Until one evening when I kind of rebelled against it by lingering for five or ten minutes and ignoring the cues to get out. Needless to say, the other person they were secretly dating turned up while I was still there.

    3. If the guy were my boyfriend, not just someone I’d gone on a few dates with, it would either be fine or, if I’d wanted to do something before everyone came over, mildly annoying. The mildly annoying scenario would call for asking him to amuse himself while I finished whatever I was in the middle of. It wouldn’t involve a reaming out. I think your ex had issues.

    4. I suppose that depends on how long you’d been with each other and how comfortable you were – if it was a very new relationship I would be kind of focused on presenting my best self and maybe thrown by a date who showed up while I was still getting ready. If we’d been together for years and regularly stayed at each other’s places and had keys I would assume that I could show up whenever. But from the rest of what you say, it sounds like maybe this guy was bad news and always pissed off with you, and certainly his reaction sounds pretty extreme and you sound pretty shaken about what should have been maybe a case of being mildly miffed and saying “please can you not do that” not screaming at you and being sarcastic. I would chalk that one up to bad ex and forget about it. :-/

    5. Wow, hey, no, that was not a reasonable reaction on his part. I’m, uh, I’m actually really glad you’re seeing a counselor because there are several red flags in this comment that make me think he might have been emotionally abusing you. Take care of yourself, okay?

      1. Yeah, I’m going (super sad plus super confused = counselor) The whole thing left me wondering if my notions of politeness and normal were actually polite and normal. Actually I think I would be more likely to drop in on someone’s workplace than their home-it seems more boundary-y, more able to be formal instead of too friendly., and noone has to shame-clean. Although I still would only do it in a more extreme or solitary instance, rather than a pattern of behavior.

    6. Hey QA, I had a relationship with someone who would get similarly furious if I turned up early or unannounced and I eventually realised it was part of a wider tendency to controlling and emotionally abusive behaviour (and with another ex it was that plus masking infidelity). While I think boundaries are super important, I also think that enforcing them needs to be done in a way that is reasonable. I think your expectations of either a welcome reception or a non-angry ‘shoot sorry, didn’t get your email, can you come back in an hour?’ are absolutely spot on and that what you did was in no way bad manners. I wish you all the best in working this through with your counsellor.

      1. We had keys, together a year. He moved cities for me. I had thought about naked secrecy ( another poster), but he did shower at night as a rule. So maybe but I guess will never know. It helps to hear that this was inappropriate. It was so unpleasant (awful)

        1. It was totally inappropriate.

          But I also think that it’s one thing to set boundaries with friends and family, and another with people you are intimate with – because even if you’re not actively cohabitating, not having the kind of relationship where you can share space would feel very alarming.

    7. And as an aside, it’s not stupid to not think of the landline, at all. You are not stupid. You *do* have manners, that’s why you emailed. And your expectations sound like they’re probably just fine. I too have been in a fairly “fighty” friendship that was often, like you say: “wow I have no idea why we are in this situation”. After years away from it, I think we were (at best) incompatible in certain ways. Just because someone says you did something wrong doesn’t make you a stupid or wrong person, and it doesn’t even make what you did wrong. As you can tell from examples in this thread, there are lots of different preferences on stopping by, and lots of ways for miscommunication to happen – but none of them justify yelling, sarcasm, or belittling. That was not about you.

      1. I did nonetheless feel foolish I hadn’t thought to use it! But thanks. Yeah, his reaction was so weird. When I tried explaining my thought-action process, he got meaner and said ‘there’s always a but with you, isn’t there?’. Then I had to apologize with no buts. Awful. But, it did make me wonder if my assumptions about etiquette were off. I find this thread reassuring and helpful.

        1. AUGH the “there’s always a but” makes me so RAGEY. i have had that used on me enough by a gaslighty ex that i break out in hives when i hear it. if people are really always deflecting blame away from themselves and harming the relationship, there are ways to get that point across gently, as part of a dialogue, without silencing.

          1. Ragey is about right! The three weeks since I broke it off with him have been occupied with my brain trying to solve the puzzle of why someone would act this way towards another person. It is like the puzzle Geordi wasn’t allowed to send the Borg ship. I am personally saving the galaxy from assimilation because I will never solve it.

          2. Ragey is right! in the 3 weeks since I broke it off I have been trying to solve the problem of why someone would treat another person this way. It is like the puzzle Geordi wasn’t allowed to send the Borg ship. I am saving the galaxy right now from assimilation because I will never solve it, and yet it keeps looping.

  33. As someone who *likes* being dropped in on, I still have certain caveats:
    – You must not mind being told “not a good time, please leave”.
    – You must be comfortable being handed a wailing baby and asked to entertain him while I tidy things.
    – After the length of time it takes to drink one cup of tea, you must make polite noises about going. If I want you to stay longer, I’ll let you know.

    1. I wouldn’t make any polite noises. I would tell you upon arrival that when you want me to leave, just say so (blunt person as I am, it might be phrased as “the moment I’m a bother, sweep me out”). And when you did, I’d grab my shoes, say “goodbye, twas great to see you” and be out. Would that be fine, too?
      I don’t even know how to make polite noises. When I say I’m going, I’m not asking to be made to stay, I want to go freely (at this point I’m thinking of my grandmother, who’ll always start begging me to stay longer when I’m just too tired already and having to negotiate my right to leave doesn’t help). If I were to guess when it’s my time to leave I’d spend all my spoons for the week and waste the whole visit guessing, and still get it wrong. By agreeing on brutal honesty we can both have a good time while we’re having it, and end it when we’re not. Of course it only works with a host who isn’t too shy and self-conscious to actually ask me to leave.

      1. Exactly that last sentence. I get where you’re coming from, and there are some benefits to brutal honesty, but not everyone is comfortable with being brutal to friends.

        Mezzanine’s description is honest; it’s just setting an agreed-upon check-in point in advance–“you need to check in and see if I want you to leave after X time, at which point I will let you know how I feel.” Those are really helpful sometimes, especially if a person doesn’t always realize they’re starting to feel run down unless the topic comes up.

        (Polite noises can be “Anyway, it was good to see you; I guess I should head out and let you get back to stuff?”)

        1. “I get where you’re coming from, and there are some benefits to brutal honesty, but not everyone is comfortable with being brutal to friends.”

          Yes, and it is impolite to place that responsibility and discomfort upon them merely because one isn’t very good at picking up on social cues. Expecting brutal honesty from others merely because one isn’t socially adept is expecting too much.

          It’s up to the visitor to remain mindful of the length of their visit (and the potential impact on others) so as not to overstay their welcome. If one is expecting the host to do all the work, that’s just lazy and rude IMO. Becoming more adept at these important social skills is not impossible, but it takes motivation and hard work.

          1. “Not everyone is comfortable with being brutal to friends” is not the same thing as “nobody is comfortable with being brutally honest with friends and you can’t ever ask your friends to BE honest because obviously they’d find that uncomfortable, and you should just LEARN. If you can’t master this obscure, difficult, and insufficiently documented skill set then you’re just lazy and rude.”

  34. I didn’t want to post this in response to any one person, but I’m a little confused by the way the definition of “shame clean” seems to be expanding? drifting? I’ve had a not awesome day so maybe I’m just being a kvetch, but I do not think all in-advance-of-company-cleaning has to be shame cleaning. I “shame clean” when someone unexpectedly needs to be in my apartment (my super doesn’t need to see my floor underwear), sure, and I would be annoyed with the LW for a sudden drop by in part for that reason, but when I know company is coming in advance I…enjoy the clean? I put out little soaps shaped like sea shells and sometimes buy flowers or light a scented candle. That sort of cleaning, which I know not everyone does or enjoys, is not shame based. I try to host people in my home every so often just so that I have the excuse/motivation to do this kind of cleaning which I then enjoy all by myself for several days after. Losing the chance to do that would be disappointing to me. And I wouldn’t get to bake! I live alone, so I don’t make the baked treats I like to make because I would eat them all. If you drop by unannounced you have deprived me of my sea shell soap and my famous bourbon blondies!

    I know that probably seems like a small/petty distinction, but in terms of the LW’s question I just want to emphasize how much more fun ALL aspects of hosting are for me when I know about them in advance. The need to suddenly clean would discomfit me, sure, but I would be more bothered by some of the above.

    Also, I love the distinction of Ask v. Guess (and boy does that explain some things about my boss). I am firmly in camp Ask, but my midwestern relatives are not. Adventures in different communication styles continue.

    1. Oh, agreed! I was reading that and thinking, “wait, why’s that shame-cleaning? Surely that’s just … cleaning?” To me it reads a bit like the way that some people think all eating is shame-eating: like, in an ideal world, we would all just exist on sunshine and oxygen, and would be beings of pure air and never need to wash our clothes or our living spaces, and any need for calories or the removal of dirt is something to be ashamed of.

      I mean, if people need to identify and express that cleaning/not-cleaning comes with a sense of shame, go for it! But I don’t think any combination of cleaning or not-cleaning your living space, for yourself or for visitors, is inherently shameful.

      1. Ooh I hadn’t made that connection between eating and cleaning. I’m firmly in the camp of “food is not bad and I refuse to feel guilty for it”. I’m also somewhat cluttered in my personal space but keep most of the house relatively tidy, though that’s partly because I live with someone else so they’re public spaces anyway. I would definitely be shame-cleaning my bedroom if I was anticipating having someone in it, but the rest of the house it’s just cleaning.

    2. I think it comes from the assumption that people in certain cultures have that everyone keeps their houses a basic level of clean. Not spotless at all times or anything, but an arbitrary level of ‘not disgusting’. A ton of people who have executive function issues for various reasons struggle with guilt at their inability to meet this standard at all times, so they don’t want to let others into their house without achieving that basic cleanliness level first. This is hugely fraught partly bc of things like anxiety disorders but partly bc a lot of people in this category have repeatedly suffered derision, dismissiveness, ridicule etc from friends and family many times in the past.

      1. Yeah, this! It’s shame cleaning for me, because although I have battled my way out of squalor, my day-to-day living situation is still a good few degrees below what most people consider “lived-in” levels of clutter. Housework is one of the first things to fall by the wayside both for my anxiety and my partner’s depression.

    3. That’s great if you have the time and the energy to do that. Not everyone does. If you have a chronic health condition (which might be physical, it might be mental illness, or a mixture of the two) and kids, sometimes you’re doing well just to keep the dishes clean, the laundry done, kids clean, the floor uncrunchy and the table unsticky. Not everyone is commfortable having other people see the house in that state (and if you only just about have the spoons to manage those basics, you probably don’t have the spoons to entertain anyone else, much less do extra baking or bothering with fancy soaps). It can feel highly embarassing that you can’t maintain higher standards. In those circumstances, you don’t enjoy cleaning much, I can tell you. You feel ratty, harassed, and you’re frantically trying to make it look as if you do pay more than rudimentary attention to the housework if only to stave of questions about whether you’re coping. So yes, for a lot of people it IS shame-cleaning.

      1. @arkadyrose

        I totally understand that shame cleaning is a thing and I know the “shame” aspect of cleaning comes from a wide array of sources both personal and cultural and have felt/done it myself in certain circumstances. I also know that not everyone enjoys the kind of cleaning/hosting prep I described and it’s obviously not required (that would be insane). But since the LW was asking about why a person might be upset about an unexpected visit I wanted to throw in the fact that there are many reasons a host might not want a drop-in visit, not just the need to “shame clean,” which I think is well represented by many of the comments above me. The distinction I was trying to awkwardly makie was that a drop-in visit deprives those people who enjoy the lead up to hosting of that lead up (whether it comes in the form of fancy soap, baking, the chance to make DIY napkin holders, etc.). I suppose it amounts to the same thing–I didn’t get to do the prep I would have preferred to–but since the LW is worried about missing nuances, I thought it would be good to offer another POV/reason for not wanting a drop in, lest LW have a friend who keeps a spic-and-span house all the time and LW assume that means drop-ins for that person are okay.

        The short version, LW, is: Always ask. There are so many many reasons people might not enjoy a surprise visit.

      2. It can also feel shameful if you have been to the person who’s visiting’s house, and their place is/seems spotless, fancy, and smells like freshly baked pie, and then they want to come and visit you and your place is…very much not like that. And by you I mean me.

        1. Speaking as the sort who on occasion has that freshly-baked-pie thing happening, I can offer reassurance that I and the vast majority of my ilk do not care if your house is not like that. I love playing host, it’s true, but I use that phrase consciously–“playing host.” It’s a role that I choose to put on, and it is not one that I would expect (or want!) all my friends to do. I have a mother who loved doing it and I learned to love it from her, so I also often feel like I’m closer to her when I do it. I enjoy doing that the way some people enjoy playing softball. There is no amount of money that exists that would get me to play softball (Gym class PTSD). I don’t expect everyone to like the same things I like or vice versa, but different strokes for different folks. The joy I get out of hostessing is why I do it.

          I didn’t mean to derail the conversation about unexpected visits into a separate thread on the shame some experience re: cleaning. I know that “shame cleaning” exists and I am not trying to make anyone feel bad or shamed and I apologize if I did that. As my original comment notes, I was confused that the term seemed to be being used to describe all sorts of in-advance-of-company cleaning. I am just offering another perspective on the need for advance notice before a visit because the LW was having trouble understanding why that’s a thing people would want.

          Side note in regards to the hosting habit as something that is not done AT other people but is really about the host: Remember those episodes of FRIENDS when they switched apartments and Monica was desperate to have people come to the apartment she was in because she loved being the one who hosted? Yeah. That. It makes me feel good. It says a lot about Monica (and me) that this is the way she expresses both her care for her friends and her need to be seen as caring and we could all do a deep dive on the psychology of that if we wanted, but I don’t think that’s the point. Just as we should all do our best to remember that judging people for a less-than-Monica-level clean home is not OK, it’s also sort of uncool to judge the Monicas of the world. The vast majority of pies are not baked to shame the nonbakers.

    4. No, not all cleaning in advance of company is shame-cleaning.

      But if the person being visited does shame-clean, it isn’t about the state of cleanliness when visitors aren’t there. It’s about the person being visited’s anxieties, upbringing, guilt, etc. And so, count your blessings that cleaning is a hassle but not a source of shame brain-weasels.

    5. For you, that sort of cleaning might not be based in shame, but it is for others. In my family growing up, having company over meant at least two hours of scrubbing the entire house, and our mother berating us all for how filthy and embarrassing we were. The house was never in fact very dirty and usually was fairly presentable even without the deep-clean, but my mom was ashamed and embarrassed by any perceived imperfection that she thought others would notice.

  35. The Captain’s given some good general guidelines, but when it comes to the specific relationship between the LW and this friend, I think in some ways it’s simpler, because it’s an individual. Everyone has different preferences about this, so it can be tricky to figure out what to do in general. But with this one friend, all you really need to know is what SHE prefers. If she’s the one who ‘called you out’ for inviting yourself, then you know now that she’d prefer you wait for an invitation. You may be right that she doesn’t want as close a relationship, or she might just have a preference in this particular thing, as some people do.

  36. “I have routinely over the last year asked if she were free for me to drop in for a hug when fetching mail (I receive mail in the same building as her office) and that’s seemed fine.”

    Does she ever reciprocate, either by visiting you or by explicitly inviting you? Or by initiating contact in some other way? It certainly doesn’t have to be exactly fifty-fifty, nor do I suggest you keep a detailed count of how often she initiates contact versus how often you do, but if you’re doing all or almost all of the initiating, I would be suspicious that she’s not actually acting like someone who’s trying to be friends with you. Of course, some people are just bad at initiating, and can get into a lazy habit of letting the other person do all of it, but it could also be a sign that she’s not as into this friendship as you are.

  37. On the topic of wanting to clean before people show up, I REALLY HATE when people respond to your desire to clean up with “oh I don’t mind the mess!” Look, well intentioned person*, it’s not about you! I mind the mess! I mind people looking at my mess! I mind people seeing things that I put away when I know people are coming. I MIND! This is about my comfort in my own home and has nothing to do with catering to guests, or being proper or mannerly. I’m not trying to maintain some front, I’m not trying to look more together than I am.

    It’s like having a conversation vs reading my mind. I’m going to share what I’m comfortable with and I’m going to kick the rest under the bed until you leave.

    *not directed at any person here

    1. Ahaha. So, my mother has started beseechingly claiming that she “doesn’t care” about mess in my apartment. But I care. I care a *lot*, because having my mother constantly belittle me, my housekeeping skills and my space whenever she visits makes my home feel not like a safe space. (Everyone else gets vacuuming if absolutely necessary, plus some spaces to sit down cleared off.)

      1. Every time I have invited my mom to any of the apartments I’ve lived in, she’s always found something to criticize about the cleanliness. Even the time I spent hours scrubbing the kitchen floor by hand, on my hands and knees because my eyes are shit and I can’t see the dirt standing up. Makes me pretty anxious about having ANY visitors.

    2. I think that’s a polite expression though. “Sorry my place is so messy.” “I don’t mind.” It would be really rude to say ‘fuck yeah it’s disgusting.’ If the issue is that you’re using that as a soft no and people are ignoring your soft no by saying it’s fine, that’s a problem for a different reason and those people could use the captain’s advice above about listening for soft nos when they invite themselves over.

      1. It’s the soft no issue. People arguing to come over when I don’t want them. And my mother in particular telling me to “get over it” if I express displeasure with her dropping in.

  38. I have a friend who has really bad social anxiety (which paired with my own anxiety is not always a fun time). So when I want to go hang out with him I’ll message him (skype, steam, facebook, or text) and say hey is x date/time ok for me to come over and we can watch really amusing “horror” movies (we find scary stuff to be very entertaining). And I’ll send that message a week or two in advance. I’ll check in periodically through the week leading up to it checking on how his energy levels are looking so far and making sure his dad hasn’t sprung something unexpectedly on him. Day of, I’ll send him a text asking “hey is today still ok or should we reschedule”. And very rarely is the answer reschedule. But I’m always thanked for double and triple checking with him because I understand that his particular brand of anxiety can say “yes let’s definitely plan to do this” and then the day of be “I really want to do this but I can’t do it today”. So I think the checking day of to make sure things are still ok is a person to person thing.

    But it’s also something that should be communicated in the friendship. My example above works well for both his and my anxieties. And it started out just being ok for his and mine going oh hey I don’t stress about this as much. Especially because I’m a person who is constantly worried about if I’m inconveniencing them or pressuring them. So for me it helps me to know hey this person is still excited on this and wants to do this thing so we’re ok.

    When people show up unexpectedly it depends on if it’s an annoyance for me. If it’s an emergency situation or a “hey I remembered that I borrowed this from you or that you wanted to borrow this so I thought I’d drop it off and then get back on my way” I’m ok with it. If it turns into a huge social thing it tends to be bad. If it’s someone I haven’t seen in a while who is finally back in town and a surprise it’s both good and bad. I don’t like surprises so that’s the bad part. But I’m happy about seeing someone I haven’t seen in a while. But that’s my own 2 cents on the topic. Usually I like things planned out in advance and double or triple checked.

    I tend to get to parties and stuff early because I have severe anxieties about being late. I explained that to my friends in advance before ever accepting an invitation and when I do get there early I offer my help in setting things up. Or if they’re not ok with it, I’ll bring a book (well I bring one anyway) and sit in my car and read until it’s “suppose” to start (because suppose to and actual are different times and that seriously bothers me). But I also know which of my friends are ok with it and which aren’t.

  39. Another general suggestion for times when you are trying to invite yourself over is _never_ assume you’re dropping by their space, always ask. Examples: “Oh, I’m in the neighborhood, I’ll just come by your house.” No. “I’m in the neighborhood. Do you want to catch up?” Yes.

    The sorts of people who like unexpected drop-ins will respond seamlessly with the right noises, the ones who don’t can say “sorry, busy” or even “yeah, let’s go to Local Coffee Shop”.

    It takes a certain level of presumption about how close your friendship is to ask someone else to host you, so if you’re not 99.9% sure that person would like you to invite yourself over, avoid inviting yourself over. From my own life, I’m a person who likes hosting but deeply disliked the conversation I had: “Hey, I’ve been wanting to watch This Old Movie, do you want to watch it with me?” “Sure, I’m free all weekend” “Great, I’ll be over at 3”. And the thing is, if they’d said “whose house should we watch at?” I would have volunteered.

  40. Out of context, proposing that you drop by to show off your new bike doesn’t sound like a big deal, if only because (I’m guessing) the bike implies you’re not going to stay long. You’re going to show our friend the bike and then ride away … on your bike.

    If she’s been increasingly distant, maybe there’s something else going on. Maybe she feels encroached upon for other reasons, and she’s afraid that letting you drop by her house will open the door to frequent drop-bys in the future. But only she knows why she reacted that way.

  41. LW this stuff is very subjective. I have close friends who are cool with people texting them and saying “hey I’m around are you at home to guests” and then coming over if the answer is yes. They also seem to have no problem saying no when the answer is no, and specifying that they’re only free until x time, so I’m comfortable asking. Myself – I like more notice. Or at least for the text to come not while they’re sitting in my driveway – I had to have an absolute tear down fight with my mum to get her to stop just dropping in on me and randomly eating entire afternoons that I had planned to do other things with. I’m OK with very close friends dropping in on short notice, but I’m put off by no notice – I’ve had friends turn up when I was sleeping before and it wasn’t much fun. The closer someone is, the more I feel I can relax around them and the less trouble it feels to have them over unexpectedly.

    Back when I was in my uni days I hung out in a social group that was very “lets all just drop in on each other” and I once made the mistake of turning up at a working friend’s house at 8pm with a bunch of other student friends. The guy had the kind of job that involved getting up before dawn and he was already in bed – he wasn’t super impressed, and that’s when I started really thinking about whether it was OK to just drop in on people – not everyone has the same schedule as me. Likewise, now that I’m much older and a person who works a lot I’ve found my downtime is rather more precious to me than it once was – I like to spend some time alone and resent it when people barge in on that. I’ve had friends who I would never drop in on uninvited, through to friends who have an open invitation and have given me a key and have told me to turn up whenever even if they’re at work because they like to come home to a house full of random friends. I’ve found it’s best to assume people are of the former type until they explicitly tell you they’re the latter.

    So sorry to say there’s no hard and fast rule. The closer you are the more you can get away with, but some people won’t like it regardless. It’s best to assume they’re not into drop-ins unless they make it clear they like that kind of thing. You can also see how they react to other people, and if they have a constant stream of drop ins when you’re over, or are OK with saying no when asked or setting limits on drop ins without squirming with discomfort. Regardless your friend is letting you know she’s not cool with it, which means you need to stop doing it to her specifically.

  42. Ha, intercultural differences around this kind of thing are a trip. Me and my friends have all spent a lot of time in mixed-nationality European groups, and this is a thing that has caused me and my friends some problems in the past:

    Thing you say at a party / pub to someone you’re getting on with: “Oh, you want to see that film too? We should totally go and see that together! Maybe later in the week, like Thursday or something? Yeah, that’d be fun!”

    British/Irish person: *forgets about it in the cold light of day* OR *texts to say, “So I was serious about seeing that film. Do you want to? It’s at 7.30 on Thurs if you’re still interested?”* But no actual arrangement has been made just because both people have expressed interest in the concept of going.

    German/Dutch person: *is at the cinema at 7.45 on Thursday wondering where the hell the Irish person is*

    And then there was the time we had this conversation:

    “So I was talking to this guy Stephan last night, and he invited me over to a party he is having this evening. Should I go or not?”
    “Well, is he Northern European or from the Northeast Atlantic Archipelago?”
    “His dad’s Belgian and his mum’s Irish and he grew up in Ireland but went to university in Belgium and he’s been working in Austria for the last five years but he spends a lot of time in Ireland and I have NO IDEA which version he was using and I don’t have his phone number!”

    My partner had a, “You should come to our party next Saturday!” “Sure!” conversation at a party, and, being Irish, she figured it was a friendly fun thing that people say and promptly forgot about it. She ran into the same person a couple of weeks later and it turned out it was a dinner party, she was the sixth guest, they waited two hours for her and dinner was ruined. Awkward.

    1. See I’d totally get that “we should do this!” doesn’t actually mean it until you make specific plans, but as soon as someone actually mentions a day I’d assume it’s something that is almost certainly going to happen and we just need to confirm the time.

  43. I have a sister-in-law with family like this. My mom, my sister and I had come to town planned ahead of time to arrive at their house and have dinner. My brother and sister-in-law wound up super-stressed because not only did her mother and father invite themselves over, but they brought her brother, his wife and their twin toddlers. I get the idea that her family does this often–and the stress it causes is palpable.

  44. “I’m not sure if it’s germane to this issue, but I considered her until about a year ago my best friend. Even before then she’s become increasingly distant and I’ve been getting the impression that if I’m not in her life in a certain way, she doesn’t have space for me.”

    I think that’s *incredibly* relevant to this issue. From the angle I’m looking, her best friend is trying to decrease the closeness or frequency of interactions in this relationship, and the LW hasn’t quite gotten that message yet. What was once acceptable — dropping in randomly, a friendly chat over the mail, etc. — might no longer be. If she’s trying to get space, the first thing she might be cutting is “spontaneous interaction with person X.” They need to have a talk about the state of things, and the LW needs to prepare for the idea that this friend might want a more distant situation or even hand off an African Violet here.

    But since we’re all contributing our opinions on drop-in culture, I’ll say I love it. It makes me feel appreciated when friends go out of their way to just kind of show up at my house. I grew up in the country where this was just A Thing That Happened. You dropped in and your neighbors offered you a Coke and you laughed and chilled out for half an hour and then you left. Though, this also means they have to be willing to take “sorry, I feel lame, could you come back another time” as an answer, or be willing to futz around on their computer for a while if I’m in the middle of a nap. Drop-in culture has a certain requirement of flexibility and time that I’m not sure really exists where I live, anyway. Even if I can’t have that, I do like the occasional text of “I’m at the grocery store near you; how about I stash my stuff in your fridge and we hang out for a bit?” on random evenings. The more initiative my friends show, the better.

    I’m also kind of allergic to planning sometimes because I have no idea if I’ll be having a depressive episode or some other shenanigans that day and have to cancel, and I don’t want to be known as “that person who randomly flakes on everything.” The less long term friend events planning I can do, the better. It feels like a Big Commitment to do complex scheduling on everything, whereas “yo I’m walking my dog down your street” feels very, very low key to me.

    In general, I think friends should communicate about and establish the status quo on this matter at the point in their relationships where they are going over to each other’s houses routinely. People have their preferences. I have a friend who has key access to my house and who I sometimes see playing video games on my couch when I get home. I know a lot of friends who would hate to have that surprise.

    1. Big +1 on the relevance of the increasing distance here. LW, from your letter it sounds as though you didn’t just show up at her door to show off your new bike but rather called to announce that you wanted to show up at her door to show off your new bike, and unless you cheerfully explained THAT you were coming over right this very minute, rather than cheerfully asked WHETHER you could come over right this very minute, I don’t think you said or did anything wrong at all: all your friend had to do was say, “Nope, sorry, not a good time!” if she weren’t up for a visit from you (and your awesome bike). Since she instead replied, “Don’t invite yourself over,” I’d take it as a sign that she really just needs some space. (I mean, my house is my Fortress of Solitude, and I can be super grumpy if I’m interrupted in the middle of something by my phone, but unless underlying issues are at play, even I the Queen of the Solitary Grumpies here am never going to reply to a self-invite with “Dude, totally inappropriate!” rather than just, “Nope, not gonna work right now.”) Talk about it with her if you’d like; let her slow-fade quietly on out if you’d like; find a new awesome person to enjoy riding with.

    2. I definitely make sure my friends all know that I might have to cancel closer to an event if I’m feeling terrible (depressive/anxiety). And try not to do it too often, and make more of an effort the smaller number of people will be there, but at least they know that it’s a possibility.

  45. “We’re in a cultural phase where “Are we still on for tonight?” is an actual question people text you 15 minutes before you’re supposed to meet them”

    – Jesus Chris on a bike. I mean, sure, if we made plans 2 weeks ago, I might text you the day before to clarify, but 15 minutes? You BETTER be there because I’m already on my way AND I washed my hair for you.

    1. I actually use this with people who are habitually late. It’s like, are you going to show up on time, or are you going to be there in an hour? I’ll text before I leave home so that I know if there’s any point in leaving on time or if I should aim to be late like they will probably be. So I think it has a context where it’s useful. “Still on for tonight?” sounds a bit less pointed than “Are you actually running on time today?”

    2. I know, but like I said up thread, I’ve had a couple of friends in the past who would in fact regularly cancel that close to whatever-it-was, so I got in the habit for a while because I couldn’t trust that plans were real.

    3. I am a supporter of the day-before or the early-that-morning text to remind people to check their calendar. I don’t always remember (to check my calendar, that is.)

  46. Hrm. I think I’d be really bothered and upset by someone showing up to my house unannounced, or even my dorm room/building/suite. Places like that are MINE, are safe, are meant to be shields against the outside world. Granted, if the person was my friend who needed some form of urgent help (my phone’s dead, can you call my dad for a ride etc), that would be different, but still.

    But I agree with above commenters, it’s both cultural and individual. Some of our relatives assume that discussing plans for New Year’s (just as an example) means that *everyone* will be going, including people whose mothers just died and need time to grieve alone. Some of my mother’s friends assume that it’s only polite to call when you’re in the area and see if they want to hang out, and some of my generation shame-clean less than other people. It’s not a thing where assumptions will actually pay off.

  47. Age group and environment probably matters too. In university I lived in dorms, and living on campus was sort of an implicit “you’re always free”. Friends would sit outside my window at midnight and yell at me to go for pancakes with them. That was awesome fun then, but 10 years later if you show up at my house at random, especially after 10, I probably won’t even open the door, or I might get mad.

    I had to talk to my best friend gently about that. I love her dearly but I need more notice than “wanna go out in an hour?” I don’t mind being asked because sometimes I do wanna be spontaneous but I also probably will say no most times and would like to not have to be in the position to have to constantly be the naysayer.

  48. So many different points of view in the comments! People seem to vary widely, so I’m a big proponent of “Ask”, not “Guess”.
    My own perspective is that if a person just shows up at my house, not only am I going to pretend I am not at home, but I will also be demoting them several degrees in our relationship. I can’t describe the horror that washes over me at the thought of a random drop-in, and there is not one single person on the face of the earth that could do that and not trigger that reaction. Not even family or closest friends. My home has to be my sanctuary, and nobody gets inside without my consent given well in advance (hint: 24 hours is short notice to me)
    Part of that is that my schedule is jam-packed and I struggle to fit in everything I have to do, so unscheduled drop-ins mess it all up. In the rare event that I’m having chill-out time, that’s because I’m desperately in need of doing nothing / reading / watching Dr Who with my kids, and the last thing in the world I want is to have to interact with another person.
    The hugest part of it is that I cannot bear to have people see inside my house unless it is perfectly tidy and the floors vacuumed/washed, and every surface freshly wiped down, and no dirty dishes, and with refreshments ready etc (thank you, my mother, for your hostess-shame legacy) – and as mentioned I have children. Or as they are also known, mess-makers. Unless I evict them, I can’t have my house in a perpetual state of readiness (my version) for visitors, therefore DO NOT PRESENT YOURSELF AT MY HOME WITHOUT PRIOR ARRANGEMENT.

    Also, no one from my work is ever welcome in my home, because the streams must not cross. LW, it seems possible that your workmate also regards home visits as a level of intimacy that is too much for a co-worker.

    1. Oops, LW I just realised I misread that, and you are friends rather than workmates. My comment is still partially relevant however, in that it may feel more intrusive to have a visit at home rather than at work, given that work is a non-private space.

  49. I married into a family that practices old-time Alaskan hospitality. Everybody who shows up at the door is invited in out of the weather and offered a drink and a place to sit. However, if you’re not a very close friend, when your cup is empty, it’s time to go.

    Also, “It’s not a a good time, I have boiling food/exploding children/a dog who is sick at both ends” is an acceptable excuse.

  50. So most of the comments are about whether or not unannounced guests are ok or not, but it’s not actually clear from the letter whether that’s what the LW did. When they write about the work situation they say that they ask first if it’s ok. If the LW did the same here, e.g. sent a text saying they were in the neighbourhood and was it ok to drop by, that (as the Captain says) is totally not the same as ‘inviting themselves over’ which is what the friend has accused them of. If the friend did just knock on their door, then sure, some guidance on boundaries is probably needed, but if the LW asked in a way that allowed the friend to gracefully decline the invitation, then that’s already expressing respect for boundaries and the friend is possibly overreacting by ‘calling them out’ on it. The calling out thing troubles me. Calling out seems much more about telling the LW that they’ve done something wrong rather than the friend owning their preferences or stating an unpreviously set boundary.

    1. I think just showing up is different from inviting yourself over in a way that allows for a no, but some people would be very uncomfortable even with asking if you can come over (the assumption being that if they want you to come to their house, it’s on THEM to ask YOU). It’s one of those things that vary culturally and individually, though.

    2. If the LW texted and asked if she could come by, that’s definitely still inviting herself over. It may not be rude to you (and certainly is less invasive than just showing up), but as the comments here make clear there are a whole lot of people who don’t like it when a friend invites herself to their home.

      LW, as a general rule (at least in most parts of North America and Europe), I think you’ll usually be safe with these guidelines: don’t just show up at someone’s house (unless they’ve told you they like when people do that) and don’t be the one to suggest you go to your friend’s house (unless you’re quite close or they’ve told you they like that). There may be many people who wouldn’t think either of those things are rude, but if this is an issue you’re worried about then erring on the side of caution is probably better.

      In the bike example, you could text and say “hey, I’m picking up my bike from near your house, do you want to go to the park for a bit?” or even “hey, I’m in [neighbourhood] right now getting my bike, do you want to hang out for a bit?” (without specifying where). Then if the friend wants to, she can suggest you come to her house — but if she’s not up for that, she can decline altogether or agree to meet up elsewhere without feeling like she was put on the spot.

      Anyway, those are the general rules I would follow, but I think here as some others have noted it’s really important that your friend has been pulling away from her generally for the past year. I *definitely* wouldn’t invite myself to someone’s house in that situation (even if in years past it seemed like I was welcome to do so). And I would probably stop initiating other kinds of hangouts (or at least do so less frequently) to see whether the friend really wanted us to keep being friends or if they were trying to naturally drift apart.

      1. Thanks for the reply, that’s really helpful to think about. I’m personally a massive introvert and don’t really like house guests much at all, but I always thought it was on me to deal with that, not to expect other people not to do things like ask to come over and so I thought the LW’s friend was being a bit harsh in reprimanding her rather than just stating her personal boundaries. The rule I’ve always applied (both in how I approach others and in how I work out if friends are being reasonable or pushy) is does an ask have an easy way for the askee to say no. (I particularly dislike it when someone asks ‘are you free this weekend’ without specifying why they are asking!) I like your suggestions about neutral spaces too, will definitely use that in future. 🙂

  51. This thread has actually helped ease my guilt about not liking spur-of-the-moment visitors, even if these visitors are friends of mine. I kind of describe myself as an introverted extrovert. I love being around people and socializing, but only if I’ve had time to gain some energy/prepare for these hangouts. They also make me pretty tired. Especially all-day things. This is even with close friends/my best friends! Whenever I want to hang out with ANYONE I know I always drop a text beforehand and make sure my wording sends the message that it’s totally optional on their part to agree to hang or not. I felt like this was sort of a default thing that everyone did until I met a friend of a friend and we became semi-close. She used to do this thing where she would text that she was in the area but never in a way that left me an option on hanging out. Just “I’m coming over to do/help with/talk about x,y, and z.” and I’d have to scramble for an excuse. If I couldn’t find one, I resented her when she’d eventually show up and felt guilty about it. If I could find an excuse, I felt guilty about turning her away. It was a lose-lose situation. One time she offered to help me pack for a camping trip with my friends that she wasn’t even going on and only gave me 5 mins of advance notice. I was overwhelmed because I felt I had to pack + entertain her. Basically: asking in advance/leaving your buds/acquaintances the option to refuse is always always always the safer choice in my opinion.

  52. Thinking about this some more, the bottom line for me about how much arranging is needed beforehand is – how much am I going to have to change my plans now that you are here? I mean if its my sister, then she can drop by anytime because if I was going to take a nap I will just say hey, I was about to take a nap, you know where the coffee, internet, tv remote is, see you in 45 minutes. But if its someone I’m not intimate enough with to say that to, then sufficient advance notice is required so I can say nope, I was about to take a nap check with me in an hour if you are still around. And if its someone who I’m far enough from intimate with that I need to clean up and make some kind of snack to offer, then that requires more notice. And if I’m hiring a band and a caterer….

    Its a lot about how much lead time I need to prepare the proper conditions for the activity.

  53. Oh also, the good old days when people could just drop by anytime had rules too, they were just different rules. For example in my grandparents day/culture men never dropped by between 9-6 on weekdays because that’s when other men were at work and men and women didn’t socialize with each other except in groups. So a man who came by during those hours would be required to stand on the porch or at most in the foyer and state his business. Equally women didn’t drop by after 6pm on weekdays alone because then the men were home and so it would be couple socializing time. Nobody dropped by after about 8pm without prior arrangement because the children were in bed… there were rules.

  54. While everyone’s comments about drop-in etiquette are really valuable and I would keep them in mind with other friends, my gut just keeps telling me this person is trying to pull a slow fade on you. I would take a step back with this friend, try not making plans with her or stopping by her office for a while and see what happens. Either she isn’t interested in the friendship, in which case you pulling back will make everything easier and less painful for both of you, or she does want to be friends but minus surprise visits, in which case you are giving her space to reach out and make the kind of plans with you that she would actually enjoy. If she does make plans with you and invest something into the friendship, I think switching to “I’m going to be in your area running errands, want to meet for coffee/lunch/whatever?” is going to prevent any future issues.

    I don’t mind drop-ins, if it’s just a rare opportunity thing like they were down the street running an errand. Also I need to be able to say “not now” and they leave without getting upset or making me repeat myself. If someone is dropping by all the time I would get annoyed, and it makes me nervous about the friendship because of reasons I talk about below. #1 reason I would be hostile to a rare drop-in is because I do not actually like the person. It should be noted that I live in an area with notoriously shit cell reception, so sometimes people can’t text or call.

    In college I was in a very tight friend group with my roommate + two other students who lived two doors down from us in the same building. It was normal to just knock on their door on our way back from class to see if they were home/wanted to hang out. Then suddenly it became not okay for ME to do that. Only me. They could still knock on our door, my roommate could knock on their door, but in that and a lot of other ways I had to follow a different set of rules and it was really hurtful. Turns out those same people liked to gang up on me with emotional abuse and gaslighting. Group gaslighting is just so fun (not). I wish I had pulled back way way in the beginning but I craved the friendship and closeness. This is not the first time I’ve had it rough with “best friends” or high-intensity, close-knit groups. It has never ended well for me. The people I remain consistently close friends with for years are the type where we can ignore each other for two months and then pick up where we left off and have a good time, no hurt feelings.

  55. I’m coming in late and have enjoyed looking at the different takes on dropping by. (Mine: I’d rather you called first, but if you don’t, be willing to accept that I might tell you that it’s not a convenient time and ask you to leave.) But here’s what I thought of before looking through all the comments.

    The picture I’m getting is that LW’s friend is trying to redraw some boundaries and doing an sloppy job of it. These two used to be good friends who were easy with each other. Now one is enforcing etiquette rules, and the other is wondering if they’re really rules so as to figure out if any were broken– as though knowing that would make her right and her friend wrong. Take it a step further, and you’ve a way of saying “I’m blameless. We should still be friends!”

    It’s a shame, but it’s actually easier to break up from romantic relationships than from friendship ones. Friendship break-ups are awkward and hard and with lots of ambiguity.

    Here’s what I suggest. First, apologize for coming over uninvited at an inconvenient time. Next, ask what her particulars are about dropping by. Be specific as to drawing out how late it’s okay to phone, how much notice she needs for an invitation for a meal, how much notice she needs if you’re to drop by when you’re in the neighborhood. Get it all spelled out.

    Then, and this is the important part, drop way WAY back in your efforts to get together with her. Issue one invitation, and whether it’s accepted or turned down, wait for one from her before issuing another. Drop all the way down to sending her a generic Xmas card once a year and wishing her a happy birthday on facebook. You want to leave open the lines of communication, but otherwise treat her as you would a casual friend you were getting to know for the first time.

    I wish I’d done that when this happened to me. I had a best friend from grade school straight through college. We told each other everything. We talked about boys, sex, parents, money, school. We laughed and cried together. We slept at one another’s houses. I would have said this was a healthy supportive relationship. We knew we disagreed on a few things, knew we were different people, but the love and support was always there– until it wasn’t. Suddenly and without warning, she was acting like wearing the right thing to an event and sending a thank-you note on the right stationery was the most important thing. I was taken aback but knew she was going through a stressful time and gave her space. One time I asked about the price of something, and she gave me the Miss Manners stare for asking such a nosy question. True, it is rude to ask about money with new acquaintances, but this someone who had in the past gone over every detail of her budget with me and to whom I’d loaned money and given money to so she could visit. Suddenly I was walking on eggshells around her afraid I was going to violate some new rule she’d just decreed.

    I didn’t know what to do and chased after her. I wrote letters. I poured out my heart. She, the etiquette queen, would leave me hanging for months before answering. Sometimes she was angry, and I’d apologize. I’m embarrassed now when I think of how I chased after her. I just didn’t realize that when someone starts coming down on you hard for doing something as innocuous as dropping by at the wrong time, the problem isn’t with the etiquette rule; it’s with the relationship.

    Think about this for a second. Let’s say you were completely wrong when you showed off your new bicycle, and let’s say your friend told you so. If this were a healthy friendship, that would be fine. Someone makes a small mistake, the other lets her know about her displeasure, and you go back to being best buddies. But that’s not what’s happening here. You made a small mistake, and she’s blowing it all out of proportion. That’s the real issue.

    1. “I didn’t know what to do and chased after her. I wrote letters. I poured out my heart. She, the etiquette queen, would leave me hanging for months before answering. Sometimes she was angry, and I’d apologize. I’m embarrassed now when I think of how I chased after her. I just didn’t realize that when someone starts coming down on you hard for doing something as innocuous as dropping by at the wrong time, the problem isn’t with the etiquette rule; it’s with the relationship.”

      This. A poignant reminder of how people often desperately cling to the shreds of a relationship, even though they probably already know in their heart that it has already slipped away. So they test, and test some more, hoping for signs of anything that might confirm that a connection still exists. Eventually the pursued individual just grows weary of all the unwanted attention, and starts responding sharply (if they respond at all) when the other person won’t gracefully take the hint and back off.

      1. I hope I didn’t give the impression that I think it’s all up to the rejected party to take the hint. I hold the one doing the rejecting responsible for being clear. Just as with the break-up of a romantic/sexual relationship, there’s something horrible about the person who doesn’t come out and say “it’s over I’m breaking up with you” but instead keeps leading the soon-to-be ex on with apologies, affection and promises interspersed with harshness, temper, and neglect in the hopes that the rejectee will get the hint. In my case, when I finally was the one to make the clean break after being led on, she cried and wanted forgiveness and blamed me for not forgiving her. I guess she liked keeping people dangling.

        1. You didn’t give that impression at all. And I agree that it’s up to both sides, the person doing the rejecting to communicate clearly and consistently, and the rejectee gracefully taking the hint.

          Sadly, society doesn’t really have a ‘script’ for ending platonic friendships. Those seem to be reserved for romantic relationships only (some scripts being more constructive than others). With platonic friendships, most people seem to go with the “slow fade” rather than confront problems in the friendship directly and honestly. A lot of people were raised in families where avoidance of awkward situations is the only model they know, so they just don’t have the communication tools to do anything else.

          I personally find it sad, as so many times the reason for wanting to end a friendship is based on miscommunications that were left to fester until the only thing left to do is demote the other person to an outer circle, or cut them out of one’s life altogether. Such a waste, from my perspective.

          1. Agreed. Especially the part about how Society doesn’t have a script for ending friendships. I wish the african violet idea had been around back then. We both could have used it.

  56. On the topic of work drop-bys as compared to home drop-bys, specifically the vibe created by the interruption:
    Someone surprises me at work: delightful surprise that breaks up the tedium of the day.
    Someone surprises me at home: invasion of my precious and rare me-time. I have a very polite no soliciting sign on the gate.
    Additional awkwardness if I have company already and didn’t invite the drop-inner. I have had folks invite themselves over the same day and I have wangled it into “let’s meet at the bar” rather than shame-cleaning or not being able to kick them out when I am sleepy, if it’s someone you feel you cannot say no to (but just know you can always say no).
    Back in my pre-cell phone phone college days in liberal central Texas, folks who popped by because they passed near my house generally stayed on the porch, got a hug, and went on their merry way. *Maybe* they came in super quick to pee because they were on a long hike across the neighborhood, but that was it. And no expectations of hospitality or cleaning, just “hey, was passing and saw you were home!” It was always tacitly acknowledged that it was literally a “Hi/bye!”

    1. Do “no solicitations” signs imply that friends can’t knock? That wouldn’t have occurred to me unless my friends were in the habit of trying to sell me things.

      My life doesn’t accommodate drop-ins, and if any of my friends did that, I’d ask them not to. But I wouldn’t get nearly as irritated at them as I would at the door-to-door Vitamix salesman who’s supposed to go away when he sees my sign.

  57. Any suggestions for dealing w/ people who refuse to respect clearly stated boundaries around these issues? Right now I’m having major problem with my cousin- she thinks she should be able to drop by whenever she wants, with no call ahead (and then delights in judging my life and telling the rest of the family that I’m failing as a caretaker to my mother.) I told her that she needs to call before visiting and she basically said if she did that either mom or myself would say no, so she’s just going to continue showing up. It’s come to the point where I feel like I have to leave the curtains drawn and basically hide in the house all day. She’s even walked in the front door before when we didn’t answer her knocking quickly enough.

    1. 1. Answer door, but open it only a crack. Get a chain and a deadbolt if you don’t have one.

      2. “Now just isn’t a good time.”

      3. Close door.

      Repeat as necessary, adding “I do not want you to drop by unannounced. We have talked about this. Goodbye, next time call a day or two in advance and we can schedule something.”

    2. 1. Answer door, welcome cousin with open arms.

      2. “Hey, I was just about to get something from my car. There’s food in the fridge, make yourself at home. I’ll be back …”

      3. Don’t return for at least a week.

      One-trial conditioning, guaranteed!

  58. I moved a year ago partially to be closer to friends; after making suggestions and having them declined or canceled at the last minute, over and over again, I’ve told the Brom that if he’s offered a transfer out of state, I’ll start packing today. It hurts so much, LW, and I’m so sorry this is happening to you.

  59. “When I really wanted to connect with someone, I used to read the “soft no” as a problem that I could solve, like, “Oh, that’s not a problem, I can come to you instead!” “I will deliver the free comic books to your house, along with ice cream, and that random vacuum cleaner part you once mentioned in passing that you needed!” I looked at the reason for the refusal and ignored that it was a refusal.”

    I have a very good friend who does this. I love her dearly and wish I could see her more, but every time she does this I get hives and feel panicky and cornered and like my inability to see her on Day X is somehow a Thing That Is My Fault and I Suck As A Friend.

    Do not do this to your friends, who love you and yet may have busy lives or incompatible schedules. I’m begging you, Awkward Army. Please.

    1. Word. It was so helpful having the Captain unpack the dynamic of that sort of exchange.

      A similar (probably unintentional but still annoying) tendency I’ve seen in some of my friends is to lead with partial questions, e.g. ‘What are you doing at the weekend?’ Instead of stating their full request, e.g. ‘Would you like to hang out at the mall on Sunday’. If they’d gone with the latter I could give a soft no if I wasn’t feeling it and dignity for all would be kept intact, but by hiding that question it pre-empts the soft no by making you divulge that no you didn’t really have any plans and are in fact ‘free’, thus making it trickier to evade an unwanted invitation gracefully. Being brutally honest and saying ‘sorry I just want some alone time’ (which I have started resorting to) is also not ideal as it then brings on a round of well-intentioned but invasive concern-trolling. Le sigh.

  60. I think you can make dropping in less awkward just by paying attention to the cues the other person is giving you. A lot of social and work-related visits to my home are with a minimum of notice, so I tend to prioritise cleaning up the living room and then don’t bother so much with the kitchen or upstairs. Most of my visitors seem to think the words “Please sit down and let me bring you a cup of tea,” mean “Please follow me into the kitchen and check out all the dirty dishes and the crumbs on the worktop.” I’m not asking them to pick up on subtle cues, I’m using my words, but they tend to ignore it. I would have a lot less anxiety about visitors if I could trust people to listen to what I’m asking them to do in my home, whether that’s taking shoes off by the door or sitting the fuck down when asked to.

  61. I hate drop-ins, for many of the above reasons. I have two anecdotes about the dangers of drop-ins:

    1. Newly married. Small apartment. Weekend, so chance to sleep in and do chores. It’s 9:30am on a Saturday. Pastor of church we previously visited drops by. I am mortified. I have wet hair from my recent shower, and there are piles of laundry all over the living room. He did the whole “I don’t mind a mess, I understand!” thing, sat himself down, and proceeded to talk about his church for about 20 minutes. I have no idea what he said, because all I could do was sit there and think about how he was within a 5 feet direct viewing radius of our entire collection of underwear. So no. Your visit will not be successful even if you don’t mind the mess, because the person who owns the mess will be able to think about nothing else.

    2. In-laws decided to visit. They lived an hour and a half away. They did call first, but left a message because no one was home and came anyway. Unfortunately, that was the one night that both of us had to work a weird evening shift, which was highly unusual (there were maybe three times that year that happened). I stopped by home between shifts and got the message, but they had already left home and it was before cell phones existed. So I did a frantic quick clean, left the place unlocked, and left them a note saying that their child would be home about an hour and a half after their arrival, and I’d be there about an hour after that. That was the only time they did a drop-in.

  62. I have two minds about dropping in–partly, I really like it because of my mental issues, I can go from “I need to be alone for an undisclosed amount of time” to “I would feel significantly better with company” in a very short amount of time that can foil even the best-laid plans. Generally, with close friends, I do the ‘text and make plans like now’ approach. But I also have friends where “hey I’m heading that way and I’ll be there in an hour can I crash on your couch tonight?” is completely acceptable (but also comes with a side of being told no, actually I can’t crash tonight because kids are sick/family is in town/someone else has the couch). And I have best friends where they get a “are you guys home” text before I show up most times, just in case they’re asleep or away. Most times it’s a “yeah” or “no but we’ll be home in an hour, go on and let yourself in”.

    On the other hand, there are people who I know if they showed up unannounced, I would feel violated and not happy at ALL. Of course, these are people who I am not close to or do not like very much, and who I would have a hard time saying no to/will not accept “I am busy and we cannot visit now” as an acceptable answer. My friends are well aware that they can show up. They might get “well, I’m busy and will be gone in half an hour” or “nope I am taking a nap I will see you later” response, and that’s all cool.

  63. My narcissist mother apparently wore her own mom down so that she could just drop in any old time she wanted without calling or ringing the doorbell first. Just, unlock the door and walk right on in. I know my grandmother wasn’t wild about it, but she clearly gave up trying to set that boundary some time in the early 1980s and ended up just expecting the rudeness. In my nMom’s reality, faaaaaaaaaaaamily can just pop in any time of day or night, and call you whenever they like, too. That is what constitutes the perfect level of family closeness in her mind, so that is how it has to be: Family is always happy to see you any time of day or night (no matter how much of a nightmare you are). And if you are sleeping or sick or busy when they pop in without calling first, too fucking bad. And, in nMom’s reality, faaaaaaaaaaaamily can walk into your bedroom and shout at you or shake your mattress until you wake up, because she is a total asshole with no consideration for other people.

    I have tried to set boundaries with my mother because I do not like uninvited surprise guests. I am depressed. I am an introvert. I have physical pain on a not-infrequent basis. Even if some or all of those things were not true, I still, like everyone else, have a right to privacy and personal space. I like to be able to decline social invitations. I like to be left blessedly alone without the shoulders-up-around-my-ears anticipation that I am about to get invaded or called ten times in a row about bullshit, which is a feeling I have pretty much all the time when not at work or when it is not between midnight and five AM, the time when my mother might be unconscious for a few blessed hours, because all other times of the day are possible nMom intrusion times, either in person or by phone (and, if I don’t answer the phone, she will definitely show up in person). She has been known to call AND SHOW UP IN PERSON WITHOUT AN APPOINTMENT at my workplace, even. Because, as noted, she is a giant crapsack.

    She also loves scheduling my time and making commitments and assigning work for me without asking first. Because she is a flaming poopcake and knows I am likely to say no to 99% of her intrusive bullshit requests. And, in fact, I will go out of my way NOT to do things she does not use her words to ask me to do before assigning chores or duties to me.

    I like to be alone. A lot. I like to not wear pants in my own house when it is hot outside and I feel like not wearing pants. Sometimes I hurt or feel bad, and it is supposedly my day off, so I take a nap, and I want to be left alone while I nap. All attempts to set boundaries have failed, and these attempts have actually led to her being punitive toward me for trying to tell her “no” or set a boundary with her about anything, and this exhausting, selfish boundary-stomping is why, when I do move away, which I have been trying to do for TEN GODDAMNED YEARS while very, very poor and very, very un(der)employed, chances are very good that she will be completely and utterly cut off until she dies. I have pretty much had it. AT the very least, we are going to go VERY low contact. Like, maybe we will both be in the same house on Christmas Day. The end.

    TL;DR: Even people within the same family, raised with the same social and cultural background and living in the same kinds of neighborhoods, people can have vastly different ideas about whether popping in with or without calling ahead first is OK. When people tell you which thing they like, listen to them. The default should, IMVHO, probably be “don’t surprise anyone in their sanctuary,” be it a dorm room, apartment or house, without them specifically saying that you are welcome to drop by any time, using their words, and unless your rules are similar and also expressed clearly, using your words.

    1. To clarify some points: She inherited the house when my grandmother died and is having work done on it, ergo she has a key and I can’t just chain the door and turn her away, as much of the work is being done when I am working elsewhere. I came down to help full-time, 24/7, with my grandmother’s care; sadly, she died a while back. I had a hard time getting back into the workforce with a gap in my resume and have since earned two degrees (for a total of four, now) to make myself more marketable. I am finally on track to maybe getting hired on full-time at a law firm at a low (but better than nothing) salary. My crapsack old car keeps eating up my GTFO Fund savings, which fills me with despair, as they grow so slowly on my tiny salary and I am drowning in debt to THREE colleges, now. There is also a lot of sabotage going on, and this major disruption of my environment as we completely redo the wiring and gut the basement and first floor and install HVAC, so everything that was spread out on three big floors is now crammed into three tiny rooms (why she has decided to do all this major construction and demolition NOW–when I am trying to make a good impression on a potential employer and show up early and well-rested and eager–is a “mystery” best not examined too closely, but she may be thinking about selling the house or MOVING IN WITH ME…SCREAAAAAAM) and it is, all in all, not fun.

      *deep breaths*
      *I am the ocean*
      *I am the still, deep, blue water*
      *I contain magnitudes*
      *and also fishies*
      *deep breaths*
      *et cetera*

      But this too shall pass, and I will continue to sock away money into my GTFO Fund as fast as my problem child POS vehicle allows.

    2. I never thought to put it this way but it’s perfect:
      “don’t surprise anyone in their sanctuary”
      I’m lucky to live in nyc, where that is more likely to be understood.

  64. Hi! I had a friend who used to drop by or be “in the neighborhood” pretty frequently, and the process of setting boundaries after the pattern developed nearly destroyed the relationship. I don’t want to guess at anyone’s feelings, but I thought I’d share some of the things about that situation that made it difficult for me to deal with. These may or may not apply to your situation, but maybe they’ll give you an idea of why someone might be unhappy with a surprise visit, even if you were just excited about your new bike. It may very well be that this particular incident wasn’t a huge issue in itself, but your friend doesn’t want to let a pattern develop that will be painful to break out of.

    1. I never knew how long the visit would be. It could be fifteen minutes, or it could be for the rest of the day. If he was on his way somewhere else then I could expect it to be short, but it could also turn into a “give a mouse a cookie” situation pretty quickly. When you stop by at work for a hug there is an easy, “I have to get back to work” reason to end the encounter. If someone hosts a party, “I’m tired,” is a pretty universal sign to wrap things up. At home, with no planned activity, there is no outside authority to appeal to, and if you’re the type to solve problems or offer to pitch in rather than take the hint it can be pretty stressful.

    Even short and enjoyable visits can be ruined by not knowing when they will end. A few people have said that they miss when you could just drop by someone’s house, but it seems like there was a general understanding about the time limit of those visits. Now that there isn’t a standard, or at least not one I received, unexpected visits turn into waiting games with awkward dancing around getting someone to leave at the end.

    2. This was a bigger issue for my girlfriend at the time, but after a certain time hospitality would dictate that we offer food or drink, which extends the visit and expends house resources. At the time we were both only working part time with some help from my student loans, and making an extra meal, possibly for all three of us, wasn’t always a welcome expense. Obviously a glass of water isn’t an imposition, especially if you’ve been riding a bike around, but it feeds into number 1. How long is that glass of water going to last?

    3. We were all night owls, but at least twice visits “in the neighborhood” were after 11pm. I usually don’t got to bed until 3 or 4, but after 9 or 10 I’m usually not prepared to leave or entertain without serious incentive or an established plan. Once, I answered the door, lights out, my girlfriend and I in pajamas and on drugs and, “I’m really high right now and was not expecting you,” was not enough to deter about 45 minutes of awkwardly hanging around the living room answering curious questions mixed with small talk.

    4. Our neighborhoods were close, and on frequent routes of travel between work/school/watering holes. That meant that dropping by was much too frequent. Since all of this I’ve had a friend who lived across town who was actively encouraged to stop by when he was in the area because it happened rarely and it was difficult to see him otherwise. In one case we could easily made plans anytime, so dropping in felt like too much. In the other case making plans was nearly impossible and incredibly inconvenient, so dropping by felt like a nice surprise.

    5. The Captain mentioned the Ask vs. Guess divide, and all of the yes! Saying no can be hard for me, especially if you’re at the front door. I definitely feel like there are certain things I shouldn’t have to tell people “no” about, justified or not. Frequently saying no is going to cause problems with even the most dedicated Asker, so the prudent course is to say it strongly once, even if the idea of occasionally saying yes isn’t awful. Not every surprise visit was unwelcome. Sometimes we had a great time, or got to catch up quickly when both of us had been busy.

    In the end though it would have been much better for us if I’d set stronger boundaries at the outset. Eventually setting boundaries felt like personal rejection.

  65. As always, excellent advice Captain! I would add one small nugget. Your examples include this, but it wasn’t talked about explicitly. Dearest LW, please be sure to not only ensure a friend has availability, but also interest, combined with a way for them to graciously say no. I have a friend that makes me crazy, because we have interactions like this:

    Friend: “Hey, are you busy next Saturday?”
    Me: “I have a thing in the morning.”
    Friend: “Oh great! So glad you’re not busy in the afternoon. Let’s do this afternoon thing I want to do. I’ll pick you up at such-and-such time.”
    Me: Option 1: “Ummmm okay I guess.” Option 2: “I don’t want to do that” *explain why*

    This approach leaves me feeling frustrated because maybe I don’t want to do that thing, or perhaps want to rest or need to do errands or whatever else, but feeling trapped because I already admitted I am available. Either way, I am put in the position of doing something I may not want to, or forced into having a difficult or awkward conversation about how or why I don’t want to do that thing with friend. Even if I want to do that thing, I resent the implication that friend doesn’t care to consider whether I want to or not. I end up resenting friend for this, and end up putting off responding to the initial inquiry. This leaves friend feeling frustrated that I’m ignoring them and making it hard for them to plan their Saturday. Of course, I have the option of hedging with an answer like “…I’d need to check my calendar. Why?” But then I worry she will think I’m pre-emptively avoiding her. It would be a million times better if it went like this:

    Her: “Hey, I had this idea that maybe we could do such-and-such thing this Saturday. Would you be up for that?”
    Me: (Feeling the freedom to say I can’t, or to say I’m tired, or to say that sounds good but maybe a different day) “Thanks for thinking of me! That sounds super fun, but I already have a morning thing that day and think I might be pretty pooped. How about the next weekend?”

    In short, she limits my ability to say no graciously. I can still say no of course, but it becomes rather rocky when it shouldn’t have to. Always make room for a gracious no.

    1. I have a friend who does this. If it weren’t for the fact that she’s very understanding about how introverted I am it would bug the hell out of me, and if we weren’t close friends if probably be mysteriously perma-busy after a few occasions of this (after trying Use Your Words, depending on how much I cared about the friendship.) I’m glad I’m not the only person who finds this difficult.

  66. This is a very interesting topic. I am generally the organiser of things in my social life and I normally follow the ask twice guideline that the Captain mentions with the occasional rinse and repeat in a month or two if I hear nothing and still want to see that person. It works pretty well …

    I am having a problem with it at the moment though. I moved country recently and keeping up with my best friend is hard work that is almost completely on me. She suffers from anxiety and depression so I understand why this is but finding a balance between pestering her and having any contact at all is proving hard. It is exactly what the Captain says about her not having the bandwidth to reach out to me so maybe I should just let it go but I miss her so much and I don’t want to lose the connection. I guess you can’t force it. I think I am convincing myself to let her go and feeling super sad about it. Any advice anyone wants to throw my way is welcome.

    On the flip side I think I need to be nicer to my 6 year old. I have been trying to explain to her that she can’t invite herself to her friends places and she has not been really getting why. Maybe her social expectations are different to mine or what I grew up with. I have been very firm that we can invite her friends to our home or to a public place like a park but we can’t tell them we are coming to them. It still feels rude to me (especially early in a relationship) but I don’t want to be like the letter writer’s dad who gave her such a hard time. Le sigh. Organising the social lives of 6 year olds when you don’t know the other parents is a pain.

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