I have been thinking about this one for some time now, and I’m stuck: What is a good response to “What are you up to tonight / this weekend / next Thursday?”
I loathe this question, and I’ve been getting it a lot lately. I get it from friends (who usually just want to find a time to hang and that’s not so bad), my cousin (who usually wants me to babysit), my mom (whenever she wants to invite me somewhere), and people I’m chatting with on dating websites.
This is why I hate the question:
1. I don’t want to give you a rundown of my plans. They’re private and you don’t need to know them. I kind of resent that you assume I will tell you.
2. I feel like it’s asking me to say yes or no to an invitation / commitment before I even know what it is (like, if you’re having a party I might be free, but my babysitting quota is full for the month so no to that). Ugh.
3. In the case of friends and dates, I feel like sometimes it’s a slightly manipulative way of getting me to do the actual asking / planning. Like, you want to hang out with me, but don’t want to ask me straight up. Why not? Just ask!
4. I don’t understand the point of the question. Usually, the asker will tell me why they asked after I answer, no matter what the answer is (busy, not busy, don’t know). No matter what I say it’s, “okay, well I was just gonna see if you wanted to [actual invitation / request]”.
I usually end up saying something noncommittal like “I might be doing xyz, but I’m not sure yet – why?” and waiting to see what the actual deal is. But I hate this because then I have to pretend to wait while I figure out if my original “plans” are going through before I give them an answer. Or, if I tell a potential date some generic things (oh, probably reading and writing a lot) and add that I’d like to take a break so they know I’m open, I’m engaging in the same coy behavior that’s bothering me in the first place.
It all feels like a gross, stupid game I don’t want to play. I know it’s a common question and I’m sure most people don’t mean anything bad by it. But it puts me on edge every time I hear it. Is it just me? Should I keep doing what I’m doing? Or is there a better way to handle this?
Free for the Good Stuff
Dear Free For The Good Stuff,
The bad news is that this question probably isn’t going anywhere in our lifetime.
The good news is that when you sense an ulterior motive or that an invitation is imminent you can answer “Dunno, I’d have to look at my calendar to say for sure. Are you up to anything good?”
If the person comes back with an invitation and you’re not enthusiastically sure you want to do whatever it is, delay! Then, actually do check your calendar, check in with yourself if you actually want to do whatever it is, and answer the person when it’s convenient for you. It’s not so much about stopping the question before it comes (pretty much impossible!) as much as it is practicing not giving into pressure to give an explanation of your schedule OR an immediate answer. This is one of those times where being okay with yourself and your own boundaries about this will help you deal with other people in a mannerly-yet-assertive fashion. “I’m okay not giving you your exact expected or hoped for answer. Your turn to tell me what you have in mind!”
The second part of this is being okay evaluating the specific invitations and turning them down if you don’t want to do them. Like, if you say you have nothing really planned, and you get asked to babysit or on a date, are you actually okay saying “Sorry, can’t this time”? And do you trust the asker not pull a “But you SAID you were free, that means YOU PROMISED!” (for me, someone who puts pressure on/pouts/lays on a guilt trip after I say no to an invitation gets an automatic LOL NOPE FOREVER response. It’s been pretty good policy.) Invitations are not commands.
For scripts, see also:
- “Dunno. Do you have anything exciting coming up?”
- “I’m climbing Mt. Laundry Pile. How ’bout you?”
- “No idea, I haven’t thought that far ahead!”
- “What is a week end?” :-p
- “Man, that sounds great, but I know I’m forgetting something on my calendar. Can I let you know for sure tomorrow?”
- “Thanks for asking, but I’m looking forward to some unplanned time with no commitments to catch up on hobby/household stuff/creative project this weekend.”
- “I will be watching the Olympics with my cat. It’s going to be the best!”
- “That sounds really neat, but I have other plans.”
- “Oh, no thank you! Another time, perhaps. How’s next Sunday for you?”
- “Thanks for asking – I know I said I could do it, but I forgot about another commitment I have that day. Raincheck?”
- “I’m babysat out for the month, sorry! Can we have lunch soon, though? I’d love to see you.”
If you follow through with people you actually want to see (as in, “Can I let you know tomorrow?” = You actually let them know one way or another tomorrow), you aren’t being a jerk by not responding immediately to their questions or invitations, and you don’t owe a full accounting of your time. Try delaying your answer and then see if taking the pressure off yourself to answer the question or commit to stuff helps you feel less annoyed by this question.