Since they say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, I recently admitted I was a flake. It wasn’t an easy thing to do, but I was sick and tired of faking being sick and tired just so I could get out of doing something.
You know how an alcoholic never intends to get shitfaced and piss on your kitchen floor after making a pass at your wife? Well, I never intend to be a flake, although that doesn’t mean there’s not a stale smell of excuses wafting through the air whenever I back out of plans with someone.
When a friend asks me to do something and I say yes, I usually say it because I sincerely want to do whatever is being proposed: get dinner, have drinks, or go over to their house for a Dabney Coleman movie marathon. But while I may be really excited about something early in the morning — or in the afternoon, or a week before — when the time comes to do it, well… there’s a good chance I will flake.
Admitting my problem was cathartic, and I feel like I’m on the road to recovery. I’m not sure if there are 12 steps involved, but I’ve taken at least one step: learning to say no when asked to do things I know I’ll flake on.
Like exercising. Recently a friend asked me to go with her to boot camp. This is one of those group exercise programs where middle-aged women meet in the park and daydream about fucking the muscular instructor, even though they think he’s a complete tool.
When she asked me to go, my friend subtly looked at my belly. It’s a classic move amongst the “wanna exercise with me?” contingent, and she’s mastered it. The old me would have fallen prey to the unspoken pressure and said, “Let’s do this!” However, the class she wanted me to attend is at 6:30PM. So, if I said yes, my day would likely go something like this:
Morning – “I love the morning! I’m ready for another great day! I am so focused! Creative! Energized!”
Afternoon – “This day is okay, I guess. Did I really use that many exclamation points this morning?”
6PM – “Fuck. I can’t wait to get home. All I want to do right now is put on my pajamas, light my Anthropologie volcano candle and open a bottle of wine.”
6:01PM – “Do I tell her I’m sick? No. I should just go. What about telling her I have to stay late at work? No, no. I’ll feel good if I go. Do I tell her I pulled my groin muscle in an extraordinarily active brainstorm?”
6:10PM – I decide on the most believable excuse, then flake via text or email. Then I feel guilty. At least until I’ve had my first glass of wine.
The new me, the recovering flake, told my friend, “No thanks. As much as I’d love to go, I know that when six-o-clock comes around I’ll probably flake out. Now stop looking at my belly.”
Saying no felt much better than I expected and it made me realize something. One of the reasons I flake is guilt, or perceived guilt. When my flakery was at its peak, I would say yes to things I didn’t really want to do as a way to defer the guilt I THOUGHT I would feel if I said no. Learning this didn’t surprise me, though, since inner guilt is something that has always plagued me. So much so that I once spent $19.95 on ancestry.com to confirm I wasn’t Jewish or Catholic.
Throughout my struggles with flakerism, a lot of my friends have given up on me and I can’t say I blame them. I can’t imagine it would be easy to remain friends with that drunk dude who pissed on your kitchen floor. But those friends who have stuck with me and continued to ask me to do things are the reason I will continue the struggle to be a better person. Of course, I should admit I’m writing this in the morning, while feeling focused! Creative! Energized! So, who knows? By the end of the day I could be at home drinking wine in my pajamas while my friends are out having a good time and having a conversation something like this:
“Where is Tony? I thought he was coming tonight.”
“He texted me a few minutes ago. He can’t come.”
“Really? Why not?”
“He pulled a groin muscle at work.”