The Last Minute Invite

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Is it healthy spontaneity or social laziness? It can be a wonderful thing-thatphone call that comes like a wish fulfilledwhen you don't have plans, you don't feellike working and you are deep in the doldrums.Suddenly, there is a friend's voicesaying, "I have tickets to a show tonight,are you by any chance free?" And voilà!Your evening is transformed into somethingenjoyable and unforeseen. Last-minute invites-especially whenthey involve theatrical performances-are often things to be greatly appreciated.However, if you have a friend who only callsyou at the last minute, you may not appreciateit so much. ("In about 45 minutes, I'mgoing to see this movie I've been wantingto see; want to go with me?" or "I'm sittingat this bar not far from you, why don't youcome out and join me?") The people whoare guilty of this kind of invite may callthemselves free spirits, but is it really devilmay-care behavior or just devilish? Sometimes, the last-minute invite isreally what it sounds like, from someoneto whom you are a last-minuteconsideration.Now, I want to be clear: I know manypeople who live and die by the relaxed,never-know-what-I-am-going-to-be-doing-tomorrowsocial credo. There are alsothose rather enviable people I meet whoare members of a small but solid "crew"of friends, so that they don'thave to bother to make plans;their social life, while it may bea bit predictable, just happensautomatically-albeit with the same six or eight people. However, I think most NewYorkers over a certain age (30)and under a certain age (75)are busy enough that keeping a calendaris essential; indeed, most people I knoware booked up at least several weeks inadvance. They are juggling social liveswith work commitments and family commitments,so if you really want to seethem, you usually have to make planswith them way beforehand. But there can be good reasons for a last-minuteinvitation. It can mean you simplydid not anticipate you were going to havethis particular hour or two of leisure time. Itcan mean you just got tickets to somethingunexpectedly. It can mean that someoneelse cancelled you at the last minute. Obviously, there is a differencebetween a last-minute invitation to a movieand one to the opera. If a friend is goingto take me to the Met because someonejust dropped 10th row center orchestratickets into his lap, he can call me as lateas he wants and I'll be delighted. But itdoesn'treally matter what thelast-minute invite is for, as long as it is not this friend's standard MOand as long as it is proffered theright way. Always preface the last-minuteinvite with: "I'm sorry, I know it'slast minute." If you have an extraticket to something, it is alwaysgratis for the other person. If the person isnot available, you must say something like,"Oh, I figured you might not be free at the last minute. Let's make another plan rightnow for when you are available." This says to the person, "I'm not just trying to fill myevening, I do really care about seeing you."Once in a while, you'll come acrossa person who feels entitled and expectseveryone to be at their beck and call. This person will call at the last minuteto get together and, if you are not free, is extremely annoyed. This attitude obviouslyadds injury to insult.There are also rare instances whensomeone may invite you at the last minutebecause they feel obligated for somereason; they want to get credit for invitingyou but they don't really want you to comeand are actually hoping you won't be free.(Beware the party invitation that arrives the morning of the day of the party.)Of course, habitual last-minute socialplanning can be a corollary of intimacy. With your best friends, there is never anyproblem with a spur-of-the-moment plan,because if you are NOT free at the lastminute, it's no big deal; you will see the person again soon enough.I know I tend to be a "Martinet" aboutmatters of social protocol; I do insist thatwe need to behave with as much courtesyto each other as we can. But when all issaid and done, I would not want a lifewithout the possibility of a last-minute invite.It's nice to know that your day canchange in the blink of an iPhone. [Jeanne Martinet](, aka Miss Mingle, is the author of seven books on social interaction.Her latest book is a novel, Etiquette for the End of the World. You can contact her at [](

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