When I Say I Can’t, I Can’tI used to have a really hard time saying no to things, but as far as social events go, I have become much better at budgeting my time and gauging what kind of activities will be too much (professional commitments are another story).

It has taken me a while to get here, so I am proud of myself for having made strides in this regard. 

However, recently, my declining to attend an event was questioned.

My boyfriend’s good friend is getting married in August and there was a bridal shower that I was invited to. 

I had just gotten back from a two week vacation visiting my family in Michigan.  We had a party for my boyfriend’s birthday the night before the shower.  And I am preparing to start an internship this week. 

The other issue is that I would have to travel about two hours each way to attend the shower.

Keeping all of this in mind ahead of time, and after much consideration, I declined the invitation.

There were a variety of reasons for this decision, but ultimately, it really all came down to my health and stamina, and what I could realistically do.

So I e-mailed the bride’s sister and said that while I was grateful for the invitation, I wouldn’t be able to attend due to other time commitments.

I was extremely surprised and taken aback by the e-mail I received in return.  Not only was the tone of the e-mail curt, but it basically questioned why I wasn’t coming to the shower, and whether I was actually busy or just wanted to avoid the heavy use of public transportation.

I didn’t gratify the e-mail with a response because a) it didn’t deserve one, and b) I worried that I would come off sounding rude because the e-mail really rubbed me the wrong way.

Living in New York City, I feel like you have to be “on” all the time.  It’s expected that you will accept every invitation you receive.  And if you don’t, everyone wonders why. 

I’ve never had anything this extreme happen, though.  And I don’t really understand why it happened.  To me, if there was going to be a response, it should have been to ask if there was any way I could find a way to attend, not to say “Wow!  Really?  Why.”  

This person doesn’t know me that well, because if they did, they would have realized that such an e-mail would have the opposite effect, and would make me want to attend the event even less.

But the reality is, it wasn’t really about wanting or not wanting to attend, but rather about my ability to attend AND being able to do the other things that were required of me.     

I am totally aware that some people just don’t get it, and no matter how hard we try to explain our situation, it doesn’t make a difference. 

I actually kind of wish that this had happened in person, because I would have been better able to verbalize my reasoning.  But, on the other hand, I’m not sure that it would have mattered with this person.  They don’t get it, and I don’t think they really want to.  And that’s fine, although it means that this person probably won’t ever be in my inner sanctum. 

I try to surround myself with people that attempt to understand, but lately, it feels like those people are few and far between; only those closest to me really seem to understand.

For instance, when I was in Michigan visiting my family, we had plans to go to a baseball game.  I woke up feeling okay that day, but then felt totally awful and went back to bed for several hours.  When it was time to go to the game, I still wasn’t feeling great, and was told that I didn’t have to go, and if I did go and then didn’t feel good, we could leave the game.

That was really refreshing to be provided the opportunity to say no without feeling bad about it.

As much as I’ve gotten better at picking my events, I often feel guilty about those that I don’t go to.  And e-mails like the one I described here do nothing to assuage my guilt.  Although I don’t feel guilt as much as I feel anger at being questioned about my motives for not attending. 

And it turned out to be a good thing that I didn’t go because I slept late, and took it easy the rest of the day, after being busy with party stuff the day before. 

I know my limits; some people need to learn when to back off.