Sunday, May 10, 2009

'Fashionable' lateness

Since when did lateness become ‘fashionable’?

I’ve been pondering this question for a few days. Here are some thoughts – some are mine, some are stolen.

• For most events, being late isn’t actually fashionable at all. It’s just rude and disrespectful. You wouldn’t be late for an audience with the queen, so why do you think it is acceptable to be late for an audience with anyone else?

• Lateness says ‘the other thing I was doing was more important to me than the time you are giving up to do this’.

• There may be a power thing going on too: ‘I can get away with being late to this meeting because I am very important, so people will excuse me’.

• One of the main events that people seem to think it is particularly fashionable to be late for is parties (read ‘any form of informal social gathering’).

• Parties (many of them anyway) are ‘come-and-go’ affairs, possibly with an official start and end time but with allowance for arrival and departure at any time within that time period.

• People have different boundaries on ‘how late is too late’. There is no agreed time, so someone is bound to be offended. If something is arranged at 8, arrive at 8. If you mean ‘any time between 8 and 9.30, say that!’

• One of the main reasons people arrive ‘fashionably’ late for parties is to avoid the perceived awkwardness at the start, involving situations where not much happens.

• The reason that not much happens in these early stages of parties is because not many people are there because they’re all being ‘fashionably’ late!

• If people arrived to parties earlier, there would be no ‘awkwardness’ (for more on this see another blog), and everyone would have more time together.

• Being late to a party is, in theory, no less disrespectful than being late for any other event. It’s still saying ‘you aren’t important enough to make the effort to maximise time with’.

• In practice, however, ‘fashionable’ lateness is expected at parties, so hosts rarely get offended by latecomers. Hosts also tend to set party start/end times much further apart than they would if they knew everyone would be theree for the whole time. This is so that guests can arrive late or leave early and take advantage of the status of parties as ‘come-and-go’ affairs.

• People generally attend parties for what they can get out of it (a good time, get laid, whatever). Therefore lateness is no issue for people, because anything that happens when an individual is yet to arrive is of no consequence to that individual. How about going to a party for what you can give to it, and how you can invest in friendships with the people there? See a party as a place you are needed for your contribution.

• I am not suggesting that party formats should be changed.

• I am suggesting that people should examine their reasons for being late to these and any other events.

• I know I haven’t really tackled the opening question yet. The ‘fashionable’ element comes in because it is perceived that people who arrive on time are subject to the early-party awkwardness, and are therefore losers and unfashionable. The trendy, fashionable, people arrive late, avoid that social awkwardness, and hope to make a grand entrance and be greeted like conquering heroes. After all, these tardy guests are what the party is all about, right?

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