It’s 9PM. It’s Friday. You are safely cocooned in a blanket on your couch, book in lap, music playing in the background.
Your phone buzzes in your pocket.
“What are you up to tonight?” — Nick
I know you don’t want to go out. You know you don’t want to go out. Even your friends know you don’t want to go out. But before you know it, you find yourself hopping in the shower, picking a shirt/dress out of your closet, and waiting for your Uber to arrive.
Suddenly you’re at a bar talking to friends you can’t hear, chugging drinks you can’t afford, and making decisions you will certainly regret in the morning.
What just happened? Why did you end up going out despite clearly not wanting to? And more importantly, how do you get out of going out?
Why you go out when you don’t want to go out:
1. You feel guilty.
Does this text conversation look familiar?
“What are you up to tonight?” — Nick
“Not much, probably staying in, pretty tired.” — You
“Nah, you’re going out.” — Nick
“Tonight? I think I’m probably just going to watch some TV.” — You
“Come on, I never see you!” — Nick
Instant guilt torpedo. This missile can come in different forms such as:
“It’s Drew’s birthday so we’re going out to celebrate!”
“Emily is in town so we’re going to hit some bars!”
“Jake managed to not drink for a week so we’re going to celebrate with some heavy drinking!”
What kind of friend would you be to miss [insert important occasion here]? You briefly imagine your next birthday party completely empty before grabbing your jacket and heading out the door.
2. You don’t want to be that guy.
You now who doesn’t go out?
Karen never goes out. She’s always “tired” or “not feeling it” or “with her boyfriend.”
“Where’s Karen?” someone asks.
“Oh, she said she was going to stay in tonight,” someone else responds.
Every friend group has that guy who never shows up. His excuses are never convincing and he clearly couldn’t be bothered to leave his apartment.
You don’t want to go out but you really don’t want to be that guy because that guy quickly stops receiving social invites altogether. You just want to stay in tonight, not be a social pariah for the rest of your life.
3. FOMO (Fear of missing out).
Last time you didn’t go out, Phil stole a pineapple, Bryan got into a fight with a DJ, and your friends ran into Rob Gronkowski and Zack Galafanakis in the SAME night.
Now anytime you hang out, the inside jokes surrounding that night make you feel like Ebenezer Scrooge looking into Tiny Tim’s happy family on Christmas.
That. Can’t. Happen. Again.
You don’t know if tonight is going to turn into one of those once-in-a-booze-filled-moon, Hangover-esque type of nights but that’s a chance you can’t afford to take.
You would rather suffer a few hours of loud music and overpriced drinks than run the risk of not being part of a lifelong memory with your friends.
4. You actually want to see your friends.
You like your friends. That’s why they’re your friends. If you don’t like your friends, you have bigger issues than what’s covered in this article.
So you actually want to see your friends. The problem is the whole “going out” portion attached to seeing your friends right now.
You could try steering your friend group towards a quiet night in with Settlers of Catan and a few glasses of wine, but based off Kenzie’s latest message to the group chat, “Be prepared, it’s going to get weird tonight,” you don’t think you’ll be very successful.
Hanging out means going out.
How to avoid going out:
So how can you actually get out of going out?
A self-confident normal person would probably tell you something about being upfront with your friends and not being pressured into doing things you don’t want to do. They might also explain how any friends that are dependent on you going out are probably not your real friends.
That’s good and all but I’m not self-assured, Nick is very insistent, and you don’t have time to question your friend choices right now.
Here are some practical strategies to not go out:
1. Build a cache of social credits
The first step to not going out starts before you even receive Nick’s text. I generally hate going out but there are times when it is inevitable. If it’s a close friend’s birthday or someone important is coming to town, you are probably going to go out. When these forced occasions strike — take advantage of them.
Text everyone you know, see what they are up to, and invite them to hang out. Try and see as many people as possible while doing your “I’m-so-fun-I’m-going-out” tour. Each person you spend a few minutes with lays the groundwork for months of guilt-free invite declines since you “just saw them.”
Even if some people can’t meet up with you, you at least made the effort to try and see them. Next time they invite you out, you can decline knowing that they declined last time.
2. “Yes, but I can’t make it until midnight.”
You don’t want to go out. However, if you knew for certain that it was going to be one of those rare, unforgettable nights that are the foundation of wedding toasts , you would gladly join the party. The problem is that you can’t predict the future.
That’s why you need to plan ahead. If you think there’s a chance that the night will be one of those nights, your response to the going-out invitation needs to be “Yes, but I can’t make it until midnight.”
Craziness always starts after midnight which means that you have time to monitor the situation through Snapchat, Instastory, Facebook, and other social media outlets to figure out the type of night it’s going to be. Some cues to watch out for:
What people are drinking — If it’s Bud Light, you’re in the clear to stay in. If people are pounding tequila shots, you want to consider starting to get changed.
Size of the Group — 4 to 6 people is the ideal group size for a crazy night. Any larger and the group becomes too cumbersome. Any smaller and people actually make smart decisions.
Group Dynamics — Nothing encourages wild nights more than the right type of people. If there are lots of couples in the group, the night will likely be tame. If everyone is single and ready to mingle (potentially with someone else in the group), fireworks are more likely to happen.
Based off your monitoring, you’ll be able to make a more informed decision about needing to go out. If it looks like it’s turning into a can’t-miss night, you can meet up with your friends after midnight (or earlier if you managed to “get out” of your other commitment).
If it looks like the night is tapering off, simply use an excuse for why you can no longer make it. Speaking of which…
3. Have a list of good excuses ready.
For a while my roommate was doing an online MBA. Whenever someone asked him to go out he would say that he couldn’t because of schoolwork. Some of the times this was true — emphasis on some. He never became that guy.
Karen became that guy because Karen’s excuses were weak.
So before you respond to that invitation with “I’m tired,” think about your words. See if there is another excuse you can use. Maybe you aren’t feeling well, maybe you have to catch up on some work, maybe you already promised some other friend that you would Skype with them. Always have some good excuses on hand to get out of plans.
The key to the perfect excuse is believable and short-term (aka BS).
The excuse has to be a believable prior commitment or external force that is preventing you from going out.
The excuse also has to be short-term and easily reversed if necessary (should you change your mind). For example, if your original excuse was that you were Skyping with a friend, you can suddenly become free because your “friend” wasn’t feeling well and cancelled.
If you have the luxury of time, see if there is some aspect of your life that you can use as a constant excuse for the future. Now may be the right time to casually let all your friends know that you are learning how to play guitar. If anyone asks you to go out in the future, you now have “guitar lessons” in your arsenal of excuses.
4. Don’t respond.
If the invitation comes in past 10PM for the same night, an easy go-to strategy is to simply not respond. Don’t give any indication that you saw the text and don’t pick up the inevitable subsequent call.
The next morning, send a heartfelt message to your friend explaining how you didn’t check your phone because you fell asleep, had your phone off for the night, or was watching a movie. You feel really sorry and hope they had a fun time.
If you happen to like that friend or actually want to see him or her, offer a reconciliatory brunch. Everybody loves brunch.
Are these strategies morally questionable?
Am I completely serious about these tactics because I use them in my personal life on a semi-daily basis?
Maybe tomorrow you can be honest with your friends, but tonight you can binge watch all the television you want.