Comedian John Mulaney has this great bit in his stand-up routine about the wonderful rush that accompanies abandoning a commitment: “In terms of instant relief, canceling plans is like heroin.” And he’s right! What feels better than wiggling out of a looming obligation when you’re not in the mood to follow through?
And thanks to the various, impersonal ways we communicate, it’s never been easier to flake out. The New York Times says we’re in the golden age of bailing: “Technology makes it all so easy,” David Brooks wrote. “You just pull out your phone and bailing on a rendezvous is as easy as canceling an Uber driver.”
While some people are bold enough to dash off a text saying, “Actually, I can’t make it,” many of us aren’t as comfortable being so direct. In an effort to save face, we resort to making up excuses when we back out of plans.
Sometimes the lies we tell are merely an exaggeration––an unwillingness to apply a fresh coat of mascara before heading out is cited as “exhaustion” via text. Sometimes we try to pack in plenty of gruesome medical details in an effort to disgust our way out of plans: “Sorry I can’t make your baby shower. My anus feels like it’s being attacked by an army of fire ants!” Or sometimes our lies are so cartoonishly outlandish that it haunts (and amuses!) us for many years to come.
We asked friends and co-workers about the pettiest/biggest fibs they told to bail on plans. Here’s what they said.
“Have to SSS (shit, shower, shave).” - Dom, 35
“Lied about having mono for years.” - Penny, 23
“I'm doing Hurricane Katrina relief work.” - Rachael, 33
“Cousin's bar mitzvah; faked stomach virus.” - Rebecca, 39
“Faked fainting to leave work early.” - Beth, 32
“Cut my hand. I’m bleeding EVERYWHERE.” - Bridgett, 32
“I'm expecting an important Amazon delivery.” - Yvonne, 35
“Used boyfriend’s anxiety as an excuse.” - Heather, 26
“Hey, sorry! My mom said no.” - Vartika, 25
“Ate bad fish and got poisoned.” - Annie, 30
“The word ‘diarrhea’ makes people uncomfortable.” - Ellie, 34
"Just never spoke to them again." - James, 23
“I have to go to Utah.” - Howie, 40
“ Can’t go, dog puked on shoes.” - Riley, 30
“Can’t come. I have pink eye.” - Oliver, 37
“I think my water broke, sorry .” - Cheri, 32
“I accidentally washed all my bras.” - Lauren, 34
“I’ve fabricated a hot Tinder date.” - Julie, 32
“Sorry, didn’t see your text messages.” - Sam, 33
“Didn’t write plans in my calendar.” - Sharon, 31
“I have a UTI. I’m sorry!” - Jenn, 36
“Always tell ‘em I have migraines.” - Violet, 39
“Love to, but I’m flat broke.” - Eric, 31
“I have to wash my hair.” - Priya, 29
“Have to work early tomorrow morning.” - James, 40
“Damn, I have too much homework.” - Haley, 22
“Shit, I can’t find a babysitter.” - Marc, 34
“Can’t. Have doctor's appointment scheduled then.” - Amelia, 32
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.
Follow Anna Goldfarb on Twitter.