What I Learned from Being Stood Up Four Times
By Thao Nguyen
Being demanding is normally seen as a bad thing. But there are some things that must be demanded, and one of them is respect. At Polarity, we’ve written many, many, many times about treating people right and about standing up for oneself. But a lot of times, the latter is easier said and done.
I used to consider myself a strong personality. Or at least the person I want to be has a strong personality. I can’t tell you how many times a day I have conversations in my head (facial expressions included) where I defend myself or my loved ones against people who treat us unfairly. When I was a kid, I actually had the conversations out loud with bullies and jerks. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself staying quiet, especially when I’m the person that is being mistreated.
I didn’t even notice this change in myself at first. As I said earlier, I have a lot of imaginary arguments, which I guess convinced me that I actually am not a pushover.
It took getting stood up four times (by the same guy!!) for me to realize that maybe I do lack a bit of a spine.
Wilson* was a casual acquaintance of mine. We knew each other from working in the same business park, and every now and then we would make small talk at the café between our two buildings. He was funny, and I really appreciated our brief encounters. A few months ago, Wilson suggested getting lunch at a nearby café. This lunch solidified our friendship, and we started texting each other during the work day, complaining about how long the 9-to-5 life can feel.
Shortly after the lunch meeting, Wilson suggested we meet up and sit down for coffee instead of just standing in line for our lattes together when we happened to be at the café at the same time. I agreed, and we decided to meet up the next day “at the usual time.” When 8:30 AM came around, I showed up to find no familiar faces. After ten minutes, I left alone with my latte. Did I call him out on this? No, I didn’t. I figured it was too early in our friendship to really say anything, and that the plans weren’t really concrete anyways. I also knew him to be slightly forgetful, so I chalked it up to that as well. He never reached out to apologize or when we did eventually end up in line together again, neither of us acknowledged what had happened. We weren’t in contact for a few weeks after this, but when he eventually texted to suggest getting coffee again, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. Again we agreed to meet at “the usual time,” and again he was a no show. I still didn’t say anything, although I was incensed that he could be so blasé about wasting my time.
Fast forward a few weeks, and Wilson texts me, “Let’s get coffee today, for sure this time.” It was the first instance of him even acknowledging he had failed to show up previously. Not keen to get stood up again, I suggest meeting later on that day, confident that he wouldn’t forget about it within a few hours. I was wrong. For the third time, he was a no-show. Fifteen minutes after our proposed meeting time, Wilson reached out and suggested coming to the coffee shop two hours later. No apology at all. But did I demand one? NO! I stupidly agreed to the later time, and vented my frustrations to my friends in the meanwhile. If I don’t already look stupid to you, wait until you find out that I showed up at his suggested time to see that once again I had been left hanging. My friends were outraged when they found out that I had let the guy who had stood me up twice before pull the same stunt in a single day.
To this day, I still have not gotten an apology from Wilson. But I also have never showed him that what he did bothered me. We still are friendly with each other. I’m not sure if he’s completely oblivious to his indiscretions, or if I’ve misread him completely and that he’s not nice, but is in fact actually some kind of sick sadist who enjoys messing around with me. I hope it’s the former. I’ve always wanted to believe the best of people, even when their actions don’t reflect that. I’ve never been able to stay mad at anyone for more than a few hours, and in most situations this wouldn’t be a bad trait. The problem is that I forgive people even when they don’t show remorse for what they’ve done to me. I just swallow my pride, and let them get away with it, thinking that I’m being the bigger, more compassionate person. It took the incidents with Wilson to make me realize that I’m letting people walk all over me because I don’t respect myself enough.
If I respected myself, I would confront people and demand respect instead of staying quiet. I would find the courage to drop the people who refuse to do so from my life.
I realize that part of the reason people don’t respect me is because it’s so obvious I don’t have the confidence to respect myself. When I read about characters like this in books, or see them on TV, I’m furious. I hate characters like this, and I understand now that it’s because I’m seeing the same behavior in myself. For my own good, I’ve been trying to love myself more. It’s been tough, old habits die hard after all. I have to remind myself every day that asking for respect isn’t narcissistic or conceited. I’m not sure how I adopted that mindset, but it’s absolutely something I have to let go. For anyone out there who has similar thoughts, be strong.
*Names have been changed for confidentiality.