Making friends with neighbours is only one of the social dilemmas I’ve been pondering. Another is with clients, in my case, the parents of the students I teach. The parents at my school have a tradition of arranging lunches and cocktail parties that staff are invited to. Tonight is the cocktail party for my grade and for the first time, I’ve been able to politely decline the invitation. It came out late and I had already made plans.
Usually, the invitation arrives months in advance, and some organisers refuse to set a date until we have provided one in which we are free – which leaves us with no polite way of declining. They appear so eager to have us there and so disappointed if we can’t attend. Yet when we turn up, few people want to engage in conversation unless it is to grill us about their child’s academic process. Either that or to give us the third degree about our private lives.
Some people seem to love this sort of interaction, but I am one of those who like to compartmentalise life. I have a professional life and a private life. While I really have nothing to be embarrassed about in either, I like to keep them separate and don’t feel comfortable when the lines start to blur.
I’m always surprised at how eager the parents are to have these parties with us. I wonder if it happens in other professions?
I also wish I knew how to make it clear, without being rude, that I do not want to attend.
Sometimes community life is a mini-minefield that has to be navigated so carefully to avoid offense.