Just how late is fashionably late?

A quick text message makes it almost too easy to tell a friend that we are running ten minutes behind schedule. And while ten minutes isn’t the end of the world, if we are consistently ten minutes late, it might really chap a friend’s ass. It sends a message, if even in a whisper, that our time is more precious than theirs. Full disclosure: I am occasionally guilty of this, too, and bless my friends for loving me in spite of it.

Particularly when someone is providing sustenance, punctuality is important, arriving within 15 minutes of when you were invited to come. In fact, showing to a dinner party a sliver late (five or ten minutes) might give your hosts a moment to catch their breath. The French have this nailed: showing up early to dinner and ambushing your hosts early could potentially embarrass them, quel désastre, so a few minutes of grace time is just that, graceful. However, showing up more than 20 minutes late, with no heads up,  isn’t cool.

If you are a serial offender, try putting appointments into your calendar 15 minutes before you are meant to be there. And if you can’t realistically get to dinner on time, call to tell your host. They can then make a decision on whether to hold off on serving or ordering until you arrive, or opt to go ahead without you. Some people might not be at all fussed and others might be unimpressed with your tardiness. Apologize once you arrive, regardless.

Questions, comments and conundrums are most welcome at www.twitter.com/schoolfinishing

~ Karen Cleveland

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