Unreliable friends in Dubai

Holly Sands laments the unreliability of her pal

Last word, The Knowledge

My friend – we’ll call her ‘Anna’ – is suffering from chronic flakiness. I don’t mean she’s got dry skin or shocking dandruff. No, it’s much worse than that. She doesn’t exist. Or at least her outstanding record for flaking out on our catch-up coffees and evening drinks 20 minutes beforehand leads me – and the rest of our mutual friends – to believe as much.

‘Very Dubai,’ explain my longer-term expat friends, sharing wisdom like the wise old sun-leathered sages they are. It’s not that being unreliable is exclusively a Dubai phenomenon, but doing it with such unwavering consistency and eye-popping panache, apparently, is. We don’t just get stood up here, we get passed up for a better offer – and it seems there’s no shame in admitting it. ‘I’ve just heard about this launch tonight, are you going? No? I probably should…’ Why? Are you the CEO? ‘Remember [gentleman X] who I met at that thing last week? Well, he’s asked me to dinner tonight…’ Translation: I don’t care that he looks like a one-eyed gorilla in a tie, I’m going, because he’s suggested Gaucho, and you’ve suggested McGettigan’s.

Of course, these brush-offs have led to a certain amount of introspection – am I so intolerable, unbearable to share an hour with? – but the rest of the evidence (the consistent presence of closer friends) fortunately suggests not.

The other day, she ditched me at the last minute for an old work colleague just as I was about to call a cab. ‘Sorry, I’ve really got to go and meet him – I keep cancelling on him!’ I huffed and puffed as I put the phone down, but I had to admit, I felt for the guy.

With perspective, it’s only one friend, and I wouldn’t mind, but it ruins my plans every time. A woman sitting in a bar alone puts out the wrong message.

Recently, finally, we actually met. I could scarcely believe my eyes when I saw her sauntering into the bar, making her way through the noisy Thursday crowd. But my shock and amazement was short-lived. ‘I’d love to stay for a second drink’ – there was no previous suggestion that this was just ‘for one’ – ‘but Sarah’s just had a fight with Carl and she’s really upset.’ She hates Sarah. Loathes her. But the call of drama is obviously too much to resist, and before I can even open my mouth she’s off again, confirming that the only thing she can be relied upon to do is to be unreliable.

What are we to do? To ditch our flaky folk and socialise only with those who will never stand us up, or stay hopeful that one day a switch will flick and they’ll stop flirting with the boundaries of normal social conduct? I don’t know the answer, but I do know something – it’s a strange feeling, wishing your friend had dandruff.
Holly Sands is our Body & Mind editor. She now awaits an outraged phone call from Anna – unless something else comes up.

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