Why are white lies considered “politeness”?

I’ve lived in this country for nearly twenty years but I still can’t figure out why Americans consider as polite inserting little white lies pretending they care into conversations with people they really don’t give a damn about.

I’m talking about saying things like “We really have to keep in touch” to a coworker moving to another job you’ll be happy never to see again or adding “Maybe some other time” when you decline an invitation to an outing simply because you don’t like that person.

The February 2009 issue of hugely popular Parents magazine  includes an article “Your Complete Guide to Playdates” by Mary Jo DiLonardo which includes a “Q&A” Playdating Dilemmas. One of the questions was:

“That kid was a brat, and I don’t want him to come back. What should I do?”

The suggested answer? You guessed it:

“Our schedule is crazy at the moment. Can we touch base at a later date?”

with a comment

“If you say that enough, all but the most socially inept person will get the message.”

What really surprised me is that these answers were provided by Melissa Leonard, a certified etiquette consultant in Harrison, New York.

It just so happens that one of my son’s classmates asked to come over to our house for a playdate, so I contacted his parents to arrange that. The answer I got was “We are fully booked for both Saturday and Sunday. Maybe we can find another day in the future.”

Mind you, she didn’t say “Gosh, I’m sorry. We can’t do it this weekend. How about in two (three) weeks?” or something along those lines showing she does want to arrange a playdate in the future. So… In the context of Melissa’s advice I should take that answer as “No way I’m sending my kid to play with yours,” and that really sickens me.

What in the world compels Americans to pretend they are friendly if they really don’t care?

Honestly.. If you cannot stomach telling me “I’m sorry, but I think your child’s exuberance just is just too much for my son and hypers him up” then all right, do say “We are fully booked.” I’m okay with that. But do not add “Maybe we can find another day in the future,” when you don’t mean it. It might be the accepted convention, but to me that is not only disingenuous and insincere but just plan insulting. And disgusting.

What am I supposed to answer to that? “Whatever” would of course be my first reaction, but that would be rude. I could also answer along the lines of that  style and write back “I’m sorry to hear you are busy. I hope we can try some other time.” And leave it at that. But frankly, I don’t really feel like answering at all. And I don’t care what that mother or Melissa Leonard think about me. I refuse to play that game.

I’m just sorry for my son and that kid, because he really sounded like he wanted to come over to our house for a playdate.