Living in a parody: The 2019 Cancel


It’s funny because whenever someone wants to make fun of millennials, you can predict they’ll say the words “La Croix on tap” or something generic (but seriously, let’s agree that hating on La Croix is so 2018). In reality, the best parts of pop culture today are subtle, nuanced, slipped-into-casual-conversation that make us feel like we exist in one giant parody. They keep happening without us ever acknowledging it. One of my favorites is the delicate art of the 2019 cancel.

For one, it actually surprises me when plans happen with the intended group of people at the intended time. Like jaw-on-the-floor, can’t-believe-we-all-made-it-here at this time and this place. I think I’m going to tear up because so many stars had to align to make it happen. 

L had to trek all the way down from acting class in some northern region of NY (57th St), F flew back from her secret Caribbean consulting case last night and cancelled on five other social engagements, K had to make arrangements to bring her dog (and yes, we called ahead to make sure the bar was dog-friendly), J’s yoga class lined up perfectly, and A’s Hinge date cancelled, she hopped off the J subway line after realizing it was in fact only running in one direction, and ended up ubering from LES.

The thing is I think we actually are a very lucky generation because we see each other so often, even if it’s not in person, we call, FaceTime, text, and dm our friends minute-by-minute updates on our life: “Omg, just passed by that giant inflatable RAT on 20th for the THIRD time today” 

And when we don’t actively engage with one another, we passively observe. When all your friends get your live Insta story updates and follow you on Find My Friends, it’s hard to cancel at the last minute because they know that you’re not deathly sick like you might want to claim to be, they know exactly what flavor of ~gf df~ snacks you just picked up, and they know where in your Big Little Lies binge you are. When you constantly feel the need to update people on your life and also just want to cancel on 85% of social engagements, you’re kind of in a pickle.

So, as we one does in a pickle, we end up putting so much thought into a cancel to overcompensate, because we’ve been trained to think we’re a generation of people who can’t commit. Here’s how it generally goes: 

  1. The cancel starts with a compliment to prime the recipient. “Loved that photo of you and your mom the other day, you guys look so tan from vacay! Tell me everything.” 

  2. And then comes the build-up of evidence. “A friend is in town in a couple days, so I need to get a few things done for work before that. Also, my cat’s ex is in denial and has been throwing up all over the building stairwell…it wreaks. Have such a bad headache”. 

  3. The next part is to play up how much of a hot mess you are. “Life is in shambles, you know how it is. So GTS (going through something)”. 

  4. Now, circle back to the party and insert a statement that embodies today’s “you do you” mentality because we all know it’s impossible to refute today. “All of that to say, I reaaaally wanted to see you tonight at your housewarming but also just need to get my life together. Obviously, will totally try to make it up there later tonight but if not, have so much fun!”

…Wait, why did I feel the need to leave the door open? A lot of thought went into crafting that text! I know we’re an incredibly non-committal generation in many aspects of life - people get it: we’re stressed and anxious. But maybe instead of trying to regress to fit the social norms of previous generations (i.e. manage our stress and commitment issues) I think it’s better for everyone if we just own it.

Recently, having realized how much of my life I waste on cancels, I’ve been trying the exact opposite. “Can’t come tonight, decided to stay in. Love you xx”. 

I really do hope my friends still love me.

(and Netflix, who are we kidding? Play that next episode please)

Naomi Shah