The Impact of California’s Culture of Flakiness

Does flakiness bug you too?

Laurie B. Timms

March 26, 2023


Lately I’ve been thinking about flakiness. As in, people’s propensity to be flaky.

In 2000 I first moved to California from Texas, and one of the cultural nuances I had to get used to was a tendency for people to make plans and then flake out, either notifying me last-minute they wouldn’t be showing up, or just not showing up at all.

I grew up in a place where the culture was, if you said you were going to do something, you did it. Maybe it was because where I grew up, not a single person I knew didn’t attend church. Church people, as a rule, are not flaky. (By the way, I’m not a religious sort, so let’s not go down that path…) I think it goes back to the days of barn-raising and helping the neighbors. That kind of stuff.

But I don’t think there was much barn-raising in California. At least, it doesn’t feel like it.

It took me quite some time to get used to the random not showing up or late canceling of plans. In most places, it is completely normal human nature to take that shit personally. And as a trauma survivor, I would double down. Not only would I take it personally, but I’d look at myself and think, “What’s wrong with me? Don’t they like me?”

I often felt unlovable, and unloved.

But weirdly, I got used to it. I don’t know if it was all the therapy I was doing, or the exercising I did to feel more healthy and better about myself. But eventually I realized, it said more about them than it did me. And I was able to reject the idea that I wasn’t loved.

But what did it actually say? I’m not thinking what you probably think I’m thinking.

Because then, embarrassingly, I even started doing it myself. It was during times when I felt extreme anxiety, usually about work or a relationship issue, or I was having social anxiety about meeting new people, or I was in a full-on depressive episode. I generally would notify people I wasn’t showing up, but still, I could not seem to force myself to follow through.

Thinking back to the times when I was first in California and friends were flaking out on me, I wonder, how well did I really know them? Maybe they had these issues and I was unaware. Perhaps I should have asked if they were okay.

My English husband is newer to California, and he gets frustrated when people don’t show up, similar to the way I felt long ago. But being English, he believes people should ALWAYS be on time, if not early. Apparently in England, there’s no room for not showing up. So he’s having to learn the California way too. I feel for him, I really do. But that doesn’t change the flaking going on.

In the end, when people flake, I remind myself that they might be going through mental illness or sadness or anxiety, and I’m inclined to let it go. It’s better to show some compassion, and in the greater scheme of life, most of the activities in my life are not that big a deal.

I suppose letting go of the annoyance about flakiness makes me a true Californian, doesn’t it?

What do you think? Does flakiness bug you? Join the discussion through the comments here.

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