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Is it rude to refuse social invitations because I'm not interested in the conversation?

THE QUESTION

My husband and I are recent retirees, enjoying life and committed to staying active. Our lives are full with children, grandchildren, extended family and in-laws. However, I still miss the friendships of like-minded people formed in a different part of the country in my early 30s. In an effort to find people I could engage with, I tried attending churches and volunteering and we play badminton and pickleball and I was initially delighted by the casual developing friendships. However, recently the conversations have veered toward various conspiracy theories and the anti-vaxxers. Is it rude to refuse social invitations by stating my husband and I are not interested in the conversation? Or do I just keep making excuses that I'm busy? It's disheartening.

THE ANSWER

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Well, first of all, to your question, "Is it rude to refuse social invitations by stating my husband and I are not interested in the conversation," the short answer is: "Yes."

The long answer is: "Um … yes."

Can you imagine? "Sorry, Phyllis, we can't come over Friday, but we find your choice of conversational topics specious and irrelevant to our concerns. But even if you were to choose good topics, we would still find talking to you tiresome and draining. But thanks for the offer."

It would be … refreshing. But inadvisable.

(Though you'd definitely be giving them a new topic to talk about.)

But it's a good question: what do you do when confronted with people who you find dull and, in the words of Seinfeld's Newman (in reference to Seinfeld's stand-up act), are constantly making "inane observations"?

Because I know they can be real "energy vampires," sinking their metaphorical fangs into your metaphorical jugular, draining your life force, and attempting to turn you into one of their kind: the undead. And one only has so much energy in this life. Of course you should continue to get out there and cultivate friendships with people you find interesting. But in the meantime, when in the presence of "energy vampires" – well, I've tried all kinds of strategies over the years, but here's where I've landed: amuse yourselves, first and foremost.

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You say you enjoy each other's company, what with the badminton and the pickleball, and whatnot. So why not … wait. I'm sorry, I have to digress here. This is the second question in as many months to mention pickleball. I deleted it from the first because it seemed distracting and I didn't know what it was and frankly was too lazy to check it out.

But now the mentions of pickleball are becoming too frequent to ignore. Apparently, it's a hybrid of tennis, badminton, table tennis and – ah, look it up yourselves, it's too difficult to explain and anyway I'm fairly sure I had an non-pickleball-related point to make here. Which was:

Amuse yourselves and each other. Start with that and let it spread from there. You don't think Oscar Wilde (from everything I've read on one of the most amusing and interesting guys ever) ever encountered boring people in his social sojourns?

He didn't let it bother him: he just launched into one riveting soliloquy after another.

You're in even better shape. You're a duo! You can riff off each other. Example: One of you can launch into some factoids about how pickleball was founded in 1965, and then the other can come flying in with the thought that it's too bad it's not a more popular sport, that maybe as a hybrid of tennis and badminton and table tennis it's just too difficult for people to wrap their minds around, and yadda yadda yadda. …

(It's like my friend and I in our 30s, when he was trying to pick up the bartender at our local: He was "Fact Man," I was "Opinion Boy Wonder." He would drop a fact on her, I would add some spin with an opinion. It worked! They not only dated, they went to Mexico together – until it crashed and burned: The facts alone weren't enough without the colour and dynamism of the opinions, I feel. But that's just one man's opinion.)

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In any case, in short: Mainly, amuse yourselves. If it becomes too tiring, if you start to flag, moonwalk away, jump in whatever conveyance you use for transportation, go home and continue to amuse each other, laughing and sipping chardonnay, and knocking or batting or bopping your pickleball around in the sunshine.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to damage@globeandmail.com. Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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