You made plans with your old roommate to catch up over drinks weeks ago. But one hour before your scheduled meetup, she texts you with a “Sorry, stuck at work—I’m the worst!” And sure, you get it. Except that this is the third time she’s canceled on you in a month. Sound familiar? Yep, you’re dealing with a “mirage friend.”
A what-now? “A mirage friend is someone who seems keen to hang out with you but often cancels at the last minute, or doesn't get around to making definite arrangements,” Dr. Katherine Hawley, professor of philosophy at the University of St Andrews, tells us. Coined by Cosmopolitan, the term refers to that one pal who is super fun to hang out with—when she doesn’t disappear on you, that is.
But she still wants to be my friend, right? Yep. (This isn’t like “ghosting.”) A mirage friend isn’t trying to cut you out of their life altogether. She’s just, well, very flaky.
Next question: Do I really want to be her friend? Before you decide to quit wasting your energy on a mirage friend, consider if she’s behaving this way because she’s going through a tough time, Dr. Hawley suggests. Maybe she’s dealing with a health issue or some family drama—if so, then your best response is to offer support and let her know that you’ll be there for her when she’s ready.
No, that’s not it. She’s just super unreliable. Here’s the thing: You don’t have to put up with this kind of behavior if you don’t want to. If the constant letdowns are upsetting you, then you can either confront your friend about it (and hope she changes her flaky ways) or look for genuine friendship elsewhere. Alternatively, if you love spending time with a mirage friend so much that it’s worth the last-minute cancellations, then that’s cool, too. Just make sure you have some other, more dependable friends around that you can really count on. (And maybe don’t change out of your sweatpants until your dinner plans are definitely confirmed.)