Oh, woe is the chef-come-writer who uses his platform to bemoan a pervasive social faux pas. I confess I run the risk of showing even a touch of gray just implying that times have changed. But alas, sometimes there’s a vacancy on the soap box, and you have to step up.
The French term RSVP means “répondez s’il vous plait”, translated: “Please reply.” It’s considered an older way of ending an invite, but anyone who has ever thrown a party or event can tell you it’s critical to the success of an evening.
These days, we get a lot of “Regrets Only,” implying, “Everyone is coming, right? No? Okay, then let me know.” The major difference? No “please”. But, old-school or not, replying to an invite isn’t just proper etiquette and good manners, it’s required of the invitee to allow the event planners time to accommodate their guests. Not doing so is flat out inconsiderate, and there isn’t any other word, polite or rude, to describe it. So- WTF?
We live in an age where it is impossible to hide behind the guise of missing someone’s message. Some people are so tied into their electronic devices that their actions become almost Pavlovian when the chimes or vibrations begin. A flip, a slide- a quick glance, and then back in the pocket, waiting for more important messages to arrive. And you can’t “unsend” or “leave as unread” like the early days of AOL without notifying the sender the jig is up. In other words, you’ve got no excuse, lame or otherwise.
That doesn’t mean people won’t make them. One online discussion on the topic had this take: “I think the problem is we are all so over scheduled that we no longer appreciate…being considered! We resent having one more thing to do”. Well, that’s pretty shitty. You resent my invitation? “Well how about this- Suck it! You’re off the list Miss Popular Pants!” (An empty threat if ever there was one. We all have, like, 400 facebook “friends” and 750 followers on Twitter, but try getting 10 of them together for one night? Pfffft.)
Maybe we are over-committed. If so, it’s a sad commentary on modern society. When you were in college and went to a party, you brought what you planned to drink or ponyed up some cash for the keg. You were lucky if there were Doritos. Then came the pot-luck dinners. Also, pretty easy considering all you do is bring one thing, and get to eat, like, six.
But, as you got older and got invited to someone’s house for dinner, you began to notice how most of the time it was completely on the host to provide snacks, beverage, dinner and –gasp- dessert, too? All that was required of you was to bring a small token of your appreciation (a.k.a. host gift); and it never hurt to ask if you could contribute in any way, even if the answer was “no thank you”. So, let’s review: free dinner, free booze, small thank you- and you can’t even reply “yes or no”??
No soup for you!
I’ve always tried to treat an invite like the puck in a hockey game, and I’m the goalie: as soon as it comes in, I shoot it back out. The longer I wait, the more unlikely it is I will attend. And, I’m as guilty as the next person of leaving the puck in the net. But, some people are habitual non-responders. It reaches the point of seeming like the radio silence is because a commitment could be detrimental to the recipient if something better comes up. Well now, aren't we popular? I’ve tried using the oh-so-hip text message invite, not even requesting an RSVP. After all, most people reply to texts, even if abbreviated. But, then there’s that awkward silence that follows and you wonder if you texted the right person or some errant communications satellite instead. And you can pretty much predict the replies that will come once the event is over. “So tired, crashed early.” “My phone was off”. “Solar flare took out my 3G service.”
Perhaps the biggest conundrum associated with this phenomenon is the person who doesn’t RSVP but shows up anyway. There can be no possible explanation for this, other than Alzheimer’s. Now, before you go getting all sensitive, I’m serious. A condition that affects memory is a legit excuse for not responding to an invite. NOT having that condition is NOT an excuse. You slap on a tie and roll up with a smile and an appetite, but it never occurs to you everyone is looking at you like you rose from the dead in fishnets and a boa? And who is it awkward for? Well, obviously not you. In the mean time, a furtive scrambling goes on trying to make it look like you are finally here and the party can start.
No, I’ve given this a lot of thought. Even if you allowed for percentages of people who don’t reply, the numbers are still way off. One of the easiest invites to reply to is the kids’ party invite. “Thanks for invite, prior engagement, blah blah blah” and you’re done. But, you have no idea- or maybe I’m preaching to the playground- how many people can’t even slap that one back. “Reply by” dates on written invites help only a fraction. And leaving two numbers and an email address to reply should increase the odds. Yet, some people just have a block.
It’s enough to make you want to go all Samuel L. Jackson on someone’s ass.
I favor a more direct, blunt approach. “PLEASE RESPOND TO THIS INVITE OR THIS PARTY/DINNER/EVENT WILL BE CANCELLED DUE TO INCOSIDERATION ON THE PART OF THE ATTENDEES.”