A couple who are close friends had a very successful party — everyone came. They were so thrilled that they planned another party one month later. Only about half of the people came. Then they had another, one month later, and the only people who came were myself and my husband.
They finally got it. How many people that you know yell “yippee” when an invitation to a party, wedding, shower, birthday, christening, graduation arrives? Except for immediate family, almost no one. (A lot of the time even immediate family doesn’t want to come.)
Why? Because you don’t have anyone to talk to, the hosts have invited everyone they can think of to pay back social obligations, you need to buy a gift, you need to eat the food whether or not you like it, it is too crowded, everyone is drunk (a defense mechanism), and most important — YOU JUST CANNOT LEAVE (until what is deemed “the appropriate time”).
I know that sounds terrible.
I would rather celebrate a birthday, graduation, etc., by taking the person out to dinner, with one or two of their friends. It’s intimate, fun, easy, you can eat and drink what you like, and most of all, when you are finished, you can leave.
Some people don’t reply to invitations; they are holding out for something better, that’s true. Some of the rest don’t want to say no because you are going to ask them why they are saying no, and the truth would just hurt their feelings.
GENTLE READER: The problem is not that invited guests are saying no. The problem is that large numbers of them are not saying either yes or no, but simply ignoring invitations. Even those who do answer might say yes and then not appear, or say no and show up anyway.
If everyone declined, the hosts would not be left in limbo, planning for an unknown number. And the hosts you scorn would not be left in ignorance that their form of entertaining was not — well, entertaining.
Miss Manners happens to agree with you about that point. Self-congratulatory, present-associated, catch-all occasions, which are now a major form of partying, are rarely fun.
Hosts, as well as guests, are neglecting their basic duties. Their arrangements, including drawing up the guest list, are supposed to be planned for the enjoyment of their guests, and their efforts during the party should ensure that.
How can you call your close friends’ first party “very successful” if it drove their guests away from their subsequent parties?
None of this excuses the rudeness of not answering invitations. No host should be so foolhardy as to ask why an invitation is declined, but the answer need only be, “Because I’m afraid I’m busy then.” That you are busy staying home being glad to escape need not be mentioned.
Visit Miss Manners at her Web site,www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.
2011, by Judith Martin
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