Epistle 3: The very first present

This epistle is only concerned with one aspect of parties, but an important, and early, one.

We all know that presents are almost always an aspect of parties. What shall we take with us to the host? Flowers, a bottle of wine or other spirit, a box of chocolate? If the center of the party (not necessarily the host) is having a birthday or some similar celebration, then of course we bring all kinds of presents.

Happy birthday, dearest…

This is nothing new and nothing strange.

But there is something new, and quite strange, in modern party life. It has to do with the invitation.

Let’s imagine that today is my birthday (which by a strange coincidence, it also happens to be!) Usually the invited guests bring some presents to me.

At times we frankly declare that we want no presents (this might be more common in connection with Christmas), at other times we ask for something special. We might even write a list, or even post it at Amazon. trying in this way to minimize randomness or disappointment.

Not much really to say about this either. But there is a first present to be considered, whether we are talking about birthday, Christmas, or any other kind of party (except the most informal, improvised ones).

That present is your — I am talking to you as guests here — reply to the invitation.

RSVP, often written in the invitations, stands for “Répondez s’il vous plaît”, which means please respond. Please answer the invitation and inform the host whether you are coming or not.

THAT is the first present.

You might well ask why that should be a present. For one thing, it shows whether you will be present at the party, or not .-)

But the more important reason for calling this the first present is because a reply to an invitation can no longer be taken for granted.

This is nothing novel, it has been like this for a long while now. I do not wish to bring up the question of upbringing, politeness etc.. Let’s just say that it has become very common not to respond to an invitation.

There are of course variations.

A) Some people don’t reply to the invite at all. B) Some reply on the day of the party. C) Some a day or two after. D) Some, when you contact them to inquire if they got the invitation, reply “Oh, I thought it was last week….?!?” Meaning either that they didn’t read the invitation properly, or that you yourself wrote the wrong date on the invitation. (Lesson: Proofread your own invitation!)

E) And some, when you meet them after the party give this reason for the non-response: Sorry, I discovered your invitation the day after the party, and then it was to late…

Too late for what?

Why didn’t they write us or phone us to say “Sorry, I discovered your invitation they day after the party…” Such a phone call or letter creates a very positive energy for both host and guest. One could say it is the opposite of NONCHALANCE.

Unfortunately nonchalance seems to be — I say seems, since I don’t have statistics about why people don’t answer party invitations — the main reason for this fault of omission. When this happens to me, and I am sorry to say, it has happened a number of times, I am in a quandary

What should I do? Phone the person up? (perhaps the best alternative). Be angry (does not accomplish much, if anything). Strike that person off the list of people I want to invite?

As the saying goes, it takes two to tango. But it also takes two parties to party.

The host has a number of tasks and responsibilities. The guest, fewer. But if you want to be a Good Guest (which I suggest that you aspire to be), then your first, and perhaps not so easy, task is to ANSWER THE INVITATION.

Of course you are free not to do that. But you might want to consider what signal you are sending to the person inviting you.

  • I can’t be bothered to answer your invitation
  • Your party is not important enough for me (which comes close to)
  • You are not important enough
  • I am a nonchalant and sloppy kind of person

If you DO want to send one of these messages (and frankly, there is a time for everything in life), then by all means do not reply to the invite.

But do not send it inadvertently. That would be a shame. I wouldn’t want to send any of these messages to somebody who invites me to a party.

You might not want to do that, either.