Friday, December 10, 2010

RSVP, Damn It!

With the holidays upon us and parties being thrown like rice at a wedding, now is the time for all good Graces to come to the aid of the party. Shout it from the rafters: RSVP is not optional. Repondez s'il vous plait does not translate into "let the hostess know at some point maybe if you feel like it and remember to unless you get a better offer for something more exciting that night". Nor does it mean "wait til the last minute, then call the hostess and say you're bringing your parents and 5 friends who happen to be in town for the weekend, all of whom are on restricted diets". Or God forbid your uninvited kids.

When you are fortunate enough to receive a kind invitation from a generous host (or even a repugnant invitation from an abhorrent acquaintance) you absolutely, positively must respond. Promptly. I feel even more strongly about this than writing thank you notes--and you know how militant I am about thank you notes.

I cannot tell you the number of times I have been forced into the undignified position of calling invitees 3 days before a party and asking whether they plan to attend. By then, I am so irritated with these louts that I hope the answer is a sheepish no, but as a Grace, I would rather wear pleated pants than be caught short as a host, so I hunt down these miscreants to insure an accurate count and ample supplies. For them. Talk about a flawed system. (well, ok, maybe not pleated pants, but you get my drift.) Provisioning for a party is work (I love it, but it is still work), and it should not be complicated by playing russian roulette with the number of filets mignons you buy at $18.00/lb, or even the number of cocktail franks at $1.29/lb, or for that matter, the number of pizzas you plan to order. Caterers need head counts, and hosts should not pay for guests who have no intention of showing up. If you are one of those people and you are reading this, there is hope for you yet--we will set you on the Gracious Path.

Nearly as bad as the non-rsvp offender is the waffler. This is the charmer who says right up until the day of the party, "I may come by early or late if I have time." or "I am going to a matinee, then dinner, but I will try to come on my way home." Or the lovely who says, "We planned to go out to dinner but will try to come for a drink beforehand." Is this helpful? NO! They don't think about the fact that I now need to consider appetizers and drinks for 2 more, and the possibility that they may just decide to hunker down and stay for dinner once they get here. Do I order 2 more lobsters on this eventuality?

I kid you not, I received an email one morning (10 hours before my party was scheduled to begin) that read "I am sure I am the last person on your list to rsvp. I really want to come but I am going to the boat show today, then out to dinner in Chinatown, but I'll try to come later if I can." Gee, thanks. I was tempted to respond: "Thanks for letting me know. Maybe we'll open the door if you ring, or maybe we'll just leave you standing on the steps." But of course, Graces end up compensating for others' boorishness. I wrote back, "We hope you'll be able to make it; would love to see you." I erased my first draft, not wanting to appear snarky. But I felt very snarky.

Another RSVP no-no: Asking who else is coming. If the hostess volunteers this information, fine. You may graciously respond, "sounds like a fun group," or "Great! I met Greg and Marcia at a benefit last week and loved them. Can't wait to see them again," or "I'll look forward to meeting them all Saturday." Or say nothing. You never want to be the person who says, "Ugh, I can't stand George and Laura. If they are coming I simply won't be able to." This puts the hostess in an awkward position, and, frankly makes you look infantile. I can think of few scenarios which justify backing out at this point, but if you truly think coexisting with said invitee(s) would ruin the party, then be honest: "Abigail, I have to tell you, we are in the middle of a contentious lawsuit with Carol and Mike. Their dog killed our cat last month and we are suing them for wrongful death. I think it would be better if we declined your generous invitation and got together with you and John some other time. Please don't give it a second thought; how could you have known? Have a wonderful party, thank you for thinking of us, and let's pick a date to have dinner very soon. Are you free on the 7th?"

Required: Swiftly Verify Plans. That's what RSVP means. Learn it. Live it. Share it.

Because if you don't, and you simply show up, you are no better than a party crasher. And you know how we feel about them...

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