The death of the RSVP

Before Christmas, I threw a house-warming party. I consulted my flat mates, set the date and threw my metaphorical arms wide open – inviting my nearest and dearest to an evening of mulled wine and merrymaking. I created a Facebook group, urging guests to RSVP and bring grog for the pot.

Snow White has more dwarves than the number that responded. Before you snigger, it’s not that I’m a grossly unpopular vessel of a human being. A good number of my friends turned up, created disgusting poetry on my fridge and in one case, fell asleep in the bath. But the episode got me thinking, is it possible to organise an event these days and know who is coming?

Even time-poor brides are now forced into the humiliation of chasing their invitees. “Awfully sorry to trouble you, but since I’ve generously invited you to the three course sit-down dinner I’m throwing, could you bring yourself to get off your arse and reply?”

With so few entrusting the organisation of their social lives to the sturdy old paper diary, Facebook invitations get lost in a myriad of virtual pleas for our time. Sign this petition! Play Farmville! Add me to your Birthdays Calendar! And if we actually notice a tempting invite, why bother to commit when there’s a ‘Maybe’ button to endorse our flakiness as a legitimate response?

Thanks to our smart phones, plans have never been more malleable. Fast-paced living and instant communication has made booking anything in advance impossibly uncool – we’re living in a commitment-phobe’s dream. All very well until you’re standing in the booze aisle, hopelessly wondering how much plonk you need to buy for your party to go with a sufficient bang.

In Victorian times, social etiquette dictated that invitations should be responded to within a day, to allow the host the opportunity to invite an equally entertaining guest should someone decline. What genius! The balance has now swung overwhelmingly in the guest’s favour – invitations are left until the last minute in case we get a better offer.

One invitation you would RSVP to

One invitation you would RSVP to

I’ll admit it; I too am guilty of this sin. I enjoy waiting to see if the mood takes me to do something or other. So does RSVP-ing really matter? Are we being rude, or just liberatingly honest?

It’s only a matter of time before the natural evolution of our manners ends up in “Don’t really fancy it” becoming an acceptable response on the ‘Say why you’re not attending’ tab. Perhaps it’s less to do with fast-paced living and more with the fact that we’re finally free to be as egocentric and impulsive as we’ve always wanted to be. Nineteenth century French author Jules Renard dreamed of this day when he declared, “The only man who is really free is the one who can turn down an invitation to dinner without giving any excuse.”

In that case, let’s celebrate our freedom! Should I throw a party?

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