Once upon a time whenever I felt like going to a party I threw one.

Didn’t matter if my house was messy (often), or if the wine glasses were dusty (almost certainly), or if I had the cash to lay out a nice spread. I would tell some folks to drop by, buy the booze & wine, put out some nuts, and the rest would take care of itself. Friends would bring other friends and everyone chipped in some snacks or beer. Put a record on and we were in business.

Slowly over the last ten years I have stressed more about how the house looks, what I am serving, inviting a good mix of people who will have intersecting interests, and so on.

Now I’m not about to give up my fancy cheese habit (thank you Whole Foods Pusher-Man), or the much higher quality alcohol I now indulge in, but I am setting a course for increased casual entertaining. Getting together with old friends, new friends and friends of friends to relax and talk. Hang out. Maybe calling it a party is what has made it seem like I had to invest so much effort. That and the fact that people don’t drop by any more.

I don’t know if the drop by was a symptom of the culture I grew up in, or just a more casual period of time when you didn’t make dates and calendar every damn thing. Yes I just used calendar as a verb. And its not the first time you’ve heard it. 

I hope I can cultivate this idea that its OK, and even appreciated, when someone drops by. Have a glass of tea on the swing, a beer on the patio, or just sit on the steps and shoot the breeze for a little while. I feel like when I am really present, here, and not in my head, time expands and there is room for everything.

So summer 2013. Open invitation, open door, drop on by. Happy Solstice everyone.

I’m not sure why we still use this term when issuing an invitation. The translation of R.S.V.P. is “répondez, s’il vous plaît.” Perhaps because it is French, or maybe because it is missing an expected “S”  (“répondez”, rather than responday) its meaning “please reply”, no longer seems to resonate.

I have given up using it in most instances and instead end with “Please let me know if you will be attending or not.” A direct ask for a yes or no. Works a tiny bit better. At least people are reminded that you want to know either way, not just if their answer is yes.

I think two things are at work in the decline of the RSVP. First, that somewhere along the way, amidst Evites and mass invitations issued on Facebook, a reply became optional. If an invitation is issued to everyone in your address book, does it matter if I reply or attend? These kind of invitations are tough to parse.  And second, I think some people don’t want to commit because they think they might get a better offer, something more exciting might come up.

I really do have to live by my calendar currently. I hope it is not always so, but right now that means I have to make plans and schedule time to see friends or do activities. My work obligations are intensely, stupidly heavy until December 14th – seven days a week some weeks. So scheduling time to attend board meetings, or political meetings, or see friends cuts into my day, or my sleep, but it helps make all the rest of it worthwhile. And it gives me something to look forward to.  Maybe that’s just me.

Back to the art of the RSVP.

When you do not wish to attend something to which you have been invited, decline.  Just decline. No matter the event  – a wedding, house party, dinner, night of drunken revelry – there is no need to explain why you cannot (or don’t wish to) attend. One size fits all – “Thank you for the invitation but unfortunately I will be unable to attend”.

After issuing an invitation I have gotten responses from people saying any number of things: their time is too precious, they are waiting to see if this other cool thing is happening, and, my favorite, if they feel like it on that day they will let me know. Usually after two or three declined invitations I stop inviting, but I think the quality of the decline will have to be added into the equation. If your time is a limited resource that I don’t warrant I think that is a pretty clear message. 

When I entertain I only invite people to parties, or dinner parties that, a) I want to socialize with all night and, b) that I think will have fun with the other people attending. That’s why its called a party. It does however require a commitment for people to show up at a certain time and engage in relaxed conversation and general socializing. I throw a lot fewer parties these days. 

Manners are not dead, many people have used the RSVP to decline without having to tell me they prefer their bed & book to my company. I appreciate it and Miss Manners undoubtedly approves. Just so you know if you have sent me an invitation and did not receive my RSVP you should assume the invitation has gone missing or I have.

I am currently reading books on personality types in order to manage a prickly situation. As I am well aware that we can’t change anyone but ourselves. So of course these are self-help books.

While I have gained many new insights from “Type Talk at Work” and “Fundamentals of Organizational Communication”, the most interesting bits are from a book I stumbled on because it was nearby on the virtual shelf. The online public library system has very broad keyword sorting so next to the work related material was “Your Erotic Personality: Identifying and Understanding Your Sexual Self.” Who can resist? Continue reading

I decided on the perfect song to be played at my funeral – Praise You, by Fatboy Slim. I want it played as everyone is leaving said good-bye event, with supplemental bass speakers and increasing volume until all attendees are driven out the door. Simple, upbeat and encourages folks to dance as they exit. It would be really cool if it could be played from rooftop speakers on the hearse for the drive to the cemetery, but there are probably noise restrictions. And then Three Little Birds played graveside. My life in two songs.

I was never much for planning the perfect wedding daydreams, or playing “how-many-kids-I-will-have-and-what-I-will-name-them”, but I can get into thinking about my funeral party. Probably because I don’t have to do anything except die. No small talk, no food prep, no clean up. With the bonus of not having to come up with the right outfit. And then changing it five times before I leave because its not quite right. A real low-pressure event when all is said and done.

Sometimes I think about what people might say at my funeral, beyond the required social niceties. Will they tell the truth? Will they remember how prickly and difficult I can be? How much I liked to dance? My appreciation for and skillful use of black humor? Will they mention my profound lack of patience for assholery? (BTW anyone caught mouthing cliches like “She didn’t suffer fools gladly” needs to have a drink spilled on them.) What is my “legacy” if I die tomorrow?

The best I can come up with is another song lyric. Lyle Lovett – “She wasn’t good, but she had good intentions.”

Listen to Praise You.