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Why Are We Afraid of the RSVP?

Abbreviations. There are ones we use every day when texting. LOL. TTYL. IKR. WDYM. There are abbreviations for networks, like ABC, ESPN, AMC, BIO, COM, FAM. Medical abbreviations like STAT, TAB, TPR, & STD. (oof) Airports have abbreviations to make life simpler. MSP, ATL, TPA, HOU, ORD, they all ensure we get to where we need to go. Most of these abbreviations trigger an action or feeling or response from us, depending on our current mission. So why then, are we afraid of the a little abbreviation that is used to initiate politeness and etiquette? Why does the RSVP make us avoid the phone, the “going” button, the SASE. (Self addressed stamped envelope)

RSVP is French, “répondez s'il vous plaît”. In other words, PLEASE RESPOND. It first became a thing in the early 1800's. People have been using it for centuries. It’s clearly stuck around. I have to ask myself, when did we start taking issue with this simple good manner? We say “Please”, “Thank you”, “Sorry for your loss”, and show all sorts of other good manners like opening doors for the person behind you or coming out of a building. We try not to interrupt others, and we remove our shoes even when entering someone’s home. WHAT IS THE DEAL, RSVP??? Why do we struggle with this one?

The answer seems simply complicated. I would guess that we guests have an issue with commitment. I’ve planned parties where more than 10 people are going to be invited. I’m sure many of you have as well. This requires the RSVP, because I need to know how much food to purchase. I need to know how many plates, napkins, utensils and seating I’ll need to put out. Us party planners, we don’t mind if you don’t come. We care that if you DO come, we have adequate food amounts and gifts even, if we’re giving those out. (Hello pre-marital couples, you relating to this?) It’s not fun when people don’t RSVP, and I’ve been guilty of the RSVP dodge myself. Over the years, I’ve tried to get better at this. I’ve recognized that it really does inconvenience the person who invited me, so I really try. I’m still trying. I’m a work in progress I suppose. WIP? I like that.

One time...

...I threw a party of sorts and asked who was coming. Someone literally said to me, “I’m not sure what we’ll be doing that day, so I don’t know.” I almost laughed out loud. You don’t know what you’re doing that day. Ok. Why don’t you put my party on your freaking calendar, then you’ll KNOW what you’re doing that day!!! Commitment is hard, am I right? Are they waiting for something better to come along? Maybe! I actually get that, rude sounding as it is. Argh.

If I RSVP that I’m coming to your gathering, that means I’m committed to it. For some people, committing to something is worse than death itself. I realize we live in a world where if we want pizza, alcohol, medication, groceries, household goods or even a medical appointment, there’s an app for that and we can do these things when we want. It’s become almost like, “putting ourselves out there” is a complete inconvenience. However, we did not always live in this type of world, and I think RSVP dodgers have existed long before this. So have we just always been scared of commitment? Are we that stressed? I don’t know, honestly.

If people aren’t afraid of commitment, but are still avoiding the RSVP, then another possible reason may be an aversion to being “the bad guy” by saying no. I get that as well. I think, though, that in this day and age, we all get it. If I invite you to a party or an event, I’m totally cool if you don’t want to go. Sometimes we just want to stay home. Maybe we have other things going on that are financially related, mental health related, or something else that is preventing us from wanting or being able to attend. My guy, it’s totally ok! Just decline, you don’t need to give a reason, and I’m guessing that most people are good with that. We recognize that we’re all human trying to get through life, and that doesn’t always include mingling with others when we might rather stay in with a movie, a cuddle, a bottle of wine, a bunch of Chinese takeout, family night, or a relaxing personal hobby. Just say “no.” This doesn’t make you the bad guy. You know what DOES make you that bad guy? NOT RESPONDING AT ALL. Or saying “Maybe” and not ever giving a final answer until last minute, or not giving a final answer at all. THAT is what makes you the bad guy.

All that being said, I’m also going to acknowledge that fact that although the world doesn’t revolve around the party inviters or wedding planners or graduation party hosts or bat mitzvah get together planners… it only takes a MINUTE to RSVP. It’s not scary! Have we as human beings become incapable of doing this? It’s embarrassing. I always feel like a total asshole when I’ve neglected to RSVP, and if I’ve done this to you, I’m truly sorry. Please know that I am a reformed RSVP Dodger, and I’ll definitely reply if I’m ever invited to one of your events. Also, it’s (unfortunately) easy to think, “Oh, I gotta check on a few things, I’ll respond when I figure it out,” and then we totally forget. It happens, but it really sucks for the planner when it does.

There seems to be every reason or excuse in the book to not take the RSVP seriously. In the absence of those reasons, however, I think maybe as a collective, we need to start paying more attention or at least considering others when it comes to the RSVP. I’m curious if you are an RSVP dodger, or a reformed one… what are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or a DM. I’m genuinely curious. I know for myself, it was the follow through. I didn’t want to commit and then have the day arrive and I don’t feel like going, and now I have to go because I said I would. 9 times out of 10 though, I had so much fun and was glad I went.

You may be wondering where all of this is coming from, and it’s not really from one particular incident. I’ve spoken with a few people regarding this and it seems that it’s a frustration that is felt by more than a fair share of individuals. This is the season of holiday parties, work parties, and New Year’s parties. We live amongst people who are having babies, getting married, hosting online parties or celebrating a milestone of some sort. Let’s do our part and give them that RSVP!

"P" is for "Please."

Happy Holidays!

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