On: manners, reciprocation and the damn RSVP

Oh Facebook, pharmacy such an issue for so many of us. Thanks to all who weighed in with their thoughts. I wrote that Facebook post a while ago, treatment along with this one. Both are thoughts that have been on my mind for a while and I am only getting around to posting them now.


Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.  If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use.  ~Emily Post

I’ve talked before about how for a long time the Mister & I didn’t have much money – especially the jobless period before Moira was born. But even as the couple with little money who lived in the small apartment we were the entertainers. People would – and I’m not joking here – call us up and ask when we were having our next pizza party or say they been over for a while and could they come over for tea? We host a yearly (eight years now) New Year’s Eve open house. Now we also host a monthly (whole foods, plant based) potluck (replacing the pizza party). This is great fun and we enjoy doing it (or we wouldn’t) but – here’s the rub – we rarely get invited anywhere. People come over for dinner but don’t reciprocate. People invite themselves over but don’t reciprocate. When we call people up to see what they are doing they say they are busy or their house is too messy to have people over (let me tell you – no one’s house is as messy as ours, even before children). So when I said in my last post: the Mister and I are still the ones who put out more effort than we receive, this is what I meant.

The Mister and I have spent years speculating on reasons for this. Perhaps it is because some of our old friends are DINKS (double income no kids) who have filled their social calendars with people more important than us (this is honestly how I feel some times). Or, because they can afford to go out to dinner all the time they don’t invite people over. We know part of this is true. When we do get an invite out on the odd occasion it is usually to a late night party at an expensive restaurant to celebrate someones birthday – something we couldn’t afford before and now can’t attend because of children. Or maybe we are just stinky?

Growing up my parents often had friends over for dinner and, sure enough, at some point over the following months, they would be out being entertained by whoever was over recently. Reciprocation. Do people not teach this to their children anymore?  On the odd occasion we are invited anywhere I make sure to send a thank you note (via e-mail but still) the next day. However, I can’t even get people to acknowledge or RSVP when I invite them over. We’ve had incidents where we were expecting friends for dinner and they didn’t show up –  with no word of acknowledgement or apology after the fact. Or, friends when invited for dinner at a certain time show up – consistently – three or four hours late. (No, we don’t invite those people over anymore.) I would be truly embarrassed if that were me.

It is, in a word, frustrating and I wonder if I am expecting too much of people?

There are exceptions to all of this of course and things are slowly changing. I have a couple really good single girlfriends who work all the time and still make the effort to either invite us all over or invite me over so I can get some away time. We also have some newer friends who invite us over. People who call us up and ask us what we are doing and if we would like to come over to their place. Every time it happens we are still a little shocked. Of course, these people also have children our age and it seems that people with toddlers are so grateful to have other people with toddlers that are willing to invite them over (and not get upset when their kid writes on the furniture) – they know the meaning of reciprocation.

I think part of simplifying one’s life (and don’t we all talk about wanting to do that?) is cutting out those areas that are negative or frustrating. I would like to add though that I live a very drama-free life. I hear people talking about toxic relationships all the time I don’t have any of those – either it is because I have a very low bull$hit tolerance or the because all the people I know are essentially good people but some of them happen to be lazy and/or inconsiderate and/or need a refresher course in manners.  I think about manners a lot these days because good manners is something I want to beat into instill in the girls from a very early age.

So what do you think: am I being old fashioned to expect people to reciprocate in some form after we have invited them over? Is it wrong to expect people to RSVP when I invite them to a party? Am I living in the wrong century?

  23 Replies to “On: manners, reciprocation and the damn RSVP”

  1. June 19, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    🙂 No, I don’t think you’re being old fashioned

  2. Jen
    June 19, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    Goodness no. I demand an RSVP or no party. 🙂 and we are kinda like you, it sounds.

    • June 19, 2011 at 6:48 pm

      Well, with the potlucks it’s a little different. We host them every month and there are always people who say yes, some people who say no and people who don’t say anything. After a while I take those people off the invite list because obviously they aren’t interested enough to even tell us they aren’t interested. For the incidents where we had people who said yes but didn’t show those were one-on-one dinner party situations where we cooked and no one arrived.

  3. June 19, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    I would also be horrified or embarrassed to show up three or four hours late if someone invited me for dinner. That’s insane to me.
    And an RSVP is necessary. Even if I’m RSVPing on facebook and don’t make it out, I send an email or message telling the person why I can’t come or can’t make it. I definitely try my darndest to make it because it is easy for me just to stay in. There are books here! (I’m pretty social, but I do like a lot of alone time) In terms of having people over, I just don’t. I have a small apartment (on purpose) and I work from home. I was talking to another friend about this and he said to me, “Yeah, I don’t have people over either. It’s like entertaining at the office.” I agree 100%. Most of my friends live with their partners and have more space.

  4. June 19, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    I hope you know that me and my family are welcome at your house for dinner any time.

    • June 20, 2011 at 9:14 am

      I would put the invite in the mail if we weren’t having this awful postal strike right now.

  5. June 19, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    People who show up 3 hours late to dinner should be publicly flogged and shamed. That’s just insane. If I couldn’t make it on time to a dinner party I previously agreed to attend I’d be on the phone the instant I realized our plans changed. Geez, what is wrong with people!

  6. June 20, 2011 at 12:52 am

    i value good manners, too. i made bub send a handmade thank you card to every single person that gave her a birthday present or came to her party. it’s important to say thank you and acknowledge other peoples’ good manners in giving presents or attending parties.

    • June 20, 2011 at 9:06 am

      I’m doing this with Moira now too. I have to admit that I slipped for a while in saying thank-you for presents and such after Moira was born because I was so frazzled and turned upside down but things have calmed down. In fact, I think Moira and I are mailing things out every week now we have so much fun sending ‘postcards’ to people and – this is the big draw for her – sometimes they send things back!

  7. June 20, 2011 at 7:06 am

    I have such a problem with peoples manners, so much so that sometimes I think *I* am the one with the problem. Over the past few years I have met a bunch of new people due to having a kid. Then comes the play groups and all that comes along with getting to know people whose only commonality is that 9 months prior they screwed at the same time you did. I found that there were a few mamas that I became friends with. Besides cultural differences when it comes to friendships, there were many social (manners) issues that were driving me up the wall. Like you mentioned, these aren’t bad people, we just have a different way of showing respect. I eventually had to say “In my friendships I find it really helps if we have more communication about ______”. Totally spelling it out. I can imagine that I would do the same in this case. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt when it comes to such things and if they do it again, well I know that they know my expectation and it makes it easier to move forward from there.

    btw, if you ever invite us over, we will def. send you a thank you note. xx

    • June 20, 2011 at 9:08 am

      Sometimes I think making Momma friends is the hardest thing to do because we are all so busy and, especially in the early days, have so many beliefs about how we should raise our children. On the other hand, I think if we are able to make one or two good Momma friends through all these playgroups & the like then we are doing really well. How many friends does one need in this life anyway? : )

  8. Lori
    June 20, 2011 at 7:45 am

    Here’s the thing….. It’s definitely the sign of the times.
    My parents struggled throughout their lives trying to make ends meet. I don’t remember eating fast food on a regular basis or eating out at fancy restaurants whenw we were little. What I do remember is this: No matter who stopped over my Mom made them feel right at home. Family /Friends would pop in for a coffee and my Mom would go about making a snack or most often a table full of food even though we didn’t have the extra money to feed the block so to speak. To this day I do the same thing and I am completely shocked when I go over to friends houses and don’t even get asked if I would like a drink never mind a snack. We have neighbors that do not cook. They eat out probably 5 out of the 7 days a week (with a 6 yr old). They are shocked when I come home on a friday and cook. The way people “visit” with eachother is very different then the way our parents did. It’s very rare that you stay in and do it the way they used to, even with children.
    I agree fully and completely that if you ask someone to dinner then they should show up on time; and with something in their hands even though you told them not to bring anything…. It’s the way I was raised and it’s what I expect. I also agree that your dinner should be reciprocated at some point as well. Do I set myself up for dissappointment? Yes, but I think my true friends/family “get it” and as for the people that don’t even RSVP they don’t get invited. I only give so many chances because if your life is that busy that you can’t even extend a common courtesy then you are not worth the invite.
    There are a lot of “manners” that have been lost and I find it sad. My biggest pet peeve is talking on your cell phone while you are at the check out or texting while you are out to dinner with friends. I don’t get it, I don’t pretend to get it and I don’t have any paitence for it either.
    Sorry for the rant 😉

    • June 20, 2011 at 9:12 am

      I remember being at your house a lot in junior high for dinner and sleep overs and always feeling welcome (although it took me a while to get used to the fact that you and your mom yelled at each other as a form of communication because my family is so quiet). I also remember calling home a couple times to say I was over and my mum asking “are they going to feed you?” and your mum responding politely but with what I suspect was probably a hidden eye-roll in that of course she was going to feed me. Considering how much I ate your mum probably regretted having me over so much. ; )

      Don’t even get me started on cell phones. My nephew used to text his friends during dinner!!! He probably still does but he doesn’t come for dinner anymore.

  9. June 20, 2011 at 10:16 am

    My family sounds similar to yours. We have very little money, yet we always seem to be the ones who entertain people at our house. I think it started because my husband and I were the first people in our group of friends to get married. So we had a bigger apartment than other people, and then a house, when everyone else was living in a studio or one bedroom. We had more room and we like to entertain, so it seemed natural for people to come over. Then we had a kid, and it was definitely easier for us to have people over because we could put the baby to bed at home and not have to pay for a babysitter. Which is all fine, and our friends are good about bringing food and alcohol to share, but it gets old to always have to be the host. Until some of our college friends get married or have kids I imagine this is how our life will be with them, if we want to see them on a regular basis though.

    However, we started to make new friends when our oldest started preschool. Now we are friends with families who have kids our age, and the entertaining is shared. We all have kids the same age so we understand what works best for a family-type gathering (weekend, late afternoon, potluck, space for kids to run around and not fear breaking things, kid friendly food, etc), and its been great. We actually get to go to someone else’s house now!

    Maybe you could see if some of the people who come to your monthly potluck would like to host once in awhile? Set up a rotating hosting schedule? Then you wouldn’t always have to have people over to your house. And I don’t think you’re old fashioned–people who don’t RSVP, ever invite you over, or are 3 hours late to a dinner have bad manners, plain and simple.

  10. June 20, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    I agree that it seems that the art of entertaining has been lost, and the manners that go along with it. I don’t particularly love throwing dinner parties, mostly because I don’t have the culinary skills to pull off a fancy meal, but I love having people over to our house. And I think that as the girls get older, I’d rather have our house be “the place” to hang out. That’s how it always was at my house growing up, even though we didn’t have cable or fancy games. We had good, home-cooked food and healthy snacks available to whatever kids wanted to stop in. I hope that we’ll be able to provide a similar environment for our kids and their friends.

    • June 20, 2011 at 7:33 pm

      To be honest, I don’t even think of them as ‘dinner parties’ – that sounds too Martha Stewarty for me. I think of it as ‘having people over for dinner’ and a potluck is really the way to go when everyone is so busy. We don’t make fancy meals – ever and I try not to wind myself up with making the house look perfect. Having people over is a good excuse to tidy and clean the bathroom but even then it shouldn’t stop you from having people over.

      I would rather our house be “the place” to hang out too – that is the best way to keep an eye on your kids and get to know their friends.

  11. June 20, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    I think if it’s a recurring pot-luck then people should share hosting duties. It is common courtesy to respond … and to say if you’re going to be late or not able to show up at all….I just don’t get that. That’s rude.

    I am probably bad at entertaining — because I have a reclusive-type partner. He is generally too exhausted to consider having people over a fun time. Also, we moved away from all our mutual friends and now the friends we have are mostly mine, earned with blood and sweat on those damn playgrounds! So if I go out, I generally go alone. I enjoy socializing with people, but … it can be hard to reciprocate. I think it will get easier as the kids get bigger and we catch up on our sleep. I hope so, anyway.

    For me, manners are less about being formally polite and more about being straightforward. If you can’t come to my party, tell me. If you want to bring cookies, tell me. If you want me to bring something, don’t say “no, no,” and then get pissed when I don’t bring something. Some formal manners can be abolished/adjusted, I think.

  12. June 22, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Although I agree the necessity of teaching the art of reciprocation to our children, I probably have no right to comment on it. I am terrible at it. Due to me being a major procrastinator, messy and embarrassed of my messiness, and sometimes just plain old forgetful, I have not been the good friend that I should be to my friends. Your post reminds me though that I need to get my self together and be a grown-up immediately before Max catches my bad habits!

  13. June 23, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    I think I’ve said before in your comments that we sound so much alike… we’re also the ones with tiny house and little money who always have people over. And usually, they’re the same group of closer friends who do bring something (as in, alcohol, at least before baby was born “having people over” meant come whenever you want, we’ll be in the kitchen drinking.) But there have been more than a few occasions when people I don’t know so well show up and just like, help themselves to whatever’s in the fridge!

    I’m shocked at the rudeness of the examples you gave. I’m only 28 and never remember “learning” etiquette rules, but I’d never show up at someone’s house late when they were cooking, or empty handed to any party!

    Without going on a total etiquette rant, I agree with the commenter above too, I have absolutely no patience for people who are constantly on their phones or text while I’m interacting with them!

  14. Amanda
    June 23, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    hmm, constant texting…oh you mean MY son…the one who never calls his mother or texts her…not that I’d know what the hell to do with a text. So he obviously didn’t learn it from me.
    I’ve had people show up empty handed and proceed to drink all the beer in our fridge, then leave without so much as a thanks. Army guy was not too impressed that his beer was gone and that they never reciprocated. It has happened twice. I’m no fool, they’ll be no 3rd time charm crap here.
    When the teenager goes out to his buddies places I make him pack food. seriously. I know most of his friends income isn’t up to ours,(um, don’t get excited, 4 people 1 army income) and I don’t want him to be a strain on the family resources. He rolls his eyes, but knows to take the food and it’s always gone when he comes home. I just hope that he is polite when he’s at someone’s home…so far feedback has been positive, or else people really like Doritos.
    and his older brother ruined his chances for a cellphone too 😉

  15. June 25, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    So…what I think I don’t get is this: if it’s a problem and you’re upset that you don’t get a reciprocal invitation, why do you keep having the dinners?

    • June 27, 2011 at 9:26 pm

      I’m only frustrated with the people who don’t RSVP and obviously I stop inviting them to the potlucks because I think they are sending me the message that they aren’t interested but just don’t want to say it. We really enjoy hosting the potlucks – we just wish it wasn’t the only time we got to be social most months. : )

  16. June 29, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    Ah – very good idea!

    I suspect that it may be a mix of people not really knowing the ‘rules’ about RSVP and plan making, people who don’t really want to go out on a Friday night but can’t bring themselves to say so, and people who aren’t used to having small children around.

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