RSVPs, and basic manners, are dead

6th March 2018 6:59 AM
What’s worse? RSVPing and not turning up, or not bothering to reply at all? (Pic: iStock) What’s worse? RSVPing and not turning up, or not bothering to reply at all? (Pic: iStock)

AS a frequent thrower of parties, I'm fairly used to some invitees saying they'll come to something and then bailing at the last minute or simply not showing.

But my most recent experience of this, for an event I'd poured my heart into, has me convinced that RSVPs - and basic manners - are dead.

These days, yes means maybe, maybe means definitely not and the overall level of importance placed on being a guest is as low as a snake's belly.

The function I threw was the launch celebration of a university scholarship I've founded in memory of my friend Clare who died 18 months ago after a brief but fierce battle with a rare cancer.

I've been working on this project for about seven months - a surreal experience where I juggle my still-potent grief with a sense of pride and excitement.

I invited a bunch of friends, colleagues and peers to come along and raise a glass (or two) to a remarkable woman and this small contribution to her enduring legacy.

Forty-seven people said yes. A further 17 said maybe. It was a pretty good result.

The day rolled around and I was an absolute bundle of nerves. I throw a house party every four or so months, but this was different. The stakes were very high.

I launched a scholarship for my friend Clare Atkinson, who died of a rare cancer, and was shocked at how many people didn’t show up. (Pic: Mark Cranitch)
I launched a scholarship for my friend Clare Atkinson, who died of a rare cancer, and was shocked at how many people didn’t show up. (Pic: Mark Cranitch)

I'd invested not just my own money in it - I didn't want to use scholarship donations for catering - but also my soul. So it was kind of crushing to stand there midway through and realise how many people had simply not shown up.

Sixteen. There were 16 no-shows from the list of yeses. And not a single person who was a maybe came. I couldn't believe.

In life, stuff happens. I get it.

I expected a handful of the 47 - let's say, five - to have something come up last minute. A family emergency, a sick kid, being called into work, a flat tyre, some sort of terrible flu or whatever. But 16? I call bullshit.

And as for the maybe list, it's pretty clear that lot never really had any intention of coming along. Why not just say that from the start?

I've often mused that the internet has a lot to answer for when it comes to the demise of invitation RSVPs.

Using the event functionality on Facebook makes it incredibly simple to distribute invitations to a party, but just as easy to accept one.

It's not like someone has crafted it by hand, stuffed it in an envelope and popped it in the post. There's been no excitement felt in receiving that card, sticking it to the fridge and being reminded of the upcoming festivities each time you get a drink or pick at those Chinese takeaway leftovers.

You just click a button and then forget all about it.

Clare Atkinson and Shannon Molloy. (Pic: Supplied)
Clare Atkinson and Shannon Molloy. (Pic: Supplied)

Likewise with receiving an invite via email. There's no investment in the exchange - it's just there, no real effort required.

No matter the occasion, hosting a function can be a costly and time consuming affair. There's planning, catering, setting up and cleaning.

There's also an emotional investment in putting yourself out there.

How do we reverse this sad state of invite-related affairs? Like restaurant reservations, should party hosts take credit card details at the time of an RSVP and charge a no-show fee?

Like an appointment at the doctor, should there be a minimum amount of notice required for cancellations?

For my event, so many wonderful friends and colleagues came along and helped to make it a really special thing, and we raised a great amount of money for the scholarship.

But it was tainted a bit by the complete disregard so many people had for the importance of that day.

Shannon Molloy is a Sydney based writer and editor.

Make a donation to the Clare Atkinson Memorial Scholarship here.