RSVPs used to mean something


Reliability has been a lifetime characteristic of mine, which would be validated by a gamut of friends. They might criticize me for inevitably running slightly behind, usually by seven minutes, but I will always be true to my commitments, potentially to a fault.

Two close male friends, who do not know the other, each communicated a specific criticism about the lack of reliability they have encountered recently, via their family, friends or from the opposite sex. Both of their statements seemed harsh, but my opinion has aligned with their shared sentiments, especially now that The New York Times has labeled this annoying lax habit “The Passive-Aggressive RSVP.”

“Reservation-making without commitment is the apotheosis of digital glibness,” writes Henry Alford in the June 14 Times. “In a world in which ‘maybe’ is now an option on many invitations, it’s easier to understand why a restaurant may charge $200 a person for canceling without adequate notice.”

“Trolling” is the term I use for the perplexing habit of someone accepting a social invitation but, at the last minute, having something else “come up.” Within just one week, I have confronted two glaring examples of “the abandoned reliability of RSVPs.”

Many readers are aware that I had a thoroughbred horse-loving, sports-aholic father, a legacy that continues with me. I also enjoy hosting themed parties, and the potential for a 2015 Triple Crown winner — after a 37-year drought — merited a race-watching party, to memorialize this long-overdue event.

Your columnist and one of her above-mentioned male friends decorated a race-watching venue, emailed invitations and purchased American Pharoah silk colors — turquoise and bright yellow — for balloons, flowers and tablecloths. The same party was held last year for California Chrome, but without a Triple Crown-winning result.

Friends continued to text and email during the week before the race.

“What should I wear?”

“If I come, will I know anyone?”

“How many eligible men will be there?”

“What happens if American Pharoah loses?”

“Why did you pick that sports bar?”

“Is the food any good?”

“Is there a gluten-free menu?”

The number of pre-party questions was incessant. It was as if these “friends” were each “trolling” their many weekend social options to determine which might produce the most enjoyment, without truly committing to any. If a last-minute-and-better-sounding event would arrive, forget the other prior “suitors,” since narcissism seems to be the theme here — versus honoring a previous commitment.

Just in case you are curious, 50 “friends” RSVP’d for the Belmont-watch party of June 6. Twenty attended. Many of the flower arrangements were unnecessary, as was much effort and time spent decorating unused tables.

The stream of post-race text messages was endless, with uncountable excuses for so many absences — ranging from “my tooth fell out” to “I could not find anything to wear” (from the same person who had asked via text several detailed questions about the expected attire) The only excuse that seemed to be missing was “the dog ate my homework.”

Last weekend, I attended an outdoor pre-wedding bash. My only living first cousin has a daughter who will be married in early October. It was a lavish affair that is standard for South Carolina, hosted by friends of my cousin and her husband. Drink, decorations and food were flowing in abundance. The RSVPs received by the host couple reached 85, but the actual showing was closer to a paltry 50.

Delicious cuisine was catered and a bartender poured abundant cocktails, while the backyard resembled a Martha Stewart-decorated party venue. The price tag for the many colorful flower arrangements easily reached four digits. The wasted food could have fed a homeless shelter. The disappointment of the host couple about having so many “no-shows” was obvious as several guests valiantly attempted to pack freezer bags with the abundant left-overs and distribute “care packages” to departing guests.

This “societal flakiness” is validated in the Alford article. Tanael Joachim, a New York City stand-up comic, credits Facebook and other disconnecting social media with the lack of accountability for poor attendance at his shows, versus the “full house” expected via received online reservations. “By a huge majority, it’s a young-people problem,” Joachim said. “There’s no real commitment with social media. If you don’t have to face people and see that they’re displeased, you create a culture where it’s very easy to be flaky.”

One other short note — about Cleveland’s moniker as “the most losing American sports city”: The Cavaliers were valiant in effort, but one star player does not make a championship team. The “lights-out” three-point shooting machine of Stephen Curry and his other Golden State teammates was unbelievable to witness and impossible to match for the Cavaliers.

Thank you, Cavaliers, for three excellent NBA series games, and a much-appreciated first-year homecoming by LeBron James.

If thoroughbred horse racing can end a 37-year Triple Crown drought, hopefully Cleveland can do the same … next season.