Over on the Family & Children board, GlitterIsMyDrug had this scenario with her New Year's Eve party:
Then I text one of "Sure I'll make I think, maybe, but I'll totally be there if I can" people. Yes or No. Saying "No I can't make it" won't hurt my feelings. I get "Yes, but could you come and get me?", could I come and...what? How will you get home? No never mind, no I'm not coming to get you, no I'm not sending Partner or one of my other guests to come get you. Our city ran all public transportation until 2am for free, which I told her about and that it was up to her if she wanted to come. She said she'd "let me know", she never came, never called, never texted. I got a text from her this morning apologizing for not coming.
I've been pondering this. I know Glitter isn't the first person to have this happen to her--I've seen it in other posts over the years.
What makes people do this? Why do they think this is reasonable?
I see this as a bit different from the MIL who wants you to pick her up from the train station--you're family, you ask family for help, and some people don't think about taxis, etc., they get a lift to and from airports, etc.
But this is different--it's a guest, and it's the sort of thing where everyone else is expecting to show up under their own steam. What makes people think that a host has any obligation to pick them up?
I have a theory. And I was thinking of Glitter's specific situation, and remembered this:
Then I text one of "Sure I'll make I think, maybe, but I'll totally be there if I can" people. Yes or No.
I'm wondering if what goes on is that we've begun to redefine hosting and inviting people.
It used to be that hosting was considered a tremendous gift that someone gave you. And you were (and felt!) obligated to reciprocate, so you would invite them somewhere. And you wrote thank-you notes afterward. And you accepted what you were given graciously (unlike the crasher who said, "don't you have any better beer?").
But I've nowadays heard people say, "She wouldn't throw those parties if she didn't want to," and they say, "I have to go to a party."
And one of my favorite hobby horses: Hosts sometimes say "thank you for coming to my party," as if they were a merchant thanking customers for shopping there. (It's my favorite hobby horse because I used to do it, and I've had to consciously stop myself, and instead say, "I'm so glad you could join us," or "it was nice to see you." Subtle, but sometimes semantics matters, and I think it does here.)
And when Glitter followed up with the person who had been so wishywashy (rude in itself), the message she maybe have unknowingly sent was, "It's important to me that you come to my party, so important that I'll go out of my way [i.e., chase an already-iffy, essentially-already-"no" RSVP] to make it happen."
And so subtly, subliminally, the guest gets the message that their attendance is a big favor for their host. And that's why (again, subtly, subliminally) they think it's reasonable to suggest that their host go to some inconvenience to make it happen.
When these things come together (or sometimes when only one of these factors in), the guest feels overvalued. (The MIL at the train station may feel overvalued as well, actually--add in that family often feels *obligated* to attend kids' bday parties, etc., so maybe it is very similar, in that the guest feels more valuable than the host.)
What do you think--am I onto something? Is there any truth in my theory?
And if so, how do you head it off?
(One thing that might save you pre-party time is to treat any "iffy" RSVP as an automatic "no," and to never chase them. Though for planners, that's tough! And of course, sometimes you really would like your friend to come!)