The three-month stretch after my 13th Birthday has been burned into my memory. I spent every afternoon writing thank-you notes for the amazing Bat Mitzvah gifts I had received. Although I always loved writing, I also have atrocious penmanship, so the battle that my mother and I fought was long and hard. Eventually, she was the victor… but I made the labor just that, work and I still dread writing thank-you notes.

But receiving a proper thank-you note after sending a thoughtful gift is the correct thing to do. Etiquette is where you demonstrate you know what is correct social behavior. Now, I’m no Emily Post, and I don’t always do what’s expected of me, but I’m finding fewer people in the world who even seem to understand the concept.

The latest technical advances have changed the rules of etiquette. Now, when you receive a gift, you can send a thank-you via Facebook, or email, or even text message. Shit, the last time I threw a birthday party for one of my children I was shocked at how few people actually RSVP’d. I wondered if that term, in all its abbreviated-French glory had been lost in translation. Even without the responses people still showed up, sometimes bringing additional kids I hadn’t planned for. And some people I expected to be there didn’t show their faces at all. “It’s fine, we’ll manage,” and I meant it, and we did. Come to find out, I’m a bit more laid back than most.

Today, I read a news piece from the BBC about a 5-year-old boy who was unable to attend a friend’s birthday party (even though he initially said he would attend) and the parents of the birthday child invoiced his parents for the money they were out. Yeah, let that sink in a minute. Here’s the article:

Party invoice: Boy sent bill for birthday no-show

As I read this my head started to spin. Sure, by correct etiquette standards, the child’s parents should have called the people throwing the party when they discovered their child wouldn’t attend. But they didn’t. Is it really worth the $24.11 to start a war with these people? Now, the children aren’t allowed to play together anymore and shit, the BBC is now covering the story. Does anyone feel whole after that?

I mean, what next? Are people going to throw huge weddings and then bill their guests who don’t give them a monetary gift which covers their meal? Are we going to stop handing out goody bags to those we don’t feel invested enough in our child’s gift? Where do we draw the line with this? If acceptance of an invitation is actually a contractual obligation, then I’ve breached many a contract when I’ve had cramps, a kid with an ear infection, or just didn’t have the urge to put on pants to leave the house.

My take on it is this… you are choosing to throw a party. No one is forcing you to do that (except maybe your kid) and if your out-of-pocket expenses are going to put you in the red, maybe you shouldn’t have a party in the first place.

Yes, it is supremely aggravating when you have a no-show at a party, but I just can’t see myself being pissed off enough to write-up an invoice, drop it off to school, have the teacher put it in a child’s backpack and wait. Did they actually think they’d receive a check in the mail? Really? No way. This is just some passive aggressive bullshit at it’s finest. You were pissed, so next time you know… don’t invite that kid to your next party.

I wonder what Miss Manners would think of this one.

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7 Thoughts on “When Etiquette Became Cut-A-Bitch

  1. I saw that article come up in my Facebook feed and I was stunned. Is it rude not to show up (or bring your child) to something you said you were attending? Sure. But BILLING someone who doesn’t attend an party you are throwing? Completely and utterly tasteless.

    I do feel like etiquette is going to shit. I had to track people down to get them to RSVP to my wedding and small holiday meals. (Really, people, it takes like a minute to respond. And you’re no busier than anyone else.) And maybe your hand cramp when you have to write a bunch of thank you note but it’s a small sacrifice to show someone gratitude for something nice they honestly didn’t have to do. (By the way, totally fought with my mom over the Bat Mitvah thank you’s, but to do this day I know how to write a damn fine thank you note!)

  2. With alot of empathy. I have trouble RSVPing because our life is so unpredictable. Although on my current party invite, I did threaten the possibility of being hit by random space karma as a consequence of not RSVPing, my hope was to use humor while not really anticipating much. I just prepare for any outcome and focus on the fun.

  3. Well said! It’s unfortunate that more of us can relate to the lack of simple consideration and graciousness of party etiquette, amongst other forms it. Thanks for sharing this!!

  4. I once read a letter to Dear Abby (or Ann Landers) when a “mother of the bride” complained about guests giving gifts of value lower than the cost of their dinner etc. at the wedding. I am sure she expected support, WRONG !!! she got a scathing reply stating that no guest was required to give a gift and certainly not of a particular value.

  5. LI Monkey Momma on January 23, 2015 at 2:19 pm said:

    Would I do it? No. But I totally know how they feel! Yes or no… Not that hard! If things change, a simple phone call, text, email, note by carrier pigeon… Seriously, be it a kid party at the local bounce place, a wedding, a christening or a back yard BBQ, the host NEEDS a headcount to have enough FOOD, favors, place settings, goodie bags, seats or whatever and not have excessive waste.

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