Is it an Invitation or a Negotiation?

Well mannered modern mother dials phone.
Ring, Ring "Hello!"
"Hi Jane, it's Sally"
"Hi Sally!  How are you?"
"Super, thanks.  Would you and Bob would like to come to dinner on Saturday the 17th?"
"Hold on let me get to my calendar..." Brief time laps, children and dog heard scuffling in background.  "Oh rats, we have a thing.  We can do the following Saturday the 24th, Friday the 16th or the 8th of next month."

Now what?  Does the mannerly modern mother acquiese and simply pick one of the dates her friend has offered?  Does she point out that she did not call and say "We would love to get together with you and Bob, shall we pick a date?"  Does she inform her friend that this is a dinner party, she has two other couples lined up and she does not accept reservation?  Most likely it is best to simply say "Oh dear, none of those dates work for us.  Let me noodle this and get back to you by email.  I would love to meet for coffee sometime soon."

Maybe it is because people are so crazy busy these days or maybe it's just that people are used to managing their schedules to suit themselves that they have forgotten what it means to be a guest rather than a patron.  But in general it is probably best for the modern mother to "put on her listening ears" and try and assess the type of invitation being extended before launching into an alternate proposal that will work best for her.

Speaking of working best for her, a friend recently sent over this stunning piece from the WSJ's blog The Juggle.  As you know, dear frequent readers, we have great respect for The Juggle as it does a nice job of addressing many issues facing the modern mother.  But this piece in defense of "Maybe" as the way the author responds to an invitation especially, as she writes, "Now that I have kids, whose schedules and moods are even more variable than my own, I’m even more apt to say maybe to events." seems something of a cop-out.  She does acknowledge that her approach "...can make it hard to plan, say, a seated, plated meal, but I really don’t have the time or energy to throw those types of shindigs anyhow."  But don't despair!  Apparently there is hope for the well mannered human race.  Of the 78 comments that blog piece received every response we read pointed out that such an approach is hardly thoughtful and does not take into account the feelings and plans of one's hostess.  Well they didn't say it quite like that.


Kate said...

"Maybe"? Really? I think in the example invitation, it isn't very polite to call someone and put them on the spot, not to mention not identify it is a dinner party to which the guests are being invited. I like the old fashioned invitation that comes in the mail. With an RSVP. Yes or no. Maybe is for wishy washy people! (I do have a hyper opinion on this b/c I broke that bad habit of my husband's early on in the marriage. He can not say "NO". He wimps out by saying "MAYBE". Same with his parents and sister.

mary said...

I loved how a friend said she and her husband would happily attend the fortieth birthday bash my husband and I where throwing (reserved location, dinner provided,limited space/#'s & invites sent out explaining all of this) along with their 2 (not so well mannered)little boys. She replied by posting to my FB wall! I had to tell her it was adults only and she didn't speak to me or return my calls for 6 months. Not friends so much anymore!

Anonymous said...

Read the article on The Juggle, and was completely horrified at, not only the original post, but the author's 2 followup comments, again defending her behavior. Good grief!

Elizabeth Baxter Butcher said...

Kate, You are very right. A written invitation does mitigate any awkwardness for any of the parties involved! Added bonus: crazy busy invitees would be much less likely to bother to pick up the phone to say "maybe" and would certainly not have time for written response. Thanks for reading.

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