Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine

washington OVER THE MOON
The Ghost of Manners Past

s I write this, the stock market is bungee jumping, oil prices have climbed to scary heights, American children are ill from their toys made in China, the Bush Administration’s bunker mentality is thicker and higher, while the race for his successor could be over before most voters look up to see who’s running. And what am I thinking about? I’m looking over the list for our annual holiday party and wondering who I’m going to hate the morning after. Why? Because there’s no richer time for bad manners than the party season which runs from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. This town during the holidays is like this town in a dusting of snow – all rational behavior is tossed. Simple etiquette becomes so much slipping and sliding.
This Scrooge-like rant of mine has to do with only two demands: please do R.S.V.P. my #@*&$!!? invitation, and please don’t regift me with the gift I gave you at that dinner six months ago. You know who you are, too. You who stockpile all the hostess gifts and premium swag bag items only to redistribute them to your beloved close friends when the frost is on the fir tree. Maybe you should keep a list of where and from whom you scored the loot. A dinner guest memorably handed me a beautifully wrapped book that when unwrapped revealed an inscription to the regifter from the author. “Dear Mary, for all the old times. Love, Bill” These kinds of details need to be checked in advance.


No One Replies

Honestly, it won’t diminish your power if you let a friend know whether you will or won’t attend the party for which they likely coughed up some big bucks and endured God knows how many arguments with the caterer and household staff. Those reasons alone demand your thoughtfulness. I’m not yet at the stage of the pros who mail “Save the Date” cards in August, invitations at Halloween with addressed stamped reply cards inside that require only a checked “yes” or “no,” and then begin follow up phone calls right after Thanksgiving. That sort of desperate effort would be better used helping our troops in Iraq; it shouldn’t be required for having a party. I may, though, cross over to the new frontier and use cold, heartless email; but doesn’t that suck out the last drop of glamour and romance from the holiday party spirit? Well, almost any party – it’s fine if you are just out of college and building your holiday theme around a keg.So, consider yourselves on notice.
I am making a list and checking it twice, and if you don’t R.S.V.P. you are officially naughty and won’t dare want to face me when I’m not feeling nice. Ho Ho Ho and Bah Humbug!

Readers wishing to get in touch with Michael can
email her at: columns@washingtonlife.com

The bigger issue is the plain fact that R.S.V.P.s have become meaningless. No one replies anymore, and even when they do respond, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will hold up. You know, too busy, a better offer, trying to do four parties in a three-party night. Don’t even bother with a seated dinner during the holidays, because what you’ll get is: “Can we just drop by for cocktails? Can we join you for dessert? We’ve got so much that night.” Part of this is the ridiculous warp-speed pace of life, but there’s another factor unique to our fair city: entitlement.
There are so many jobs that come with pre-installed butt-kissing that simple human courtesies get lost in a whirlwind of ego. This town is the home of the party where everyone in the room thinks he or she is the guest of honor. You’ve seen it. You know it. Great outsized egos who show up wearing business suits to black-tie events, excuse themselves for home before the dessert, and play with their devices at the table.


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