I have been snubbed. At least, I think I have been. A few months ago, I tweeted that I was having two friends over for dinner. One of the guest's friends tweeted me back asking where his and his colleague's invitation was to dinner. I replied that they were welcome anytime; just let me know when suited. So we set a date in July. Alas, I had to postpone the July date as I was called down to London on work, so we penciled a date in for the 2nd October: this coming Sunday.
I am someone who likes giving dinner parties (that has been well documented before on this site) and as any host will tell you, it's vital to know the numbers beforehand so you can cater for them. In September, I asked these two guests, whom we will refer to as 'Flopsy' and 'Bunnykins', whether they could definitely make the 2nd. The answer came back 'we'll let you know'. Somewhat miffed at this reply I talked to my friend, who works with Flopsy and Bunnykins, and asked him to see what was going on. He came back with the news that F&B did not 'like planning so far in advance and will tell me with a few weeks to go'. I pointed out that it was three weeks to go, and most mature adults are more than capable of planning three, or even - God forbid - four weeks in advance. With just over a week to go I pressed the issue once more and have been told that Flopsy and Bunnykins probably won't be coming... to a dinner party that they initiated!
To say I am cross is an understatement. As it happens, I am going to press ahead with the dinner party and have told Flopsy and Bunnykins that they can hop it. Or words to that effect.
To me, this is the height of rudeness and sadly it is not just F&B who are the only perpetrators of this level of incivility. The Facebook culture is to blame. I do admit to using Facebook events to invite people to larger gatherings at Hanson Towers (my 'Bon Vivant Buffets' are legendary within my postcode) - a Facebook invitation would not be how I'd have it if I ruled the world, but as I don't (yet) then I'll have to move with the times. The trouble with a Facebook invitation, however, is the three options it presents to guests: attending, not attending and maybe attending. Maybe attending? MAYBE attending? You're either going or you're not! There's no 'maybe' about it. What maybe means (especially to my younger friends) is 'I'll come if I don't have anything else better to do'.
I am all for change - no, really, I am - but what I am not for is a change in respect and common sense. It will always be the done thing to let your hosts know whether you are going or not. The whole purpose of invitations (electronic or stiff white card) is so the hosts will know who is attending, how much food and drink they should have on offer, and whether they need to invite others to fill out the numbers. It is obvious to me that the modern man is simply not thinking about such things. Maybe it's because dinner parties are not as popular as they once were? People may not know what is expected of them? But this only shows ignorance. Whether it is a formal affair with stiff white napkins, or a laid-back barbecue (ergh), then show the respect to your hosts and advise them whether you are attending or not so they have enough time to prepare.
As I write this, there is only two days to go until my dinner party. I am still having it but I have invited other guests who actually have the decency to both replying properly.
Follow William Hanson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/williamhanson