"Well it's like when I had this garden party for my father's birthday, right? I put R.S.V.P. 'cause it was a sit-down dinner. But some people came that like did not R.S.V.P. I was like totally buggin'. I had to haul ass to the kitchen, redistribute the food, and squish in extra place settings. But by the end of the day it was, like, the more the merrier."- Cher from Clueless
Recently I've been confronted with one of those cultural sand-shifting scenarios that crop up every so often to remind us that 1) the times, they are a-changin' and 2) we're not getting any younger. There are a variety of factors at play, chief amongst them is that I've been the worst offender when it comes to what I'm about to discuss (so full disclosure. I get it. I'm one of you, etc, etc). But lately I've noticed a persistent attitude amongst my friends that has rooted itself as a sneaking suspicion in my mind that this ain't just a phase, folks. And that attitude is that we twenty-somethings really hate to commit.
Ha! Fake out. I mean, I'm sure that's true, but I'm certainly not going to expound upon the myriad ways in which that plays itself out on a daily basis. I'm talking more specifically about the plans we make with our friends, the events we put together, the get-togethers we initiate, and the ways in which we choose to communicate this information.
If you are a longtime reader of this blog, then you've no doubt surmised that 1) I'm a shameless extrovert, and 2) I'm a shameless planner. I love people - lurve! luff! lub! - and even more than that, I love to bring them together. I thrive when our front door is open and there's a steady stream in and out, out-of-towners crashing on the couch, friends and neighbors stopping by for a drink, friends coming together to meet new people - possibly new friends. I realize that the nature of this lifestyle requires a certain amount of flexibility. Going with the flow is a must to a certain extent, especially when it comes to planning various parties, dinners, soirees, BBQs, et al. However, I've also learned that it takes quite a bit of planning in order for those events to be executed as smoothly as possible. Granted, I'm not getting down to brass tacks and picking out coordinating napkins and silverware. Though some of you might squawk in disagreement, the whole purpose in planning isn't to obsessively control every last detail. Promise. The reason I plan is because I want people to be informed. To know when, where, what. To know what to bring, if applicable, to avoid another Coke-and-carrots potluck. So that people aren't left out (which can happen very often in a group of word-of-mouth folks. You'll all inevitably forget to tell that one person who would be the most offended by not receiving an invitation). I plan so that we're able to enjoy massively crowded events like the LA Food Fest. I plan so that we're able to get a really good standing spot at Radiohead. I plan so that we're able to enjoy really, really, really fun parties. (Like this one and this one and this one...)
Notice a trend? Yeah - it's called fun. I plan so that when I get to the end of my twenties and I'm staring the thirties square in the face, I can confidently say: Yo, guess what, Thirties? My twenties totally kicked ass. So what've you got to top that, huh?
Bringing friends together fosters a sense of community. It creates a familial bond between people. It encourages. In short, it's awesome. But it's not the job of one single person to bring it to fruition. Hence, the part wherein this post takes a turn from thoughtful to ranty.
I've noticed a trend amongst people I know, myself included, that renders us absolutely incapable of RSVPing to anything. I mean anything. And like I said before, full disclosure here: I can't remember the last time I returned an RSVP card for a wedding. Despite the fact that I'm incredibly touched when someone gives me a gift, I've always been terrible at remembering to send a thank-you note. So by no means am I prancing around on a high horse of sorts and condemning all you Philistines and your nefarious Emily Post-rejecting ways. And while it's somewhat forgivable of our generation to have eased up on certain social etiquette, let's just be honest with ourselves for a moment and agree that we have gone from lovably absentminded to stubbornly unavailable.
Every so often, something comes around the bend that binds our socialite selves into a teeming mass, a united front, a globular whole. First it was email. Then Myspace. Evite had a brief moment. Then that dark horse Facebook came galloping over the horizon. What was once normative in bringing people together and providing pertinent information necessarily shifts along with culture itself. But in each case, it was relatively easy to round people up, get a "yes" or a "no" from them, and plan accordingly. Reply All. Respond. Yes. No. Attending, Maybe Attending, Not Attending. Répondez, s’il vous plaît.
But lately, it's like pulling teeth to convince people to deign to commit, reveal their intentions, or become part of the conversation. For some, the allure of an entirely elastic calendar is far too great; an ephemeral and oblique space within which they float noncommittally until they land, spontaneously, on whichever event seems to hold the most promise (or whichever commitment is deemed more important). For others, the issue of commitment isn't an issue at all. But they're busy and technology is more of a hindrance than a help, so the thought of sifting through the various messages or invitations waiting for them on Facebook or Gmail and actually responding to any of them is crippling. Others still simply hate being the messenger. Do you guys want to hang out? Sure, but can someone else let everyone know? I don't have fifteen seconds to spare and my phone's battery is dying so I can't text anyone and I'm about to have thumb-removal surgery, anyway, so...can you just do it?
Whatever the case, as someone who often shoulders the weight of being the sole conduit of information in their group of friends, it can be exhausting trying to track everyone down. Do you or don't you want to hang out? Do you or don't you intend to join us on this excursion? Do you or don't you want us to include you in the proceedings? Are you or aren't you planning on letting anyone else know? Are you checking Facebook these days, or is email best? Are you checking email these days, or is texting the best way to get ahold of you? Are you answering your phone these days, or shall I wait until my carrier pigeon returns with a slip of paper bearing your intentions? Never mind that there are still a few renegades who refuse to even acquire a Facebook account, let alone check it. The truth is, those folks rarely get invited because I never remember to invite them. Tough. But in a moment wherein Facebook's appeal is quickly waning and we're becoming increasingly fractured, is it asking too much of people that they take a moment out of their day to let their yes be yes or their no be no?
After all, the goal isn't to somehow tie them down, trap them, or corner them into committing to a hard-and-fast plan of action. Stuff happens. Plans change. I get it. But is it really too hard to scan the information around you and respond accordingly? Four letters, four seconds to type and send: I'm in. Sure! Or, nope. Busy. Can't. Even a hesitant Maybe is better than cold indifference. Because last time I checked, all those fun events and parties I mentioned before weren't a total pain in the neck to attend. Last time I checked, they were quite...fun.
And I'd love it if you were there. But I'd hate for you to miss out on something great because you refused to check your email.