For the third time this year, I’ve RSVP’d to a party and then did something beyond rude—I didn’t show up. In my defense, they were all large gatherings—cocktail-type drop-in parties, Halloween bashes, school Boosters bashes—the type of events where (hopefully) I’m not really likely to be missed, but my yes-then-no-go behavior leaves me riddled with guilt. I’m not no-showing to a $150-per-head wedding or an intimate dinner party for six, but still, that’s not really an excuse. I’ve RSVP’d “yes.” The hosts are expecting me. And to be honest, I really did want to go!
To make matters worse, I’m actually a stickler for manners and Emily Post-style etiquette. I still address my holiday cards by hand, because I’m attempting to convey that the personal touch does matter. I put pen to paper and write real thank-you notes, and I spend serious time crafting heartfelt letters of condolence when someone suffers a loss. I have never, ever failed to show up for a volunteer shift, or a carpool obligation, or a board meeting without severely extenuating circumstances.
So how is it that I—a person very aware and conscious of exactly how rude it is to pull a no-show—find myself behaving so badly?
It was not all that long ago that after a week filled with the tender but endlessly repeating baby-activity cycle of diaper changing, grilled cheese making, tantrum soothing, nap enforcing and laundry folding, I couldn’t wait to go to a party. I’d go to anything. Fundraiser for the March of Dimes? In! Tea for my neighbor’s mother-in-law’s dog? Yes! Baby shower? Wedding shower? Birthday party? In, in, in! To mingle in the invigorating company of articulate adults was an indulgence, a lifeline.
But things are different now. I’m not spending the bulk of my time in close contact with my favorite young people. They’re living their lives—doing homework and sports and wooing girls and meeting their friends to play mud football. They’re off and running, and consequently, so am I. I’m working more, driving ceaselessly, shopping for food and food and more food. My life has shifted somehow from needing to slip out of the house to recharge my intellectual batteries, to wanting desperately to just sit still for a minute or two.
So now? When I’m invited to a party, the whole thing goes down something like this: The evite arrives, and I feel honored to be invited. I love these hosts! The guest list looks like a blast! Everyone I know and enjoy socializing with will be there. Party theme? Great!
Then, inevitably, the Friday night in question rolls around, and after working and planning and calendaring and writing and hustling and shopping and cooking and negotiating all week and then driving the kids to their multiple sports practices around a continuous 30-mile loop (and yes, they do have all kinds of crazy late practices on Friday nights), I start to lose steam. The week is whipping up into its final crescendo of frenzied activity. And at last, as all of the action bottoms out and the members of my family finally straggle into the house, one by one, I sort of bottom out too. It feels like the first time I’ve really, truly seen my kids and my husband all week. We’re all home. Together. Could this be a dream?
Here’s when I start waffling about my party plans. Wouldn’t it be nice to just snuggle in and enjoy my family? I mean, let’s be honest—I’ve been feeling a little chubby in my jeans, and my favorite top is at the dry cleaners, and it’s way too cold out for the one cute pair of shoes I have in my closet. (A variation on this one is that I don’t have a costume, and everyone else has clearly planned perfect, clever getups well in advance). And also, I’m tired. So very tired. I even got up early to work out before the real work of the day even started.
Then the rest of the devil-on-my-shoulder jabs start kicking in. No one will even notice if I don’t show up, right? I mean, seriously. I bet most of those people don’t even really like me. They probably think I talk too much, or laugh too loud, or eat too many chips with the dip. So, they’d all probably be better off if I didn’t actually go, right?
But the real truth is, what keeps me home on these nights when I should be whooping it up with my peers, is that I honestly feel like I need to embrace my family time while I still have it. If I stop to think for even a second about how quickly it’s all flying by—has flown by—my heart begins to squeeze in on itself. The faces of my boys are changing so quickly, along with their voices and their shoe sizes. My oldest son will be leaving for college in three short years. I don’t get much face-to-face time with him anymore, and here he is! He’s home, and right in front of me, wanting to watch a movie with me on a Friday night.
It’s just so easy to sink into my sweats on the big sofa with my boys all around me and curl up and curl in. Too easy.
So for now, these parties are occasionally getting away from me. I know I should probably just RSVP “no,” but I really do intend to attend. And I usually do go when I say I’ll be there. But for the times I don’t make it? Maybe the trick is just accepting my decision once in a while to miss something social in order not to miss these rare moments at home. And hopefully, the hosts will be in the same boat on some other Friday night and miss the party I’m throwing to opt for that family time too. I promise I’ll understand.