By the time you read this I shall probably be 40. I say probably not because I am thinking of ending it all to ensure I remain for ever young in people’s hearts. I say it because the way things are going, the event may go completely unnoticed. It may be so ignored by my nearest and dearest that I may just wake up on 1 January and forget that I am 40.
I tried to plan a party, you see, a big bash, but unfortunately I came up against RSVP evasion. I suppose it doesn’t help to be born when people are traditionally busy drinking mint-flavoured Bailey’s and going to far-flung places to visit relatives they don’t like. But putting that issue aside, the unavoidable truth was painful: it turns out not that many people like me enough to tell me they definitely will come to my 40th.
On the other hand, I did discover a lot of people who didn’t hate me enough to say ‘no, I don’t want to come’ and who made up all kinds of weird excuses that meant they couldn’t tell me one way or the other. But in a way, this ambiguity was even worse.
If people had just said, ‘No, thanks, I don’t much fancy it,’ it would have been so much easier to plan the catering. As it was, people prevaricated to the extent that it was impossible to put a number on mini vol-au-vonts.
If you ask me, there is a special place in hell for people who won’t give a straight answer to a party invitation. I hope the devil sharpens an extra hot poker for their posteriors. Messing someone about when they’re trying to hire a marquee and an Abba tribute band is noxious behaviour.
I can understand why you might hedge your bets if someone asks you to a copper wedding anniversary at a Bernie Inn (by the way, have you noticed that we’re having to celebrate the baser metals these days, as no one’s marriage is expected to last that long?) or a drinks do to celebrate the launch of their pamphlet on the Eurozone crisis.
But to try to keep your options open when it’s a friend’s 40th…well, to quote Jeremy Clarkson, they should be taken out and shot.
Even my relatives tried to give me the slip. One cousin said she had another party to go to. The other cousin didn’t even reply to my text message inviting him. He did ring me shortly after I sent him the message, but not to say, ‘Of course I shall be at your landmark birthday, we are family, you and I.’ He asked if he could stay in my spare room for a few months. No, I said, I’m redecorating. I’m painting the walls ‘hint of pariah’.
One girlfriend sent me a message saying, ‘Oo, how exciting! I don’t know what I’m doing for New Year yet but it’s lovely to be invited.’
What, as the young people say, does that even mean?
After a while, a pattern seemed to be emerging. The replies were dividing neatly into two very distinct categories. Half the people said it was far too early to say whether they could come as they had no idea where they would be at this mythical point in the distant future.
The other half said it was way too late of me to invite them as their activities for the night of 31 December 2011 had been written in their diaries in black ink with a wax seal stamped on top since July 2007.
The amount of people who sent back texts saying ‘oo dear im not sure i might be in madagascar but if im not i’ll definitely be there!’ was really quite spooky. I never knew Madagascar was so popular at this time of year.
Then there was the Vicky Pollard brigade: ‘yeah but no but yeah but i might come so definitely count me in cos i will come if i dont go somewhere else which i probably will but you better invite me anyway so SHA’UP right!’
In the end, six people said they could come. Three people had said they could not come. And 56 people said they definitely maybe would come only they probably wouldn’t but then again they really, really did want to so they probably might.
The net result was that I called it off. After spending two weeks planning a party, I spent another week cancelling the party. Then I invited a few people round for dinner and roasted a chicken. To the rest of my friends I say this: don’t expect me to give you a straight answer to anything ever again. I’m not saying I won’t give you one. I might do, but then again, I might not.