‘Why did you not invite me to your party?’ This must rank alongside ‘Do I look fat?’ as the question with no safe answer. At least in the latter case, you can scrunch up your face and walk off as to suggest the question is ridiculous, unthinkable. But when someone confronts you thus, anything you say can only make the situation worse.
‘I forgot’, which might be an honest response, gives the impression that the person is not important enough to be remembered when invitations are handed out. ‘Your invitation must have been lost in the mail’ makes no sense in the age of social media.
Which is why when I was not invited to a friend’s party recently, I thought the best response would be to send him this message: ‘Thanks, I had a lovely time’. Very touching, except that I sent it a day before the party.
My friend has a few choices: He can ignore the whole thing, ensure we don’t meet for a year and then carry on as if nothing happened. Or he can reply to me saying, ‘Hey, the party is tomorrow, look forward to catching up with you.’ A third, and cleverer option would be to go on the offensive and say, ‘What’s wrong with you? Which dreamland do you live in? Were you travelling in a time machine?’
But any response — other than the first one — would indicate the message had got through, and not just literally.
There is, of course, a fourth alternative. A grovelling apology and a fresh invitation. I once saw a movie where someone sent an apology comprising just one word — ‘sorry’ — repeated 999 times. This, in the days before computers made it the easiest thing in the world to do. But it is the thought that counts (sometimes the receiver counts too, just to figure out how sorry the apologiser really is). It worked in the movie because the sorrys were handwritten. That takes effort, and a condition dangerously close to obsessive compulsive disorder. But I guess all of us have OCD in some form or the other.
Why do we feel bad if we are not invited to a party? Does it diminish us in any way? Do we react petulantly, give our friend the silent treatment or throw another party on the same day, not invite him, and as a bonus attract some of his guests? Or is it better to throw a party soon after and make a point of inviting your sorry friend?
Worse, how do you react if you meet the friend later and he asks, ‘Why didn’t you come?’ Now there’s another question without a safe answer.
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