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Read And Respond

By Hannah Reich Berman

It is never a good thing when one fails to respond to an invitation. Invitations, specifically written ones, mean that a response is clearly in order. It is also not a good thing to respond unless one has read the invitation. Are we clear here? Hopefully we are. So I will continue.

Not long ago, I sent out printed invitations to a surprise party for a friend who would soon be celebrating her 60th birthday. I was warned by another pal, one who was assisting me in this venture, that the likelihood of getting 100 percent cooperation was slim to none. It turned out to be closer to none! When I asked this gal, who for purposes of future identification I will call Suzy, what she meant, she said, “Well, I hope you don’t expect every one of those people to respond. You don’t—do you?”

I looked at her like she was nuts. Of course I expected everyone to respond. Why else would I have sent invitations? It wasn’t as if I had taken the easy way out and sent e-mail invitations. First I took the time to select lovely invitations. Then I took the trouble of looking up the addresses of the invitees and, with painstaking care, I addressed and stamped the envelopes and mailed them. And here was Suzy telling me not to expect responses. Silly me, I did expect them! Before I got that warning from Suzy, it didn’t occur to me that I was far from finished with the people on the guest list.

A full month after I had mailed the invitations, I still had not heard from 90 percent of the invitees. Most, as I later learned, expected me to figure things out for myself. I was expected to know that if one does not answer, it means she will be at the party. This is not my way. I answer all invitations. I leave nothing to chance and, as mind reading is not my strong suit, I had no idea who was planning to attend and who was not. After four weeks of silence, it occurred to me that, unless I wanted to waste money ordering too much food and expend energy setting far too many chairs, I would need to call the guests. Not everyone ignored the invitation. A few did respond, but I was still left with 34 calls to make.

Once on the phone, most of them gave the following explanation: “Oh, hi, yes, sure I received the invitation and of course I plan to be there.” My curiosity was killing me, so I asked each one why she had not responded. They all gave answers similar to this: “Your generation is big on formal responses, but most people my age aren’t too good about that. We figure that if we don’t answer you will know we are planning to attend.”

I am proud to say that when the first one gave me that ridiculous story, I successfully avoided letting her know that I was gnashing my teeth. I was stunned by the explanation, but by the time five or six people gave me the same spiel the shock had worn off. A handful of gals answered differently. They explained that, after reading the invitation, they had put it away, forgotten about it, and then never realized that they hadn’t answered. I listened to what these people were telling me and made every attempt to remain polite. I never let any of them know what I thought, but by the time I finished making these calls I was pretty sure that my teeth must have gotten smaller.

The experience was a real eye-opener. Most people in my age group, which is the 70-plus range, don’t operate that way. We generally respond to invitations in a timely fashion. As a rule, we don’t put it away and forget about it. We don’t lose it. And we don’t forget that we never responded. When I mentioned this to one of my children, she had a ready answer. “Maybe the reason that you and your friends respond in a hurry is because, at your age, chances are you will not only forget to reply but you will also forget to attend on the day of the party.” It was a somewhat smug assessment, in my opinion, and I wondered how answering an invitation would guarantee that one would remember to attend. But I didn’t bother to ask. What would be the point?

In addition to those who felt that a response was unnecessary, there were a few who assured me that they would have eventually responded. But the most frustrating ones that I called were those gals who misplaced the invitation and then forgot that they hadn’t responded and also forgot everything else. “Can you tell me when the party is? What day is it? What time is it? And where is it being held?” I have no idea how I remained polite as I gave them all the information that was on the invitation they hadn’t bothered to save, and then I took it a step further. As it was supposed to be a surprise party, I reminded each one to please be prompt and to remember not to park her car nearby. All of that had been on the invitation! By the time I finished, I wondered why I had bothered to send invitations in the first place. By now I figured my teeth were down to stumps.

In short, people read the invitation but forgot about it and did nothing about it. If only the same thing had happened when it was time to respond to the questionable health-care plan that was offered by our commander-in-chief. Like all plans, good and bad, this brilliant piece of work got pitched to Congress. Oh goody! Our government at work! The good folks in the legislative crowd, and the boys and girls who play on the judicial team, got the opportunity to decide whether or not to accept the bill now known as Obamacare. If only they had done what the invited guests to the aforementioned party had done—which was nothing.

Unfortunately, these scholars gave their stamp of approval. Conventional wisdom says that they read only parts of the proposal. That is probably not correct. Many of us are wondering if they read any of the thousands of pages. It was so lengthy and complicated that those responsible for reading it and deciding probably fell asleep by the time they got to page 50. And they never looked at the papers again. After the fact, it appeared that not one of them was familiar with what he or she had given the okay to.

Life is strange. Here is how it played out: PARTY—invitees read the invitation and did not bother to respond; OBAMACARE—members of Congress and of the Supreme Court did not read up on the plan but they did respond.

There was some good party news, however. Prior to the day of the celebration I didn’t have to worry that an invited guest might accidentally ruin the surprise, because it didn’t seem to be on anyone’s mind. Even better—in spite of everything, they all showed up and the event was a huge success.

As regards Obamacare, there is no good news. That’s the way it is. v

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at or


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Posted by on May 23, 2013. Filed under In This Week's Edition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.