I already bitched about this on Facebook today, but I would like to bitch about it to a wider audience.
Let’s say that you are inviting a bunch of people to a party (not a wedding, not some sort of exclusive event meant for an intimate circle – just a run-of-the-mill party), and you are fine with those being invited bringing a guest. And let’s say it’s a group-style invitation, so the invitation is not personally addressed to each and every person on the guest list, but rather to all the people being invited. Here are your options:
A. Say nothing. Since everybody is a grown-up (and since those on the guest list have socialized together at similar events frequently, and this has always been the case), it’s fair to assume people will feel free to bring a person along. I mean, this isn’t a grade-school birthday party, nor is it a middle-school sleep-over. It’s not a dinner party. When aren’t you allowed to bring a guest to an adult-style event like this?
B. Spouses are welcome!
C. Spouses/Partners are welcome!
D. Feel free to bring a guest!
Ok, so A is probably lazy, and probably Miss Manners wouldn’t approve. (I’ll admit that I don’t hate A, though, as an option, since the kind of entertaining I do is usually very specific – like a dinner party, so everybody is very clear about who exactly is invited – or very general – like an open house, where it’s clear anybody and everybody, even a random hobo from down the road, could attend.)
D is grand. “Guest” is neutral and inclusive, and while, sure, people who have spouses/partners might choose to invite them, they aren’t obligated to do so – indeed, they might bring another person along, since you know, people who are married or partnered do have relationships with people other than their spouses/partners – and people without spouses/partners won’t feel like they aren’t “allowed” to bring a guest, you know, because they don’t happen to be in a long-term, serious, committed, sanctioned-by-the-invitation relationship. Also, “feel free to bring a guest” indicates you can only bring one person, so things wouldn’t get all crazy out of control with the number of people, should that be a concern (though again, we are adults, and who would bring 10 people to somebody’s party?). While I suppose some weirdo might interpret “guest” to mean “I’ll bring my unruly toddler!” (when the event won’t be kid-friendly) or “I’ll bring my dog!” or “I’ll bring a criminal!” I am going to go out on a limb and say that when you send out the invite, you have a pretty big clue if you know people like that, and you can contact them individually if you don’t want that to happen.
C is the wrong answer. It’s slightly preferable to B in terms of political correctness, in that we don’t live in the neck of the woods where all people can legally marry and in that not all people believe in marriage as an institution or whatever, but let’s also note that not a single person who will attend this event – gay or straight – requires this politically correct courtesy. B is not more inclusive: it’s disingenuous.
B is, I would hope obviously, the wrong answer. Unless of course everybody invited has a spouse, in which case, what sort of people only socialize with married people? Seriously: do some people just refuse to socialize with all single people, all divorced people, all widowed people? SERIOUSLY?
So, dear readers, if you are throwing a party, please just say that people can invite “a guest.” That is totally the way to make everybody comfortable, and it will get you your desired result.
What is perhaps ironic and hilarious about my righteous indignation about this issue and invitation at this particular moment is that I actually am bringing a “plus one” to this event, something I have not done in the historical record of my life. But he is not my spouse and he is not my partner! Don’t fence me in! It’s just a miracle that neither of us has broken up with the other yet! It’s been 7 months, people! That’s like an eternity! And it could end any minute! ANY MINUTE!
I mean, it probably won’t, but let’s not count our chickens before they hatch. And both of us are skittish about the future, and we don’t need any undue pressure!
But with that being said, you might be wondering why I’m bringing The Dude, given my thoughts about this matter. Honestly, I didn’t intend to bring him. I invited him in the first place because the person/people for whom this party is being thrown said they would like for him to be there. And the way I invited him was in a text, basically just saying, “FYI, this event is coming up, and CC would like if you’re there, but I made no promises. Remind me we should talk about it.” I’d have been fine if he weren’t into it. I expected him to ask questions. But then he was all, without discussing it, in a text, “Oh, I’m fine with going to that!”
With that response, I couldn’t resist taking him at his word, mainly because I know if I told him more about it he would beg off (because it’s kind of a work thing). And he probably does need to go to an event with these people at least once, and this is probably the only way I’ll get him to such an event (he is firmly against work things, but what he doesn’t understand is that in the life of an academic, work things are more like family/friend things, and not like the company Christmas party). And it won’t kill him, and it will entertain me to see how he handles my colleagues. And I will get to leave earlier if it’s lame than I would get to leave if he didn’t come with. Note: if this weren’t for CC and CCM (CC’s Man), I would not even have invited him, given our previous conversations about his aversion to “work socializing.” I’m not an asshole who wants to force The Dude into going to events that I don’t even want to attend. And he does like CC and CCM, and I know he wants to celebrate their upcoming marriage (which is what this party is for).
The other, secondary, reason why I sort of want for him to come to this is that beyond meeting CC and CCM and my parents, The Dude has not met my people or spent time with them. Now, part of that is the logistics of the fact that my best friends span the nation – indeed, the globe – and my family lives four hours away. As time passes with us, sure, he’s going to meet more of the people, but it’s also the case that I don’t live in my hometown, and that makes a difference to how all this works.
In contrast, I’m apparently now a permanent fixture at his parents’ house (we’ve had dinner there 3 of the 4 past Sundays), I’ve met and spent time with his whole family, I’ve met and spent time with his close friends…. Look, I like that I know his people. I like that they like me! I like that I like them! But you know what? If this is going to go forward, he needs to understand that in some ways, though probably not the most important ones, my colleagues are my “local people.” And just like I am going to go over his parents’ for a cook-out on the Fourth, and hang out with them and him and his brother and sister-in-law and his nephew and nieces, and just like I’m going to go over to his grandma’s the Sunday after for breakfast and to watch Wimbledon, he is going to go to a party with my colleagues, every now and again. (1. It’s strange introducing a person to academic culture. 2. It’s strange being incorporated into somebody else’s family, after having avoided that for the 22 years I’ve been actively dating – seriously, I’ve never allowed this to happen, even when I was in high school.)
So how will The Dude handle being thrown into the deep end of a “Department Party”? Honestly, I think he’ll be great, but I also think he’ll be slightly pissed off at me for not giving him more of a heads up. But you know what? It’s time. And I do promise I won’t make him go to these things every time they happen (which is at most two or three time a year), and I feel like that’s a pretty good deal, when I apparently go to his parents’ for dinner every Sunday.
But at the end of the day, I was pissed about the “spouse/partner” sort of invitation when I didn’t have a boyfriend – manfriend? – and I am still pissed about it now. I feel slightly better after the passive-aggressive rsvp I sent to the invitation, but not much. At the end of the day, just as I said at the end of my last post, “But you know what? SCREW that. I am a person. And I have my own fucking agenda.” And GOD is it annoying to me when people don’t treat me like a person in my own right – and that’s exactly why the whole “bring a spouse or partner” thing bothers me so much. And I think it would bother me even if I were spoused or partnered. BECAUSE I WOULD STILL BE A PERSON IN MY OWN RIGHT IF THAT WERE THE CASE.