Why I’m a jackass- even if my mom thinks I’m not.

Between living in a small town, having once owned a popular bar, and being the sort of person that makes a decade long friendship out of every cabshare I know a lot of people.

Over the past 15 years I have made many matches. Finding people homes, jobs, friends, spouses. I am a broad spectrum yenta. I tell myself that I do this because I appreciate the win win. If someone needs something, and I can help them, why wouldn’t I? And still. I notice that I want credit.

Steve and I had our holiday party last weekend. We invited almost 300 people. Probably more than 150 people came. Our INCREDIBLE friend Amy Bacon catered it (I wish she had a website b/c I would totally link to it and you should totally hire her.) We rented stuff. Plates and glasses and an oven for the garage. We even had a bartender. We ran out of plates and glasses. Because people don’t freaking RSVP. At least not accurately. I should have just gone with my instincts and assumed a 50% turn out, because that was exactly what I got.

All summer we had open house Friday nights. Those were casual. Show, don’t show, bring the kids, get a sitter, whatever makes you happy. In this case- the catered party case I feel differently. Freaking figure out your situation. If your situation changes send an email. So I realized that although I claim to be laissez faire about all social nuances I do care about the catered party RSVP. That doesn’t make me a jackass, it just makes me a little more norm-y than I thought.

What makes me a jackass is how pissed I got at just a few people who neither replied nor showed. Now because I am a tech-y data geek-y type I know who opened the invites. I am obviously not annoyed at people who didn’t open then invite. Those people pretty much weren’t even invited which is my faux pas. (Sorry Jess, I love you!)

There is one case in particular that has been eating at me. This is a work-type friend with whom I have had probably a dozen coffees, and gotten a few gigs. When I saw he had viewed and not RSVP’ed I actually made a point of asking him if he was going to make it. He said: “I’m not really sure what our weekend plans are.” So here is the jackass part. Not only did I think the response was a little weak (I was MUCH more charmed by the “sorry we will be decorating the gingerbread house with the grandkids and must miss your party- THAT is an excuse that I excuse with pleasure) but I actually felt he OWED me his attendance. Admitting this to two other friends earlier this week I saw them exchange glances (“she is crazy”) and told me that sounded like indentured servitude. Jackass.

I have learned that when I perseverate on things like this there is something for me to uncover. About myself, my motivations, whatever. So it had been 6 days and I was still thinking about it. Why was I keeping score for this party? It was supposed to be a celebration. Part of my self image is as someone who is mellow about social stuff. This. Clearly not mellow.

So I talked to my mom.

Turns out she is writing a book about this. What she has been calling her “neighbors” book is actually about reciprocity in relationships. She is a political theorist who teaches in the Government department at Harvard. Her past books have been about political parties, and generally she studies the politics of groups. Here she is looking at the moral behavior of people acting outside of any prescribed institution. When I described to her my attitude about this small sector of no show no calls she thought my response was “morally correct.” Which I took to mean I was not being a jackass. She said, not only is it totally human and understandable it is morally just to expect reciprocity. Timeline- fluid. Type- varied. But we count on reciprocity in this world.

The piece of it that seemed “off” to me is that I had done some work type favors, and was expecting the “pay back” in the social sector. She said that was no problem. Totally cool I guess. I hung up feeling better. I had a new questions to answer though, about why the phrase “morally correct” made me want to hang up the phone, but I felt like less of a tool.

When I woke up this morning it was back again though. Was this whole party just staged to get me semi-public credit for all of my yenta-ing? What if that was part of the motivation? Is that OK?

Still don’t know. Do you guys do that? Do you want credit for things that you are theoretically doing out of the good of your heart? Do you believe reciprocity in relationships can span spheres and years?


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Anna Palmer

Anna Rosenblum Palmer is a freelance writer based in Denver, CO. She writes about sex, parenting, cat pee, bi-polar disorder and the NFL; all things inextricably intertwined with her mental health. In her free time she teaches her boys creative swear words, seeks the last missing puzzle piece and thinks deeply about how she is not exercising. Her writing can be found on Babble, Parent.co, Great Moments in Parenting, Ravishly, Good Men Project, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Playpen, Crazy Good Parent, and YourTango. She also does a fair amount of navel gazing on her own blog at annarosenblumpalmer.com.

15 thoughts on “Why I’m a jackass- even if my mom thinks I’m not.”

  1. Just a few random thoughts – I’m glad I RSVP’d – This is why I don’t go to anybody’s party, no matter how much I may like them, reading Awareness by Anthony DeMello may help you answer the bigger question you seem to be struggling with – a big fat ass juicy question I might add, which is why it’s being such a bugger. Happy Holidays Anna. You are a peach.

  2. Anna- Sorry – We are in the UK – AND our internet sucks -But you knew the first part right? 🙂

    So anywhoo…I was checking FB and LOVE that you wrote this…. I totally know where you are coming from and I find myself struggling with this in my relationship with people. I do something nice, though genuinely from my heart, beneath it, I still “keep score” or expect something in return!! But then I watch J alot in how he deals with this too…somehow he just does, like it doesn’t even bother him if noone notices or thanks him or gives him credit, he will just NOT do things for people again if they made his experience unpleasant, but if it was a pleasant experience then he will do “nice” things again regardless if there is any type of return for him …and I am humbled, though I can’t seem to put it into action, and I think the reason has more to do with personality and self view/worth, at least for me, like down in the core of myself, am I really happy? do I (like capital I) make myself happy? and not in the superficial sense either, like if you took every material item away and stripped away your body and were just a floating cloud, would you be happy in your own company? And I think, again for me, until I can say YES! to this, I will continue to respond to my “niceties” for people in the expectant way. Plus I think being raised in this society, doesn’t help. Okay done babbling..we miss you, btw. 🙂 Oh and I have news…check FB. 🙂

  3. Hi, I am not as big of a yenta-er as you — you are way cooler and know way more people then me — but I too like credit. Its the small things, a casual nod in a conversation etc. I am still trying to establish my “crew” here in Colorado and I find people to be somewhat protective of their crew… they don’t want to share. This is not normal behavior to me and I find it very annoying. All that being said, people should RSVP… and if you are “not sure what your weekend plans are” then you are waiting on a better offer so screw you and you are no longer invited! My two cents. Cheers!

  4. I feel the same way — try to help and matchmake and connect because I would love it if someone would do it for me, and end up holding on to some of the same issues. I like the yenta-ing, but can’t seem to shake the “wanting credit” thing. Been working on that one for a long time.

  5. What he said was: I think you and I may feel differently about this. And by the way….from the number of emails I have received I can tell that I inspired some guilt here. I am sorry. I’m sure it wasn’t you I was writing about. I was just trying to figure out some sort of mistaken belief of some kind.

  6. You are a giver – of your time, energy and financial resources. I have wondered how you can discern between the individuals who genuinely care about their bindings ties with you as opposed to those leveraging you for your resources. I of course have asked of your time and energy – but ultimately have always enjoyed connecting as friends.

    I preface this by say I’m not blowing smoke up your ass. I truly believe you are an agent of change…. I hate the term but it’s fitting. I’m never surprised when I learn you’ve had your hands in the pot of some business or community project. You’re human, we all need validation about how we’ve contributed to the world around us.

    This too, you are a thinker and a sensitive one at that. (: Keep the blog post coming.

    I second Vick’s notion that you’re a peach.

    Steve, Leo and Oliver all peaches as well.


  7. Hec – I think 150 people is pretty impressive! Another way of looking at the non-responders is that maybe they didn’t realise how important they were to you? Some people are pretty unassuming and aren’t aware that their presence is actually a big deal – so they don’t bother to reply out of their own feelings of insignificance. Don’t know – just a thought. I would be the same though – pretty hacked off about the non -responders. If I say hi to someone and they don’t respond it screws up the whole of the following week! Great post by the way.

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