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 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.

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