The Lost Art of R.S.V.P.

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The Lost Art of R.S.V.P.

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Long ago, in a culture far past, ladies and gentlemen adhered to a set of behavioral protocols known as etiquette. Ladies curtsied; men bowed. Ladies called in the afternoon to pay neighborly respects to one another and drink tea. Gentlemen dipped their fingers in little bowls of water between courses of moist and juicy food. The rules of etiquette served to keep people friendly and respectful of one another in daily life. Where, then, have all the good manners gone? Just like acid will eat away at metal, so too does a modern culture that puts individual interests and desires ahead of outgoing concern for other people. Soon the habits of good manners are no longer taught and become forgotten altogether. Etiquette, or manners, today is ridiculed for being elitist, snooty and nitpicky. It's true that most people no longer use finger bowls at nightly family dinners, but the basic purpose of good manners survives: Doing to others what you would have them do to you! Manner emergency What's to be done? How do we drag the poor, banished remnants of etiquette back to the mainstream? Let's start with a specific exercise in basic manners that everyone will be able to fulfill: the lost art of RSVP! This unusual collection of letters is typically found at the bottom of a written (e-mail or paper letter) invitation to an event. It is a holdover from the days when French was the universal language instead of English. RSVP stands for répondez s'il vous plaît, which is French for "please respond." All that is required is that you respond to the person who invited you as to whether you will be able to attend the event or not. This can be done by returning the card enclosed with the invitation, by a phone call or by a note of your own. Electronic invitations are more simplified; click on a respond button at the invitation Web site or send an e-mail. RSVP also means that the person requesting it desires an accurate count of who will be attending his or her function. By answering promptly, you are being respectful and helpful to those who organize the activity, which will allow for better planning. Good manners are beneficial to others and also to each of us. Stationery etiquette Above and beyond basic courtesy, let me put in a good word for the handwritten letter. Receiving and sending e-mails is fast, fun and practical, but writing a note on paper or in a card in your own handwriting means more. It communicates to the one receiving it that you respect him or her enough to take the time and effort to sit down, choose a card or paper, think about the person who invited you, come up with a message and write it in your own hand. In this way you have given more of yourself and your time than it would have taken to click out a message on the keyboard. Therefore, it is more personal. So the next time you receive an invitation to a wedding, party, shower, formal dinner or picnic, and you see RSVP, respond promptly. If you have extra time, do it by a handwritten note to show that you appreciate and respect your friends. VT