No-shows: the causes and consequences

I grew up with the humorous understanding that Black people do not RSVP – they just show up at events and expect to be catered for! Hence it became common practice at Black weddings to make provision for uninvited guests AND invited guests who didn’t confirm their attendance. Such guests typically sit in the section of the tent that is not decorated or they simply stand on the outskirts of the tent! Ironically, these groups of guests also tend to be the first to complain if food and beverages run out at a wedding…

I have planned various events and following numerous instances where people who confirmed attendance did not show up, I came to the following realisation:

An affirmative RSVP does not actually indicate that someone will attend an event.

Sometimes, an affirmative RSVP is prompted by the following reasons:

1) Fear of missing out (FOMO)

Some people like things and want to be seen everywhere so they confirm attendance out of the fear of missing out. Once that fear subsides (and it usually does because something else caught their attention), they forget to cancel their RSVP.

2) Pity and/ or Support:

There are certain acquaintances/colleagues and friends who confirm their attendance to an event to encourage the host but don’t actually plan on showing up. They just wanted to create the illusion of interest for the sake to boosts the host’s confidence and/or maintain friendly relations with the host. Next time you see them, expect to hear the following line (if they care enough): “How was the event? I really wanted to come but something came up”.

3) Intention to embarrass:

Remember 50 cent’s claim that he bought 200 front row tickets to his enemy, Ja Rule’s concert just to ensure that the front rows were empty? Yes, such people exist in your circles! These are the people who confirm their attendance out of spite. They are fully aware of the negative financial and professional implications their lack of attendance will hold and they don’t care. They don’t plan on coming but they hoard the reservation which in turn limits the available spaces for your actual supporters and potential investors. They either hold a grudge against you or are simply jealous – point is: they need you to be embarrassed, disappointed and demotivated.

4) Duress:

This affirmative RSVP happens when a person or a circumstance forces someone to confirm attendance but if the pressure is released before the event, the commitment to attend is not fulfilled. For example, confirming to attend an event because your line manager is a keynote speaker but failing to attend it (or cancel the reservation) after learning that your boss cancelled his keynote address.

I think there is more than financial resources at stake when one does not honour an affirmative RSVP. I think it negatively impacts one’s career and one’s personal and professional relationships.

Based on the assumption that hosts keep records of attendance registers, your unexplained absence might signal disinterest and deter others from inviting you to future events. This could result in you missing out on future opportunities to network with like-minded individuals, grow your brand and to learn! Though many colleagues and friends might not admit this to your face, if you make it a habit to not show up at events, you will end up being labelled as the ‘unreliable one’. The sight of your name on a RSVP list, will be met with snarky remarks – remarks that stem from a place of distrust and most likely annoyance.

I hope you keep this post in mind next time you have to RSVP for an event!

Obstructed by Hameedah Parker

My once hopeful womb, is now filled with “anomalies”.
Under the scrutiny of medical imaging, I do not see it,
I hear, “I am sorry, but you cannot…” and I fall.
This flesh has deteriorated within me, and I feel the loss in my bones.

12 years out of reach, I succumb to the darkness; it grips me tightly.
I am reminded of what my body cannot do, and I release the choking air.
Abandoning my privilege, is never enough, I am told.
This flesh has cheated me and I feel the loss in my memory.

I cannot form, produce, contribute. They know me now.
“But I am bleeding!” their eyes glaze over, unable to comprehend.
In the confusion, my womb, empty as the syringe used to extract my liquid equivalent.
This flesh has corrupted me and I feel the loss in my blood.

I am here now, trying, in the liminal space I have carved from this chaotic assemblage.
The body in this flesh, never the same, endlessly exposed.

“Do not sit like that – your parents are still alive.”

Yesterday marked a year since we lowered my father’s body into a hole we now call this resting place. When my mother called me in the wee hours of the 4th of June 2021 to break the news of my father’s death, she said,
“Lorato, your dad has left us.”
I responded abruptly and asked her, “whose father?”
She said, “your father.”
I violently shook my husband awake and pushed the phone in his face. “Speak to this woman, she is busy telling me that my father is dead.”
Within 6 months, I had lost an unborn child and my father.
The pain was indescribable.

When I was a child, I used to sit with my face resting in my hands. I sat like this when I was extremely bored or annoyed. I didn’t think anything of this sitting position – or that my sitting position affected anyone but me!

My dad, however, took offence to this sitting position and would immediately reprimand me.
“Moetnie so sit nie – jou ouers lewe nog!” (“Do not sit like that – your parents are still alive.”)
After reprimanding me multiple times, he got tired and instead of verbally reprimanding me, he would just pull one of my hands out from underneath my face.

Me being the rationale human being I am, I asked my mom why dad would not allow me to sit like that.
She somberly explained how that sitting position signaled despair and hopelessness. Literally, it looks as if you are holding the world’s entire problems in your hands. Worse yet, by sitting like that, it was perceived that you were inviting calamities because your hands are open.

Symbolically, your face represents ‘the world’ and when your hands are positioned like that, it appears like you are welcoming the world’s entire problems in your hands Mom explained. For a parent/guardian like my dad, that sitting position suggested that their care, love and protection fell short – that they were inadequate parents.

If I was heavily burdened, they wanted me to share the troubles with them so they could help carry the load instead of suffering under the weight of my troubles alone.

After mom’s explanation, I hardly sat like that again.

The gospel song ‘His got the whole world in His hands’ definitely had a deeper meaning after my conversation with mom!

Low and behold, my little sister liked that sitting position too. One day, after one too many warnings from my dad, he just looked at her and said: “A time will come when you will sit like that – do not invite it”.

Dad was right – like a thief in the night, the time came and we continue to wrestle under the weight of many troubles he carried on behalf of us.

Last year on Christmas Day, we visited my dad’s grave and while we were there, with tears streaming down her aging face, mom thanked God for protecting her and her children.
She said, “God, thank you for making us appear whole yet we are broken”.
I felt that so deeply that whenever I think about that moment, tears well up in my eyes.
Mom eloquently summarized what the death of a loved one does – it breaks you apart but you have to show up as whole because life must go on.

Your partner is NOT your everything – Get a personal board!

It’s a scam…

The rom com movies lied.
All of those love songs titled “You are my everything” … SCAM!
The pastor gave you nonsense advice on your wedding day when he said you should ditch your friends because from that moment on “your wife is your everything”: friend, lover, mother and God-forbid what else.
Your partner is not your everything.
No one person can fulfill the multiple wants and needs you have.
Now hold on…
Before you run off and use this as an excuse for ‘stepping out’ of your monogamous relationship, let me elaborate.

If the most important reasons that prompted you to enter into a relationship are not being fulfilled, then stop reading this. You need to communicate this dissatisfaction and unmet expectations with your partner immediately.

For the rest of us who expect one person to be our everything, our ‘one size fits all’, our ‘yonke into’, our ‘jack of all trades’…shall we take a moment and ponder on the reality that sometimes ‘a jack of all trades, (is a) master of none’.

Perhaps it is more realistic (and definitely less frustrating) to accept that our partners will master certain trades and the rest might need to be out-sourced to yourself and/or other individuals.

So which trades do we outsource?

The ones that are not going to result in pain, denigration, humiliation, isolation, a break-up (a divorce can be quite pricey) or a miserable life-long partnership.

The aim is not to make our partners feel useless – the point should be to draw on their strengths and accept their weaknesses especially if such weaknesses are not deal breakers AND such weaknesses are not harmful and violent.

I recently got introduced to a strategy dubbed Personal Board or personal broad of directors. Your personal board are a team of people who you call on for support BUT the members on the board do not offer the same kind of support. Each member plays a different role in your life! Although the strategy is primarily used for career advancement, I suggest for your consideration that its usefulness extends beyond that.

While there are various PB models, I personally consider the following model useful due to its holistic approach. My interpretation of this model suggests the inclusion of the following six (6) members on your personal board:

1) Peer: A like-minded agemate that beliefs in your craft and inspires you to be more.
2) Cheerleader: The person you consult when you need a ‘pick-me-up’.
3) Career Coach: Someone who can help you develop a career path and assist you in reaching your career goals.
4) Mentor: A sensible, wise senior individual who can give you advice and guidance on various matters.
5) Connector: Someone who knows someone who knows you. Somebody whose name you can use to open otherwise closed doors.
6) Wellness Coach: A person who cares about your physical and mental state.

I think access to a personal board will decrease the pressure we put on our partners to be our ‘everything’.

No one person can be your everything – it takes a village.

For a visual depiction of the Personal Board model, click here.

Importance is personal, not universal

We are not all in the same boat. We are in the same storm. Some have yachts, some canoes and some are drowning. Just be kind and help whoever you can”.

People are swamped by an array of troubles! To borrow a popular Setswana saying that my late dad used frequently: Ga gona ntlo e sa neleng – (Every house is penetrated by rain water). Figuratively, this saying means that each household has its own problems! In some sphere of people’s lives if not multiple spheres of their lives, life is showing them flames! However, our problems are not always the same…and even when we are facing the same problem, it affects us differently.

Indeed, “none but the wearer knows where the shoe pinches”.

I will be the first to admit that sometimes I get ashamed of not being concerned/moved by issues that bother other people especially when it is serious issues. I feel less human, ignorant and to a certain degree, guilty because in certain cases, my disinterest stems from privilege – It doesn’t affect me so why should I care. Don’t I have enough to deal with already?

But if we were to be honest though…if you were to suspend your leap onto that high horse for a minute…isn’t this just life though? Isn’t it just human nature for certain problems to bother you more than others do?

It is plausible to conclude that we all use different scales and levels in deciding what is important. For instance, regardless of how lazy and tired I am, I will stand up to fetch the television remote to change the channel to avoid most South African insurance advertisements. Perhaps that is a frivolous example but it brings forth the reality that situations and the level of importance assigned to those situations differ.  

With so much going on in people’s lives, the prudent decision of what is important and not might form part of peoples’ positive defense mechanisms – it might be their way of protecting their sanity. It might be their way of ensuring they don’t become overwhelmed. As someone who get anxious easily and who suffers from self-diagnosed obsessive-compulsive disorder, I continue to consciously decide which issues to attach importance to and which level of importance these issues deserve.

Much to the dismay of some interlocutors, I have become indifferent to things that continue to get them hot under the collar.

“Lorato, how can this not bother you?”

Well…”it just does not or does not bother me enough yet”.

We need to stop being judge-arig – we all have different crosses to bear!

Alternatively, you can jump on that high horse now!

“How much weight have you lost”

One random midweek day after my gym session, a fellow gym member in the ladies’ locker asked me “Sorry, how much weight you lost”.

I ignored her.

I thought maybe if I ignore her, she will take the hint.

She didn’t take the hint – she repeated the question even louder.

With all the politeness I could master, I responded: “Not enough” and went to shower!

What I actually wanted to say was ‘Voetsek!’

Is that your jaw that just dropped to the floor? Well, pick it up.

There is no difference between enquiring about someone’s body weight and ‘voetsek’: Both utterances are rude and untoward.

One’s physical presence at a gym does not automatically grant other gym members a right to invade one’s privacy.  

Similarly, (and this might shock the older folks in our families)…as a family member, you are not endowed with any special privileges that permit you to comment and/or ask about peoples’ body weight.

I grew up in communities that shamelessly normalised the insensitive practice of publicly (and sometimes loudly) commenting on others’ body weight.

If you gained a visible amount of body weight since the last time they saw you, they would comment on how ‘fat’ you are.

If you lost a substantial amount of body weight since your last encounter, they would ‘worryingly’ enquire about your health.

Unfortunate sidebar: During my childhood years, in my community, anyone who lost a significant amount of weight in a short time was wrongfully rumoured to have HIV and subsequently, stigmatized accordingly.

As a child, I thought body weight comments formed part of a normal greeting practices: ‘Hello’ is either followed by a comment on body weight or low and behold, you only receive a greeting after the body weight comment!

But this is not normal.

It is rude and insensitive.

Most importantly, one’s body weight is not a matter of public discussion.

I hear you ask, “So it is advisable to first enquire how the person feels about their body weight?” “Is it alright to comment then?”


Only two groups of people can have an opinion about my body weight: a) those who I pay and b) those who I ask for an opinion.

I take no issue when the appropriate professionals such as medical doctors and dieticians comment on my body weight – I pay them to provide me with scientific and factual information.

Likewise, I have no qualms discussing my body weight with individuals if I am the one who initiated the conversation.

However, just because I asked does not mean my interlocutor must abuse the opportunity and spew demeaning, demotivating and sexually derogatory comments towards me. Have some TACT – even the most honest comments should be dressed with tact and compassion.

Tact is a skill I think many Black people lack … (Yes, you can come at me).

So maybe next time, before you comment on someone’s body weight, pause and ask yourself:

  1. Am I getting paid for this?
  2. Was I asked for my opinion!?

If the answer to both is ‘No’, exercise your right to remain silent.

While we are at it, maybe it is time to evolve and stop assuming that picking up weight is a terrible thing while losing weight is applaudable.