The trouble with we Capetonians is that we’re so immensely pleased with ourselves for living in one of the world’s top tourist destinations (try and find a B&B or hotel with a room in December) that some of us seem to think we’re rather above manners and common courtesy. We can be flaky, we have a flat-topped mountain. We can be late – have you seen Clifton 4th? In fact, we’re so fabulous we can not show up at all, and guess what – you’ll invite us again. And if we do deign to honour your invitation, there’s every chance we’re going to show up in tracksuit pants and Uggs because, fuck it, we have the
winelands, and we’re too cool to care.
While I love this city and its inhabitants more than the sky, we are a bit like those upper class Brits who wander down to breakfast with filthy jodhpurs and mud in their hair. Lady Muffy Tittlegob doesn’t need to make an effort because she’s third cousin removed from Prince Charles, and anyway, she inherited Shropshire. Even though no-one in the world knows (or cares) where Camps Bay beach is, that irrelevant detail doesn’t temper our smugness one little bit. And, unfortunately, this sometimes translates to something not unlike arrogance. A few weeks ago I attended a dinner party at the home of a Swedish couple who have made Cape Town their home. Since I know hosting a dinner party in Scandinavia is quite a formal affair, and nothing like here (where if you arrive at the allotted time your host will be at the Spar buying rolls and you might or might not eat six hours later), I knew it was important to be punctual and to scrub up somewhat.
Sure enough, when our hostess made her entrance with salon hair, spiky heels and an LBD, I was immensely relieved to have donned a black pant and used my ghd. Not so much the other guests who clearly weren’t au fait with the ways of northern Europeans, and while our host was the epitome of charm and good manners, I cringed with embarrassment as guest after guest showed up looking like they’d fallen off the couch, grabbed their plakkies and got caught in a wind tunnel before arriving at the front door. And I love me a plakkie and a tracksuit pant when I’m at home or DVD Nouveau, but when somebody has spent an entire day (or more) shopping and cooking, cleaned up, lit candles and made everything beautiful for you, her guest, the least you can freaking do is give yourself a spritz of Burberry and put on a nice shoe.
Worse still – the invitation was for 6:30pm. By 8pm one of the couples still hadn’t shown up nor rung to say they were delayed, so we were shown our places and invited to start. At 8:30pm, while the main course was underway, the doorbell rang and these two graced us with their presence. Not an apology was uttered as the table had to be rearranged to accommodate them (she had changed the seating so that there were no gaps). Sis, guys. That is just not okay. It’s worse than bad-manners – it’s sheer disrespect. And I was mortified by the shocking behavior of my kind.
If my husband, a chiropractor, doesn’t SMS every single patient the day before to remind them of their appointment, they don’t show up. They’ll call three days later, offer a weak excuse or none at all, and reschedule. Or call five minutes before to say it’s actually not going to ‘work’ for them today. These gaps in his working day cost him big time, but he loves his patients and wouldn’t dream of charging them anyway – as he probably should. We’ve had one or two occasions where we’ve both been exhausted and not in the mood but fixed up the house, shopped and cooked for friends and acquaintances only to have them call, one by one, to cancel.
And the worst story of all is of a friend who was newly broken up and depressed over New Year’s Eve, so she decided to cheer herself up and remind herself that she still had people who loved her by hosting a dinner at her new house. She spent a fortune shopping, decked out the table and cooked all day for her ten guests. You know how this is going to end, right? Not one person showed up. Not one. Just. Beyond. Hideous.
So, here’s the thing (and believe me, I’m also guilty of being indecisive and non-commital, but I’m working on it): if you’re invited to something, don’t say ‘maybe’ and then wait to see if a better thing comes up. Say yes, and then if Jay-Z and Beyonce personally invite you to a shindig on their yacht, you will go to the Spur with your gran if you’ve already made that arrangement. Don’t accept someone’s invitation and then leave two hours later for another event. It’s such bad form. And if someone invites you to dinner at their home, for heaven’s sake, arrive on time and change out of your onesie. Put on a lip, bring flowers and show a bit of respect for the person who’s been missioning all day to feed your face. It’s really not asking a lot.