Well, following the last post I decided to just click on "no" and leave it at that. Nothing I could write in the RSVP message box would feel right. Nothing would prevent the party organizers from being bitchy about my not coming. Nothing I do or say will change what they think of me. And really, it doesn't matter what they think of me - by which I mean, I know this intellectually, but have a hard, hard time believing it through and through.
There were lots of polite but not quite honest things I could have said on that invitation response.
"we're so sorry we won't be able to join you" (we're not sorry; we are able, we just don't want to)
"we have other plans" (half-lie - my only plan is to not be anywhere near these people)
"give our regards to the birthday girl!" (I don't actually regard her in either a positive or negative light)
"sounds like fun, wish we could be there!" (it doesn't, I don't)
Any of these "regrets" kind of responses would have been a lie, because I don't actually feel regret. Thing is, nothing genuine could be said, either, because this is how it would look:
"are you fucking kidding me?"
"I don't actually care about you people, so I'm not coming"
"It's ridiculous that you expect me to spend half a day driving, several hours of my life standing around making idle, uncomfortable chitchat with people who think they know me but really don't and whom I don't particularly care about, then get my kids to bed late in a hotel room because I'm not in your good graces enough for you to offer me a room or a couch to sleep on, then have to drive half a day back home again, thereby losing a perfectly good weekend."
"oh, hell no"
"I would rather swallow shards of broken glass"
"Interesting that I'm only considered a part of this messed-up family when you want to throw a big party so you look like a loving, close-knit clan."
"I will not be a part of this charade"
Yeah...none of those should really be entered into a comment box. It's good to type them out here, though. Perhaps, now that I've sent my just-plain-NO response, I can shake this bitter, ugly feeling and move on.