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It’s not often that I read something at Slate and say, “Rat own!” But this guy pretty much nails it, even if he doesn’t go quite far enough in my opinion: Don’t Say Goodbye.

He advocates a thing called “ghosting”:

Ghosting (aka “the Irish goodbye, the French exit, and any number of other vaguely ethnophobic terms)”refers to leaving a social gathering without saying your farewells. One moment you’re at the bar, or the house party, or the Sunday morning wedding brunch. The next moment you’re gone. In the manner of a ghost.

Back in my more youthful years, I was a master of drunken ghosting. I’d be at the bar, over-imbibing, then go to the bathroom and, while standing there, think to myself, “I’ve had enough. Time to go.” I’d then leave without announcement and walk the two blocks or two miles to my home. I thought it was my “thing,” but I read years later in Modern Drunkard Magazine that it’s a common magic vanishing act pulled off by drunks all over the land (alas, I couldn’t find that article at MDM while writing this post).

Anyway, the Slate writer says ghosting should be acceptable, even if you’re not drunk:

Goodbyes are, by their very nature, at least a mild bummer. They represent the waning of an evening or event. By the time we get to them, we’re often tired, drunk, or both. The short-timer just wants to go home to bed, while the night owl would prefer not to acknowledge the growing lateness of the hour. These sorts of goodbyes inevitably devolve into awkward small talk that lasts too long and then peters out. We vow vaguely to meet again, then linger for a moment, thinking of something else we might say before the whole exchange fizzles and we shuffle apart. Repeat this several times, at a social outing delightfully filled with your acquaintances, and it starts to sap a not inconsiderable portion of that delight.
Let’s free ourselves from this meaningless, uncomfortable, good time, dampening kabuki. People are thrilled that you showed up, but no one really cares that you’re leaving.

Amen to that. I’ve thrown many parties over the years, and it’s never, not once, crossed my mind that someone ought to come seek me out and say goodbye. Indeed, it would’ve been a hassle for me to say goodbye constantly as I constantly tried to re-fill my cup.

The writer says it would be inappropriate to ghost at a party of fewer than ten. He might be right, but I disagree. Fewer than three, yes, because then you’re leaving your wife at the table by herself (which, to the best of my recollection, I’ve never done), but with nine people at a party? I think you can ghost, especially if it’s late and it’s drunken ghosting. If 11.11% of the party leaves, that’s no big deal.

So where would I draw the line? I’d say fewer than four, but each circumstance is different. If it’s you, your wife, and another couple, you can’t ghost by yourself, and if you ghost with your wife, it’s the same as ghosting with fewer than three, so the number is fewer than five. If you’re the designated driver in the Amish hauler, the number is fewer than thirteen: which is how many an Amish hauler typically holds. If you’re the guest of honor, the number might be fewer than twenty, depending on the occasion, the lateness of the hour, and precedent (I’ve ghosted at my own parties, albeit involuntarily, while a lot of people were still there; no one took offense and, indeed, were, I’m told, quite entertained by it).

Regardless of the correct number, you can also, as the writer suggests, “set up” the ghosting ahead of time: tell your host upon arriving, “I’ll say goodbye now, even though I plan on being here for a long time, because I don’t like goodbyes.” I’ve done that. I’ve never once had anyone remotely take offense.

Anyway, my heartfelt thanks to the writer. He has, hopefully, done all of us a public service by getting rid of a form of politeness that has, in my opinion, run its course. Please pass along his message or this post.

Photo by Leon Seibert on Unsplash

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