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Is This The Perfect Party Exit Strategy?

I've mastered it. Here's how you can, too.

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animation of girl leaving a party by cristina spanò
Cristina Spanò
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The party (wedding, bar/bat mitzvah, funeral, fill-in-the-blank with a social gathering...) is winding down, or, at least I am. It's time to leave but before I can do that I need to find the host/hostess, bar/bat mitzvah, grieving family member, person hosting said social gathering and offer a proper goodbye. "Thanks for having me. The bride was beautiful. Mazel Tov! I'm so sorry (again) for your loss." You know the drill. We don't need Ann Landers or Dear Abby for that matter to know that saying goodbye and thank you (and the ultimate dread – the obligatory hug) is an expected tradition upon departing a function. But for me, these perfunctory social niceties are downright painful, so much so that I avoid them at all costs. That's right. The old Irish Goodbye. Irish exit. The formalities at the conclusion of an event are so anxiety producing for me that I -- skip them.

In fact, I mastered the art of the Irish Goodbye (also sometimes referred to as ghosting, or even a French exit) long before I knew the practice had a name. By the time I learned that enough other people did this to warrant its own label, I had finely honed my craft, having the chance to perfect it at many a social occasion, from informal gatherings to graduation ceremonies and all types of opportunities in between.

This has been a particularly challenging year for me as an introvert/Irish goodbyer. I found myself in the throes of a wedding circuit, being of that certain age when many of my friends’ children are getting married. In fact, I had a wedding to attend four times in as many months this year where I was confronted with the decision: muster up the courage to thank some or all of the key players at a wedding or quietly dash out, potentially leaving the bride, groom or parents wondering what became of me. Thankfully, weddings do hold a hidden benefit – I can scoot out inconspicuously all the while knowing that one of the hosts may just be assuming that perhaps I said goodbye to one of the other hosts. Admittedly, weddings are still the hardest for me because there are just so many darn people to whom I “should” say goodbye. So at the most recent nuptials, a beautiful affair at a seaside yacht club, I made the bold and brave decision to choose one host to thank, the mother of the bride, thereby being able to say I did do the right thing technically, but without being daunted by several more goodbyes.

Now holidays with family or friends are just around the corner and with them comes a fresh set of challenges. Because of the more intimate setting of holiday gatherings, dodging a thank you and goodbye after Thanksgiving dinner or the Christmas gift exchange is a little trickier. But fear not, my strategy for that is also to seek out one family member to address, a la the wedding playbook.

Perhaps most tricky, however is the annual holiday office party. Because my job is potentially on the line, there’s a bit more at stake. Sometimes, though, there can be protection in numbers. Did Michele say goodbye Friday night? There were so many people there and well, after, a few drinks, I’m really just not sure! And then the final arrow in my quiver – choose someone I’m more comfortable around to say goodbye on my behalf. I know. That’s a cowardly option. But I only reserve that hidden gem for those times when I’m feeling particularly less brave than usual.

You might wonder why I'd take part in what some might consider a social faux pas, risking the wrath of a would be host in order to take the easy way out. Although I sometimes wonder, too, upon self-reflection I can come up with at least two good reasons: a) I despise small talk - and let's face it, that's pretty much what the goodbye/thank you/let's keep in touch (especially that part) script is and b) I'm an introvert at heart and therefore avoid awkward, cringeworthy repartee under all circumstances.

I suppose I also grant myself permission to resort to the Irish Goodbye because I justify my actions always with a follow-up text, email or note explaining myself to the party I've IG'd. In writing, my words are a heartfelt beg of forgiveness and for some reason putting my thoughts on paper feels more sincere than a rush of flat sentiments at the door. I can dispense with the customary, hasty in-person adieus, explain my shyness, beg forgiveness for the oversight and then thoughtfully say what I really want to say to that person.

In fact, I'm secretly hoping that eventually I just might get to be known as "Michele, you know, The Irish Goodbyer" in my social circles and it'll become an endearing quirk that over time requires less explanation. Or maybe those are all just excuses to assuage my guilt and I should reconsider the efficient practice, but for now, I think I'll just --