Thursday, March 12, 2015

Ghost Town

Since my wife and I have no kids, we're often quick to accept invitations to social gatherings put on by friends, acquaintances, etc.

Upon our arrival at a given soiree, the fetching Mrs. Carlson and I have no trouble diving right in to the various social protocols, whether it's introducing ourselves to those we haven't met, carrying on prolonged conversations after partaking in the initial appetizers & beverages, etc.

In my younger days (late teens, into my 20s) it was the social interaction which caused me to feel most awkward. But as I got in to my 30s, the socializing was markedly better but I was utterly inept when it came to making a smooth, graceful exit. In essence, it felt as though the process of leaving was all too similar to Howard Mohr's depiction of "The Minnesota Long Goodbye" as detailed in his book How to Talk Minnesotan

Here's a the video version:

Thankfully I've exorcised that Minnesota passive aggressiveness to where leaving is not such a strenuous endeavor. But when there's merely one other couple, bidding adieu isn't quite the laborious process as it is among a party of 20+ friends and acquaintances.

So what does one do in that kind of situation?

What I've become accustom to doing over the past decade or so is just finding that opportune time when all others are occupied and then I quickly take my leave. Initially I felt guilty for doing so, like it's rude to not say goodbye to anyone. However, I'm sure to make a phone call to the host(s) or send a text message within 12 hours of my departure to offer my gratitude for the party invite. And you know, after all these years of perfecting this routine, there's been nary a party host or guest that ever lamented "I sure wish you had said goodbye before you left."

With all that said, I was delighted to read a piece by Slate contributor Seth Stevenson talking about this very methodology. And much to my surprise, the action even has a name - "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. “Where’d he go?” your friends might wonder. But—and this is key—they probably won’t even notice that you’ve left.

Upon reading the entire post, I experienced that wonderful emotion of complete vindication.

Oh, it got better.

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. Granted, it might be aggressive to ghost a gathering of fewer than 10. And ghosting a group of two or three is not so much ghosting as ditching. But if the party includes more than 15 or 20 attendees, there’s a decent chance none will notice that you’re gone, at least not right away. (It may be too late for them to cancel that pickleback shot they ordered for you, but, hey, that’s on them.) If there’s a guest of honor, as at a birthday party, I promise you that person is long ago air-kissed out. Just ghost.

Still think it’s an etiquette breach? Simply replace your awkward goodbye with a heartfelt email sent the following morning. This note can double as a formal thank you to the host—a rare gesture these days, and one that actually does have value. (You can even include the link to that English Beat video you couldn’t stop raving about last night.) Got a safety concern, and want to alert people that you’re stepping out alone into the dangerous night? Send a text after you’re out the door.

Since I've pretty much perfected the art of "ghosting," I may take it a step further by already having my obligatory thank you text/tweet/email in the "drafts" folder. Once I'm out the door, I'll merely have to hit "send."


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