Walsh’s Wonderings — Irish Goodbyes

Robert F. Walsh

Party guests are like the Catch of the Day; if they hang around too long, they stink. Perhaps that’s why I’ve always been a fan of the “Irish Goodbye,” the act of leaving a social situation without any notice. It’s the real world’s Control-Alt-Delete button combo, a mercifully quick ending that skips formality in the interest of practicality.

I come from a very large Irish family where leaving family functions involves a series of farewell gestures that can take longer than the Irish War of Independence. Someone inevitably saves that particularly juicy story for the moment our wives are shaking the car keys at us and glaring. We have to plan our departures like a presidential motorcade, taking note of all exits and alternate routes.

Irish Goodbyes should be looked at as tiny magic tricks, like Commissioner Gordon turning to talk to Batman only to find that, poof, he’s disappeared.

Among the unwritten rules that must be followed if you ever want to be invited back include being honest with the host that you plan to “ghost” later on. Also, it’s not cool to pull this when in a small group; not only is it more obvious, but you’re removing a larger percentage of the party when you leave unexpectedly. Lastly, you have to plant a ghosting seed: Tell at least one person what you’re doing so people don’t think you were suddenly kidnapped by Lex Luthor.

Irish Goodbyes take practice, especially if we’re planning to leave with someone else. We need a code phrase we can work into the conversation without arousing suspicion. Something like, “Did you leave any bananas by the bread basket?” or “The Backstreet Boys live forever in our hearts.” We need to avoid being conspicuous. Also, women. (Sorry, ladies, but between all the coats and shawls and pocketbooks gathered up before that quick exit, we might as well wave our valet ticket above our heads as we walk toward the door.)

There are two misconceptions about the Irish Goodbye. The first is that it’s only for brilliant intellectuals like myself. The second is that it’s rude. To the contrary, I’m doing you a favor on the way out the door because I have nothing pithy to say. No sly popular culture reference, no clever quote from Robert Frost, no sage advice or life lesson. Leaving without notice is an act of kindness, freeing the rest of you from offering to pack me leftovers or feign interest in the horrible void I will leave upon my exit.

Think about it: Is there anything more embarrassing than people lingering like gutted sharks behind the hostess waiting to offer “quick” goodbyes? Better to acknowledge the natural lifespan of the event and then disappear like that Blockbuster store that used to be down the street.

Irish Goodbyes are an essential component of social etiquette reform. Heck, the required greetings are hard enough. We already have to figure out whether to kiss while saying hello or just shake hands. We have to know when to trigger the verbal trap doors that get us out of monotonous conversations (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re the person we use them on). When it comes to goodbyes, the soul-crushing reality is that most of us aren’t important enough to truly be missed. The Irish Goodbye is not so much rude as it is a public service.

So the next time you discover I’ve vanished without a word, know I’m not blowing you off. I’m Batman.

You can read more at RobertFWalsh.com, contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @RobertFWalsh.

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