Irresponsible and Stupid Party Etiquette From Slate

“Don’t say goodbye… Just ghost.”
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That is the headline and the central piece of advice in a pre-July 4th post on Slate (H/T: Instapundit). The subject is your departure from a friend’s party, and whether or not you should make sure to say goodbye or simply sneak out (“Ghosting”). So as not to bury my lede here, let me reply that author Seth Stevenson’s advice here is a load of rude, self-indulgent codswallop.

Say goodbye to at least one of your hosts before leaving, people. Period. They have invited you into their home. The least you can do is thank them in person and let them know you are leaving it. Not only does Stevenson’s advice make it clear he’d likely be a lousy party guest, virtually every reason he employs to support his rudeness makes it even clearer that you should not invite him over.

He starts out supporting his ghosting agenda by lighting a sizable straw man on fire. He lists a litany of “vaguely ethnophobic terms” for ghosting, such as the Irish Goodbye and the French Exit. Never trust an argument which starts with a straw man. A straw man means, “I have no supporting evidence for what I wish were true, so I’ll advance a proposition that others will not dare support and claim the only alternative is my position.”
Look, whatever words you may call a type of action have no bearing on its usefulness or probity. Nor should anyone, even in our hyper-sensitive, hyper-apologetic times, feel compelled to think well of something just because it is referred to at times by an ethnic “slur”. If you were to have referred to Idi Amin by the N-word, I would feel under no obligation whatsoever to think better of him in response.

Second, The fact that people identify ghosting as being characteristic of whatever ethnic group they consider the biggest douchebags would seem to support the notion that people consider ghosting to be a douchebag move. Further, it clearly isn’t actually associated with any ethnic group, as Stevenson himself points out when he notes that the French refer to it as “filer à l’anglaise”, or the English Departure. Both sides have used the phrases for at least three centuries.

Thirdly, Stevenson’s choice of straw man is one of those indicators of why you shouldn’t invite him to your party. Who wants to have a good time around people who are going to turn any discussion into seminars on race? It’s as bad as the guy who hears of any bad thing at all and tries to blame it on Obama. (In the 80′s, this species would blame Reagan if your car got totaled by an uninsured driver.)

More than half way through his post, Stevenson tries to summon some more rational arguments for ghosting.

His next argument is that goodbyes are a bummer, and he’d rather not endure that. He contends that it takes forever to say goodbye, no one likes it, and it bums everyone out. I’m sorry that Stevenson doesn’t like to say goodbyes, but given his description of the process, I’d say the real scoop here is that he just doesn’t know how to do it very well.

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.

Well, sure! If that’s what your goodbyes are like, then just ghost. Or maybe put in some effort to learn how to give a proper, happy goodbye. If you are too drunk to say goodbye any other way, then may I suggest drinking a bit less of your host’s hooch during your visit?

Here’s how you say goodbye: Silently catch your host’s eye, when acknowledged, say thanks and that you have to leave. Unless your host detains you to tell you something they wanted to say before you left, then go. It takes seconds, you have fulfilled your expected and desired social obligation, and no one else will care.

Unless you are ducking out obscenely early, even your hosts will not be upset to see you leave, even if they think you are the greatest thing since sliced bread. A good host keeps track of all their guests during a party. As the evening goes on, and he’s had more Beefeater, this gets harder if everyone stays. If Seth Stevens leaves, the job gets one person easier, and the chances of there being Beefeater leftover tomorrow increases. Whereas, if you ghost, your host will at some point be compelled to leave his or her conversation and go looking for you. Are you sitting somewhere, sad and alone, in need of being reintegrated in the party? Are you driving the porcelain bus in his master bathroom? Or are you just a rude bastard who ghosted, and doesn’t need to be invited next time?

Stevenson’s last point is the worst. He suggests that if your guilty feelings at ghosting are to much, then send “a heartfelt email” the next day. Also, in the event your host might be worried about your departure, either because you are bombed, or the party is in a dicey neighborhood, he suggests you text back after your departure!
This second one is just stupid. If your host is worried about what might happen to you after you leave, give them a chance to do something about it before you do, idiot! Let them call you a cab. Or offer you the spare bedroom (and spare bath, with its own porcelain bus for you to drive so you don’t paint the walls of their bathroom). Or see if their guest Bob, the 6′ 2″ off-duty cop, will walk your willowy ass to the subway station.

The email the next day thing is evidence that Stevenson hasn’t the slightest clue (as if this whole article wasn’t proof enough) about what a party is for anyway. Yes, a thank you note is a nice touch. I wholeheartedly endorse that. But it is not a substitute for a face to face goodbye. It’s a party. It is not friggin’ Twitter. Texts, emails, or any other form of internet communication is not a substitute. A party, especially in today’s internet age, among the sort of people you might even begin to imagine would check their texts during their own party, is a deliberate decision to return emphatically to meatspace and interact in a real and personal fashion. Returning that invitation to share the real world with your host with a Facebook post, replete some pictures your fellow guests may not appreciate being published, is not returning the same level of respect.

Friends don’t ghost on friends.

About the author

Doug

I am 48 years old, married with two young daughters. My interests are tennis, reading, computers, politics, and of course cocktails. I run a murder mystery party business that caters to both corporate and private events, Killing Time, murder consultants.

5 Comments

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  • Well said Doug. Could not agree more. I am hosting a big pool party this August and will not be inviting Stevenson and his new cyber generation of ghost goodbyes. Did he leave? Is it because the party is bad? His favorite cocktail ran out? Is he at the bottom of my pool? Is he mad at me or one of my guests?

    I have hosted many parties in my bar and always my guests have thanked me on the way out- thanks for free food, free booze, good music etc. Anyone that ghosts will not be invited back.

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  • To be fair, Doug, he was talking almost exclusively about being out in bars in large groups, not in someone’s home. Quite a different situation, as the establishment is the ‘host’ in the ‘keeping track of guests’ department. Not that I agree with him particularly anyway.

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  • I wasn’t even aware people didn’t say goodbye when leaving group events. The thought is somewhat absurd. If you got me liquored up on your dime you’ll only get the best of manners from me!

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  • Sylvab,

    I realize that he alludes to that at the very end, as if it is assumed. But the majority of the article makes no actual reference to that at all. And a party assumes the person of a host, otherwise it is just going out drinking with friends….

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  • My favorite part of the article:
    “(It may be too late for them to cancel that pickleback shot they ordered for you, but, hey, that’s on them.)”
    Yeah, what was your friend thinking trying to buy you a round after you left without telling anyone?

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