Once upon a time, a long, long, time ago, my husband and I enjoyed hosting parties (OK, it was only a year ago, but it feels like a long time ago). Over the past decade of hosting informal gatherings to themed-parties, we’ve developed a few best practices:
1). Always have fresh popcorn with Old Bay seasoning. This is literally the cheapest appetizer you can provide and people love it.
2). Gatherings are best with no official meal structure. We favor slicing up plenty of medium rare ribeye on a large cutting board for folks to pile on a plate or shovel directly into their mouth. Eventually your guests learn to bring their own sides if they want more than popcorn and ribeye.
3) If you’re having a larger party, a theme is the best way to ensure a fun and memorable time. No, “birthday” or “anniversary” don’t count. A theme is something like, “Ninjas vs. Cyborgs,” “Running of the Bulls” or “Bring a Stranger and a Handle of Liquor.” Please note these are all real themes to parties we have held, contact us directly for party-theme consultation.
4) Always have a fire to conclude the night. Not only is it cozy and mesmerizing, it also allows for the Irish Exit.
If that introduction has you craving popcorn, ribeye and fires on warm summer nights, sorry about that. The remainder of this article will focus on the latter part of No. 4: The Irish Exit.
The history of the term “Irish Exit” goes back to the mid-1800s when Irish families fled Ireland for America during the potato famine. As the story goes, many of those leaving avoided telling friends or family about their departure in an attempt to avoid prolonged goodbyes or pleas to stay. If these farmers could leave their entire family and country without saying goodbye, I promise you can leave a backyard barbecue or a Zoom meeting without mentioning your departure.
Here’s the problem with saying goodbye: It turns the attention to you and suggests your departure is more important than anything else happening at the party or meeting.
We’ve all been there. Someone walks up to the host of a party, thanks them for the hospitality and says goodbye. Everyone in earshot thinks, “Should I leave too?” If a few more make the same move, suddenly the party is over.
It’s even more egregious during a virtual meeting. While a speaker or colleague is talking, someone types in the chat, “Sorry to leave early, great to see you all.” Suddenly everyone is thinking, “Hmmm, maybe I should leave too.” Imagine being in a large presentation hall and standing up to get everyone’s attention just to announce that you are leaving. Now, that would certainly raise some etiquette flags.
I know what you’re thinking, “Certainly this can’t apply across all meetings and parties.” You are correct, there are some outlier circumstances. If you are the host, you have to be a little careful about Irish Exiting your own party. My husband and I have a general rule that when we get tired at a party we are hosting (usually during the fire phase), one of us is allowed to quietly slip off and go to bed. Occasionally we run into each other in the bathroom, one person already in pajamas and brushing their teeth. At this point we are forced to rock-paper-scissors for who is going to go back out until the last guest leaves.
If that sounds crazy, think about the consequences of one of the hosts announcing to the cozy guests around the fire, “I’m going to bed, thank you all for coming.” In most cases, the guests would take it as a cue to depart immediately. On the flip side, if your guests realize you both disappeared, that can also be a bit awkward. Should they leave a note? Turn out the lights on the way out? It’s best for at least one host (or a trusted friend) to stay the course of the party.
When it comes to virtual meetings, I can’t think of many exceptions to the Irish Exit. I suppose you shouldn’t leave mid-sentence, but just about any other circumstance warrants a silent goodbye (assuming you can allow the meeting to keep going without you). Think for a second about what happens if you are in a meeting and one of the little boxes disappears from a screen. Essentially, nothing happens. People assume the technology kicked you off. Even better, if you have a culture of the Irish Exit (or as another colleague calls it “Zoom ghosting”), people understand you have another commitment and you left quietly out of respect.
Now, I’m going to warn you that it’s going to feel awkward the first time you do it. You’ll be all set to depart a virtual meeting and feel too guilty to not say goodbye. You’ll think, “Maybe I could just send a private message.” Don’t do it. This meeting doesn’t need to be about you and your “busy” schedule. Just click the “Leave” button and know that you chose the least selfish and least disruptive exit.
Hopefully this summer, when we are gathering for warm summer barbecues and late-night fires, you will feel the same freedom. Slip out the back door or side gate even if it means leaving your pasta salad bowl behind. You can always swing by tomorrow and pick it up while you drop off a personal thank you note. After all, etiquette is important.