The Irish Goodbye
The art of slipping out
I come from a family that might be considered smallish — but because we are close-knit, our modest gatherings tend to be lively and loud.
My husband is from a family that, by any metric, would be considered gigantic. He is one of 13 siblings; and his many siblings and cousins (he has 52 first cousins) also tend to have more than the average number of children. Families of between 7-10 children are not considered unusual for this group, and — that’s fine by me, because as far as I can tell, the members of this big tribe are overall smart, kind and very friendly.
(Assembling for the official “family photo” can take hours…)
Any gathering at his family’s farm in our hometown tends to be large — they usually have around 65 people at Thanksgiving and Christmas — but now their family reunion is coming up and, even with the pandemic’s limits on travel, there will be well over 100 people present for the weekend.
Time for me to brush up on my Irish Goodbye.
An “Irish Goodbye” (also evidently known as a “French Goodbye,” depending on what country you’re in and which country you want to call out) is when you slip out of a gathering without saying goodbye.
According to one article I read, the term “Irish Goodbye” might have originated during the great famine in the mid-1800’s, when many Irish families basically picked up and left their home country so suddenly that they didn’t say goodbye to others in their circle. (Below is a brief and interesting animated film explaining the potato famine and its impact on Irish families)
Like most references to Ireland, the roots of the “Irish Goodbye” are both lyrical and extremely sad.
I know — it sounds rude (and it IS rude) to leave a social event abruptly, and I would never pull this sort of ghosting at a smaller invite-only gathering, but regarding these massive family parties at which I am very much beside the point, knowing that I can quietly exit helps me to cope with being there at all.
I am extroverted by nature, but I have a tendency to “leave it all on the field.” What I mean is that I give almost any social interchange an extreme amount of energy.
My inability to modulate my own energy level means that at some point in the evening, I hit the wall. Saying goodbye to a large group of these treasured family members and friends could easily take up to an hour. And I worry that my goodbye might take attention away from whatever conversations my group of in-law sibling-hosts (there are several) are engaged in.
For me, a proper goodbye to a large group over an extended period of time would also render me into a puddle of Amy-ectoplasm on the floor.
Instead, I find my car keys in my pocket and quietly slip away. I don’t convey any particular destination. If I sense that someone is aware of what I’m doing and might want to initiate a “goodbye” conversation, I adopt an “Oh look — there’s cousin Clarice! I need to get her recipe for apple crumble” expression, basically creating a brief diversion while I slip out.
Sometimes, once I get into my car and have a few moments alone, I will feel a tiny surge of social energy, as well as regret for leaving. I will be tempted to reenter the gathering, but instead — I drive on, composing my thank yous, explanations and apologies as I go.
[…. And now … a very quick thank you to those generous readers who have chosen to become “member-subscribers.” This week, they received a very short meditation on the strawberry moon, which I celebrated by harvesting a tiny crop of wild strawberries]
Wherein my friend Laura has good ideas
“Here’s my personal favorite Irish goodbye trick, which admittedly takes a little foresight and self-knowledge, but anyway:
Stash a thank you note or cute card in your purse, and if you are at the party and decide you can't spend one more moment there, scrawl a quick and sincere note (...as in, "thanks so much for inviting me, I'm sorry but I couldn't catch you as I needed to head out. Marissa did such a nice job on the congratulations banner and those mini-quiches were amazing. I had a wonderful time, thanks again"), seal it up, and pop it in the mailbox on your way out the door so the person gets it the next day when they go to check the mail.
“Way less awkward than trying to figure out "do I text to say thanks? Do I call? Is she going to be angry?"
This makes it look like you absolutely knew you had to leave at 10 pm or whatever and were so concerned about it that you actually thought ahead to bring a cute card! Win-win!
little miss ghosty mcghosterson,
Railey Jane Savage continues the theme with
“Junk Food: Stuff I consume to feel better.”
“The death that necessitates the titular funeral in Four Weddings comes at a party. The most boisterous, alcoholic, loud-mouthed member of a group of friends keels over in a parlor as Andie MacDowell gets married in an envy-inducing dress in the main hall. Laughter and the clinking of glasses obscure the sound of Gareth hitting the floor and the only person who sees his collapse smirks in response, evidently used to Gareth’s over-the-top lifestyle occasionally laying him flat. But this was to be Gareth’s final fall.
I think it is pretty good storytelling to have your loudest character go out with a whimper obscured by a bang; a kind of poetic irony that brings a greater potential for reflection in the audience. And in Four Weddings and Funeral, Gareth gets the final word without saying a thing.
For whatever reason, I had forgotten that Gareth was played by Simon Callow, an outstanding British actor who—for whatever reason—had made a quick exit from my brainspace after living there rent-free for much of my childhood. Callow’s credits are lengthy and impressive, but I know him best as Gareth in Four Weddings, as Schikaneder/Papageno in Amadeus, and the Rev. Mr. Beebe in A Room with a View. These movies were my junk food for a long time, and I fell in love with the bit parts brought to life by Mr. Callow.
“Rewatching Four Weddings was a trip. It’s a movie I’ve been aware of most of my life--I arrived in ’86, the film in ’94, which made me too young to “get” any of the adult jokes, but old enough to know I was missing them—but do not regularly engage with. The same can be said of Room, andAmadeus. These movies helped form my sensibilities and the way I view things and then, one day, I simply stopped watching them. Not out of malice or principle, but some indefinable event that suddenly thrust them out of view; a synaptic Irish goodbye. Like Gareth, the films clamored around my consciousness then made a summary, silent exit.”
But through acknowledging their absence these movies have, ironically, once again taken up real estate in my thoughts. Which is to say that a fanfare-less departure need not be the end of the story. Welcome back, Mr. Callow—I didn’t know how much I’d missed you.
Emily Mason’s Targeted Upsell:
What the Internet wants me to buy:
I recently discovered Ooni, an oven company solely devoted to one thing: homemade pizza.
For...roughly the price of a standard oven (ouch) you can own Ooni and turn your outdoor space into a pizza place.
(apparently this is not a UFO, and it’s a great thing to bring to the woods?)
It does have a considerable leg up on a standard oven; Ooni is apparently capable of heating to over nine hundred degrees in a mere 15 minutes, and has homemade pizza ready in sixty seconds.
Why am I Seeing This?
I... bought some flour and yeast? One plus one equals pizza I guess.
Did they Sell me?
Maaaaaybe? I’m very tempted here. This is perhaps not the most practical purchase ever, but homemade pizza is one of my (many) weaknesses. The only things preventing me from making pizza constantly are a concern for my general health, and the fact that I am cursed with a kitchen that becomes a furnace any time you even look at the oven--handy in January, but I cry in July.
It’s probably not a huge surprise that Ooni can only be used outdoors, what with all the potential fire hazards and such. Right now the only outdoor space to my name is a wooden open-air stairwell out my back door.
I can only picture making pizza out there ending badly…
(me when I fire up my Ooni...)
So I will have to pass...for now.
Maybe one day, I will have access to a well-ventilated outdoor space, like a yard! And I will splurge on an outdoor pizza oven and become one of Those People!
Until then I’ve got a pizza guy on speed-dial.”
Thank you, faithful readers! As I ponder my own potentially life-changing professional transitions, producing and sharing this newsletter becomes even more important to me
Please do me and my contributors a solid and — if you like what we are doing, shoot us a “heart” and/or leave comment below. This is NOT the time for an Irish goodbye…