the Irish goodbye

The Irish goodbye is a thing, you know. I’d done it, more or less, my entire life before finding that out.

What is the Irish goodbye? It’s the swift, some would say ungracious, nonverbal exit from company — often well before a social event’s natural end point.

My husband sometimes accommodates me. Last night, all I had to say was, “time to go” and in a matter of minutes, we were donning our coats and inhaling the bracing December air.

When you consider how much we would’ve had to interrupt our hosts in order to say ‘goodnight’ and ‘thank you’ — it’s not THAT ungracious a maneuver. I sent a beautiful picture and note by email this morning, along with a dinner invite for January. I’m not a monster!

You have to understand — this internal, possibly genetically-imparted pressure has absolutely nothing to do with the society involved. Last night’s party, for instance, was filled with folks I don’t get to see much anymore. People I really, really like. Interesting people.

Plus, there was a long dining table sagging with a glorious array of home-cooked dishes. You don’t always get that at gatherings.

No, it’s my disposition — some weird mix of ADD, impatience, and thorough-going introversion (recall the touchstones of an introvert — energized by solitude, drained by company).

And, just so you know, sometimes I accommodate my husband, generally when visiting his family. My in-law’s style of goodbye is the polar opposite of the Irish goodbye. Picture long, drawn out exchanges, often on the driveway with coats on and motors running. Future plans are outlined, routes home discussed. Entire conversations rise and fall, then rise and fall again. There are hugs and more hugs. I married into such a kind and considerate family!

Where am I during that second round of hugs, you ask? Often sitting in the car preparing to deal with my husband’s abject failure to abide by a generous, pre-arranged limit.

Fortunately, there is humor and self-acceptance in all of this. That’s the really, really good news.

28 thoughts on “the Irish goodbye

  1. Katrin

    Haha!! I had no idea there was actually a name for it! If I thought I could do a true Irish Goodbye, I so would! Ours is usually get our coats on, collect our stuff, then walk to the doorway of the main room of the gathering, wave and simply say, “Thanks all! We’re off” then we go. As you usually hours before everyone else leaves. Long drawn out goodbyes I’m totally with you, aren’t my thing either. Happy Holidays!

    1. deemallon Post author

      Yodeling from afar and waving might be a thing to do in some circumstances. I’ll have to remember that. At this gathering though, people were clumped in three rooms and the door was down a hall.

    2. deemallon Post author

      Ps. Thanks for posting about introversion and the holidays. Your thoughts definitely inspired this post.

  2. Susan

    Merry Christmas and Healthy Happy New Year to you and your family! There have been occasions when I have found myself exchanging more dialogue with family and friends as I am parting than the hours spent for the visit. LOL

    1. deemallon Post author

      I’ve heard therapists joke about the last five minutes of an hour session sometimes being the most productive… maybe the long farewell is similar? Blessings to you, too, Sue

    1. deemallon Post author

      Ah, so you know it well! There’s nothing wrong with it… unless you kinda ‘left’ 45 minutes prior.

  3. Mo Crow

    I’m a piker too but my excuse is I wake at 2am to start work so am usually in bed by 9pm at the latest, if I really want to stay awake for a gig or important party, I drink two very strong coffees before going out!

    1. deemallon Post author

      is that an Australian term — a ‘piker’? Don’t think I’ve ever heard it before. I thought you got up at 4. You are so unbelievable. I wish I had one third of your discipline, energy and one quarter of your memory!

      1. Mo Crow

        a piker is Ozzie slang for leaving a party early, as in “You’ll have to excuse me being such a piker” said with a smile and a quick slip out the door!

  4. Sue Batterham

    Just sending the details for the Deep Peace choral version. It’s from a Hearts of Space album called Deep Peace by Bill Douglas. If you google this you can actually play it before you decide if you want to buy it. I’m off to play mine now while I set the table fo our family dinner tomorrow. Peac to everyone this Christmas ( if only!)

  5. Michelle in NYC

    I had an Irish Aunt who always left the holiday dinner table to have a lie down. She was known to have what she called an “upside down stomach” and it afforded her the luxury of absenting herself from the clear and wash up cycle that came before desert. I, a child at the time, always left right after the clearing and went down the elevator and into the Yonkers streets to escape the heat of that incredibly tight three room apartment where the windows were never opened. Now, as an elder, the parties I go to are at the Zendo and I always stay for the cleanup which has the benefit of left over distribution. As for long goodbyes when visiting homes elsewhere…we don’t do them, we simply hug and head for the car.

  6. shemann

    When you described how you leave a get together I started laughing, I do the same thing!
    When I’m ready that’s it, I need to leave! I’m rather abrupt about it, not rude but my intent is clear.

  7. Hazel

    Ha, I’m not alone, and there’s a name for it! Fortunately, my Irish clan is all the same way, (K.’s not so much). I go up to K. at parties with a “I’m done, we’re going.” Once absolutely exasperated a friend who watched my sister & I say “see ya” with a brief wave as we got into our cars, knowing we wouldn’t see each other for a year. On a different note…beautiful table!

  8. fiona

    Oh yes, it’s an international club for sure! There is a moment, when I just have to go – no ifs, no buts no nothing about it – I just have to go! I came across this today and thought it was so me…”some days I stay inside because it feels too peopley out there”.
    Hope you have a lovely, quiet few days…

  9. Nancy

    Thought I’d commented here. Mmm. Maybe I just thought it or ‘left’ quickly like an Irish goodbye, forgetting to do it altogether!! I have really begun to do that online, when I’m done…I’m done – can’t wait for the slow computer! We exchange looks, nods or name said in a certain tone. Him more than me. My family MUST say goodbye to each and every person: “making the rounds” – then you are free to go. I used to be a ‘stay til the end’ kind of gal, but these days, I can only handle so much people time and just want to get home 🙂 Interesting to know I’m not alone!

    1. deemallon Post author

      Understand the wanting to get Home part. Saying a nice farewell to each person is very civilized. If only I could….

      1. Nancy

        Yes, maybe civilized…but also ‘expected’ in such a way as to leave no choice. Therefore an obligation based on should and shame. Not the best really.


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