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The party lingers...but are you first out the door?

First off: I am not a misanthrope. Really.

Still, I find the long-lingering party to be one I wish to escape from. It has nothing to do with the company being charming v. crashing bores, the quality of food and wine, etc. It has simply to do with time. I am sometimes the first to call it a night. I like leaving earlier than most.

If I am invited for drinks and dinner, at a certain point post-dessert, post-coffee-and-conversation, I will get internally fidgety and want to close out the evening, or at least my participation in said evening. Three to four hours is sufficient in my opinion, to have discourse with one's fellow humans (See the thread with a similar stance and discussion, esp. the OP's musing on time: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/567036).

How to exit, gracefully? I tried after 5 hours of a potluck last weekend to say farewell, only to be met with detours of thought and the long Midwest-Scandinavian goodbye. Forty-five minutes later, we were on our way, very tired.

Is being tired an adequate excuse to exit a get-together? Is three or four hours a sufficient time, or should one take other cues (i.e., waiting for someone else to leave and then making one's goodbyes on those coattails?) Is time of evening relevant - say, at midnight should we all still be gathered, or is it 10 pm or 2 am? Do other attendees find the first-to-go rude?

I love my friends and family, but I have this niggling little responsibility called my "real life," along with all its schedules and responsibilities. I will happily join in on social events, but the open-ended quit time is a problem for those of us who do not want to be among the last to go, or be made to feel *guilt* upon leaving first.

What do you attendees think of the first to leave? Gauche? Wise? Somewhere in-between? Or are you among the ones making an early exit? So curious.


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  1. I go on gut. If I find myself feeling tired, It means that I am not that into being there anymore or something about the affair is less then engaging. Also, I have never felt bad about being the first one to leave. If I know I am tight on time, I say so upon arriving and that I would love to stay longer but I have to leave at X. whats bad is the person that never leaves.....but thats another thread.

    1. Hah, your hosts are silently thanking you. No wonder you get invited out so often!

      1. I think it depends on the venue. I can't drink, so if parties involve going to bars, I am usually one of the first to leave. I don't think it bothers anyone since they know I'll just get really cranky if I stay longer.

        As for home-based celebrations, I still think it's fine to be the first to leave if most of the celebrations are finished. I was friends with one couple that almost always bolted after an hour because the wife had a "headache," and that really began to annoy the hosts. They'd come for appetizers/dinner and she'd make her husband bail with her before dinner was even served. I find that behavior to be unacceptable. Usually even at home gatherings, I may leave first depending on the situation. I have one friend who calls me a Cinderella because I am rarely out after midnight.

        1. I usually have to be one of the first to leave a gathering--even if I am enjoying myself. I have to be at work at 6 A.M. and I don't usually have weekends off. Even if I am off the next day, odds are I've been up since 3:30 A.M. and are extremely tired. If somebody asks me to stay longer, I just remind them of my schedule. I just thank the host for a lovely time and say my good-byes.

          My schedule used to come in real handy before I was married as away to get out of bad dates. It still comes in handy with my family who's gatherings consist of everybody falling asleep on the couch. Even when I'm not working.

          1 Reply
          1. re: MrsT

            We are in the same situation. DH works breakfast so is up by 4:30 at the latest. Even on days off, he is falling asleep by 9. We are often the first to leave.

          2. Somebody has to be the first to leave, no?

            1. "Three to four hours is sufficient in my opinion, to have discourse with one's fellow humans "

              Hmm, perhaps this is how my BIL feels too unless of course with visiting out of town college buddies:-) This I gather from what my sister says & doesn't necessarily apply to immediate family.

              1. I don't honestly think there is one good answer. If it's friends you see all the time and you stay a couple hours and leave. Who cares?? If it's friends you almost never see, it wouldn't seem out of line to me to expect you'd make a bit of an effort to stay longer. If this, then that. You get the idea.
                By in large, it's whatever you feel comfortable with. Staying longer and being miserable isn't gonna do any good either.

                As for it taking forever to leave. I used to have that problem. Pack it in at 11pm and not actually be out the door until after 11:30. Sometimes it's fine. Other times it's annoying. Mostly, I just try to be polite.


                1. I am either the first to leave or wishing I were the first. As much as I like other people's company, no matter if they are family or friends, I usually really want to get out of there once dinner and brief chit-chat is over.

                  I think it has to do with age, personally. When I was in my 20s and went to friends' parties I sometimes wished they would never end and would be there until very late, but even then I remember being one of the early leavers. When I see others leaving I think, "well, the party's over" and I look for a good reason to make my own exit. When I'm really tired or have to get up really early the next day, I don't wait for others to leave but start the leaving myself, and I don't feel bad about it.

                  1. Really depends on the situation and in the way it's done. I can definitely understand wanting to leave first because of obligations, early bed time, etc. And as lisavf has said -- somebody's got to be the first to leave.

                    But then there are times where I think leaving early can be inappropriate. My sister, boyfriend (whom I'm married to now), my sister's boyfriend, dad and I drove up to see my aunt and my cousins. My dad (who has absolutely terrible social skills) declared right after he ate his last bite, "Ok. We're done eating. Time to go home now." Now, that was pretty blunt. My aunt yelled out, "No, there's dessert!"

                    And then there was my wedding. One of my friends is married to somebody who's really socially awkward (to put it mildly). My friends were telling me that they were trying to make conversation with him all night long but had the most difficult time because all he kept saying was "Yes" or "No." It seems like he wasn't even trying. Well, right after dessert, he announced that he and his wife (my friend) were going home. My friend really wanted to stay as she hasn't seen some of these people in a while and was having a good time. But he insisted and dragged her home. The party didn't even get started and he left when he was through eating.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Miss Needle

                      That's really too bad about your wedding, but I think a couple like that need to negotiate their differences a bit better... for example, if it is really just too painful for the husband to stay, they could agree ahead of time that the wife gets to stay late by herself to catch up with her friends. There was an awkward guest at my wedding (spouse of a very old friend so I don't know him really) and I recently found out he is a recovering addict, which helps me understand why he might not enjoy weddings.

                      1. re: julesrules

                        Sigh -- tell me about it. I do think pre-determined arrangements are a good idea if one member is not very social. I think in the case of this couple, the guy is pretty inflexible and wants to do things his way. So negotiation is out of the question as I used to date somebody who was similar. I remember I went to a wedding years ago with my ex. He expected me to be right by his side all the time (which really irritated me) because if I ever talked to anybody else for too long, he got upset.

                        And I can definitely understand how recovering addicts may feel uncomfortable at weddings as we had a few ourselves. I think what helped them was the fact that they knew a bunch of people there whereas the recovering addict at your wedding probably didn't know anybody and felt more awkward. We did try to be sensitive to that and explicitly told the waitstaff not to automatically fill guests' glasses with wine (which they originally were going to do).

                        1. re: Miss Needle

                          I don't think that it's absolutely necessary for the spouse/SO come everywhere, especially if s/he is uncomfortable with the situation or the crowd. I have some friends who insist on bringing the SOs along when it's not appropriate and then get frustrated when the SO looks like s/he is ready to gouge his or her eyes out. It's harder with weddings, especially when you've traveled a while to get there and don't necessarily have two cars, but for more casual situations the SO can sit out once in a while.

                          1. re: queencru

                            I totally agree with you. My view is that individuals of a couple need to also have their own lives. But in the two instances I mentioned above, these were types of guys who would not want to sit out because they would feel slighted that their SO would want to have fun without them. So it's more of a situation where you go to a function and have to babysit them or not go to the function, period. You can't win unless you get these people out of your lives (which is precisely what I did).

                            Unfortunately, in some instances it's not always a case of the somebody dragging his/her SO to a party/dinner/wedding. I knew somebody with a major a**hole boyfriend who always made sure he accompanied us when we went out because he said he didn't trust us and thought we were a bad influence on her (wtf?). Throughout our meals, he would bluntly criticize our restaurant and meal choices and let us know that he thought we weren't a good influence on his girlfriend. Man had no tact or any social graces whatsoever. So we all frustratingly endured his obnoxious company every time we saw her just because it was the only way to see her. Made for some quite awkward outings. It was a really sad situation.

                    2. Three hours is a good benchmark for evening dinner gatherings, assuming the guests had all arrived with reasonable promptness (within 15 minutes of the stated time) and that the meal was served with reaosnable dispatch over the next 90 minutes or so.

                      The problem is when hosts indicate a starting time and that means that's when the host is starting to prepare the bulk of the meal....

                      1. Its all part of "real life." I find that being upfront and straightforward is the only way to handle such things. If you need to leave, say so and go. Tell people what you think and feel (which seems to be, generally, along the lines of "it was really wonderful to spend time with you and I look forward to the next chance. Goodnight!").

                        There's far, far too much social twister going on. I don't see how its any more polite or reasonable to wait for someone else's schedule to require that they leave for you to move on to the next thing for you.

                        The when to leave calculation can also be done ahead of time when you RSVP: "I'd love to come for dinner. I will have to leave at 10:30."

                        The should be no guilt and any who make you feel such need to reexamine their own behavior, not yours.

                        1. Keeping track of guest behavior can be a drag and lead to some hurt feelings. Sometimes my family keeps track of when I arrive, when I leave or even if I show up at all. I do not feel it is necessary to keep track of my time or my attendance. I do not follow the same routine when I invite them to my home. This topic has led to some pretty ugly tit for tat conversations and only invites hurt feelings.

                          My take on being the first to leave is do it graciously but we all have our reasons for busy lives...giving others and asking that others give you the benefit of the doubt spares hurt feelings.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: HillJ

                            It's a shame that they keep track that way.

                            When we go to my MIL's I feel that she is trying to keep us there as long as possible and judging us if we leave too early. (I really hope she doesn't read Chowhound) When we arrive, the table hasn't been set and the food usually is being prepped, so we help and hang out and eat cheese and crackers. It's pleasant enough. After an hour or so we sit down at the table and enjoy a long meal. After a bit of a break we have coffee and dessert. Then we go into the living room and have yet more wine and sit by the fire... It's all nice but it can last 5 hours! We try not to be the first to leave, but after the conversation has run out and most people are dozing over magazines, I start to go batty. And yet no matter how long we stay I always feel guilty for leaving when we do.

                            On the other hand, my side of the family is in and out so quickly it can seem insulting....

                            1. re: Glencora

                              Hi Glencora, yes-it is a shame. When I begin to feel that I can't please no matter what I do, I tend to get over it rather quickly. Life's too short for angst. One day family will realize that quality not quatity is really the connection we all prefer. Some times a party that lingers goes from amazing to dulls-ville....

                          2. not the first to depart, nor the last. Somewhere in the middle.

                            1. I think people feel awkward sometimes about being the first to go. At couple dinners I've had the first person to leave was like a dam breaking. It might not be a bad idea for a host to ask one guest to be the designated 'first leaver' so that the other guests feel less self conscious about being the first to go. For guests, if you really need to go by a certain time, it might not be bad to say that at the beginning. For those with velcro relatives for whom this won't work, you have my sympathies.

                              The BF and I usually agree beforehand a certain minimum and maximum time we'll stay at a gathering. Factors in deciding this include, are we attending more from social obligation, or because we enjoy the company? How busy have we been today and how tired are we? How many other school/work/social/home improvement commitments do we have this week(end)? And if I'm around too many people for too long, I get fidgety and overstimulated and stop enjoying myself. Even with people I really like and whose company I enjoy, I can get to the point where all I can think about is, I Need To Leave. Now.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Louise

                                YES! I am the same way. I did this very thing last night and was rudely awakened at 2:30am by people banging on my door. I am entirely sure why my friends thought this was a good idea, but I hadn't bothered to call to tell them I was leaving the party before they decided they wanted to show up. I have a lot of things to do this weekend and couldn't stay out late. Since I've already developed a Cinderella reputation of leaving before midnight, I still have no clue how this controversy arose.

                              2. If I'm the host and the after dinner talk is scintillating, I would hate you. But if it was draggingly dull, I would love you!

                                1. I genuinely wish that people could just be honest with each other, especially those who are supposed to be friends or family. My fiance runs his own business and has very little free time. If we were to tell a "friend" that we have to leave and they give us an attitude, that says more about them than it does about us. I know a lot of us fear being the "party pooper" for leaving first but after high school that is just ridiculous. True friends/family undertsand the difference between quality vs quantity. That being said, if you agree to go to a place knowing beforehand does not get "started" until 12 and you want to leave at 11:30, that's a different story!

                                  1. Leave when you want and don't worry about what others think. And drop the *guilt* if you leave first. :-) If you're tired, you're tired. If you wait for someone else to leave, and others are doing the same thing, no one ends up leaving until they're beyond tired!

                                    Regarding the 5 hour potluck last weekend, if you know it's a gathering like that where it's going to take a half hour to get out of there with all the farewells, start earlier with your farewells - then you're out of there within a reasonable timeframe.

                                    1. It depends on the company. At family gatherings or with groups of acquaintances, the BF and I are usually one of the first to go. He is always the one to initiate the departure.. usually while I am in the middle of a drink, even though I've told him a million times that irks me. We're young, and when with close friends usually close a bar, but on other occasions.. well, if you've seen Chris Rock talk about single vs. married people, you'll understand.

                                      1. Just bumping up to say: there's a difference between leaving "early" and being the earliest to leave.

                                        We are often the later. We don't do the former, or haven't in years, but that was a family death.

                                        I'll refine: do you think you need to stay as long as a host (who has designated no end-time, OR who has designated an end-time but wants to go on) wants you to stay? When all courses and post-dining conversations are complete? (Caroline1's "scintillating conversation" point perhaps withstanding, but...<grin>)


                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: cayjohan

                                          I am at the mercy of my DH, and if he gets it in his head that it's time to go, then that's it. Even if I am enjoying myself, and I can tell that the host really would like for us (I really mean me ;-) to stay, I still go, and then call the next day and apologize for this man I married. If I insist on staying he will actually fall asleep and start snoring, so . . . At my daughters house I can put him in another room and let him sleep while I stay and enjoy the "scintillating" conversation and board games. But I don't stay just to appease the needs of the host. If I am ready to go, then I am not going to be much fun to be around anyway.

                                          1. re: danhole

                                            Yes - I'm in the same boat, though we do, on weekends, have the excuse that he plays tennis at 7:30 am, plus the dog goes out around 6 am.

                                        2. I am with you, cayjohan. I tend to project my feelings onto the host; if I were the host I'd want people to leave sooner rather than later so I can relax, have a quiet drink, and clean up. Among my circle of friends, "I'm gonna head out guys, thanks for having me over" suffices. with no hurt feelings as far as I know.

                                          If we all waited for someone else to leave first we'd be there all night, getting more and more irritated with one another. Best to leave while spirits are high and feelings are good, and to take away nothing but good memories of the night.

                                          1. Whoa..."long Midwest-Scandinavian goodbye." What exactly do you mean by that?

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                              Oh, yeah. You keep talking at the door, outside the door, down the sidewalk, and inside the car. The walk is very slow, with many stops en route. Less common in cold weather, of course, but certainly existed in my parents' home with certain friends and family members. And it was reciprocated. Not Scandanavian, but definitely Midwestern. (Small town, BTW.)

                                              1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                                I have to chuckle while replying. The "long Midwest-Scandinavian goodbye" goes something like this:

                                                Guest: Well, I guess we'll have to get going. (Hugs goodbye)
                                                Host: Oh, so soon?
                                                Guest: Well, we have to (get to bed/go to work/put up the cows/drink ourselves silly to forget thislengthy thing/make sure everything is okay at home) "do some stuff."
                                                Host: Okay, then. Have I showed you (my latest photo of the grandkids/my latest figurine/what was in the paper last Friday/what you can do with leftovers)"this"?
                                                (Showing ensues for approximately 20 minutes)
                                                Hugs goodbye again.
                                                Party of good-bye-ers moves to the car in which quests will leave.
                                                Guest: Thank you so much for having us. We look forward to seeing you soon.
                                                Host : Is that tire low?
                                                Guest: No, I think it's fine. Thank you, goodnight.
                                                Host: Let's get the tire gauge. Honey, put coffee on, these folks need some sustenance.
                                                Guest. Thank you, but the tire is not low, we'll be talking to you on (whatever) day. Thank you so much.
                                                Host: But the coffee is on, and we can't waste it. C'mon in and have a cup before you drive away on that low tire.
                                                (Without coffee, 15 minutes)
                                                Coffee or no, hugs take more time. And more hugs and handshakes and tire checking.
                                                One is finally in one's vehicle. Instead of driving away happy about the visit, one drives away frustrated about the leaving.

                                                I have lived my entire life with this goodbye scenario. It needs a firm hand and a lot of finesse to escape. Heck we might still be drinking coffee and dinking around with tire pressure well into the night if we didn't take matters in hand.

                                                Other ethic/regional groups probably experience this as well, but that's what we call it. And it is a gauntlet to run.


                                              2. I've never been a night owl, so am frequently the first to leave. We simply don't accept invitations for dinner parties that begin at eight. Our friends forgive our foibles, as we forgive theirs.