E S S A Y It’s said that the skill in attending a party is knowing when to leave. I’ve never been very good at that. I always arrive as close to time as I dare and I’m usually the last to leave. I just don’t want the fun to be over, you see. I don’t see any merit in leaving when there’s still a good time to be had, and who knows what can happen after the crowd disperses? Many, many times, I’ve had the best time after a party’s over and just a few people linger to sit back to talk while finishing the food and drink. That’s when it gets intimate and insightful. When I was a kid my mother used to say about me, “Oh, she’s just afraid she’s going to miss something,” and it’s still true of me today. I just don’t understand parties where everything closes down before midnight.
On a deeper level I’ve always hung around life’s parties far too long, too, even when things started to turn ugly and, every time, I overstayed to my own detriment. Eventually, though, I’d see the convoluted mess around me and I’d up and leave without notice, without warning, without regret. Not all “parties” that begin with promising fanfare end prettily. Oftentimes, life’s floor is strewn with the bodies of those who couldn’t hold up. I’ve never enjoyed that kind of thing; for me it’s about developing relationships, not numbing out or looking the other way.
I’m finding as I get older that my ability to hold up has lessened a great deal. Sure, I still don’t want the fun to be over, but some things haven’t been fun for a very long time. All I see is bodies, trampled confetti, and a huge mess that no one has the strength or the will to clean up. The fun has turned into pain and anger so I’m out the door. I refuse to be a casualty of those who, through their rage, lash out at each other as well as everyone else in the room. I won’t stick around for the fistfight; when the accusations, backstabbing, shaming, hexing, and dragging everyone at the party through the mud begins, I leave.
This probably is a character flaw on my part; I’m willing to accept that I can no longer hold up. But I’ve finally learned the art of leaving at the right time, or at least I hope I have. When the music ends, the overhead lights come on, and people are passing out, it’s time to assess the situation. The party isn’t pretty anymore, and it never will be ever again. It’s time to go.
Steph Waller is an author and composer. Books One and Two (With A Dream and With A Bullet) of her rock and roll series, Beyond The Bridge, takes places in late 70s London. Read more at Bucksnort Chronicles and SKWaller.com.