This article originally appeared in VICE Australia
This isn't an article about break ups. It's not about how "you need to put yourself first—", no. I do not care to explain to you guys that you are morally free to break up with people when you feel like it. This here "article" is about saying goodbye to people instead of slinking off into the night like a Marvel villain. That's right. Welcome to Unpopular Opinion-ville, a sleepy little seaside town with I Am Legend vibes, where I mostly wander around and operate the fish and chip shop for my own amusement.
Here's the catalyst for all of this: Some friends of mine "ghosted" on some other friends of mine at a pub the other night. Actually, to be quite frank with you, they were my colleagues. Colleagues. Two people left two other people behind without saying goodbye. They didn't argue. They weren't in any hurry.
It was just one of those times where people manage to convince themselves that because "ghosting" was once a cultural phenomenon, it is an appropriate way to leave a social situation. Was I there? No. Of course not. I was at home watching Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Googling "Kate McKinnon girlfriend?" like a normal person.
Let me tell you something: Not since the cultural birth of "ghosting," not since its very conception and meteoric rise in popularity (meteoric in the sense that it was hot, fast, and disappointing), have I had to hear the term so much. I honestly didn't even think leaving without saying goodbye was called "ghosting" anymore. But these past few days, I've heard so much about it that I've been forced to take a stance on this… thing… that has not been relevant in conversation for at least four years.
[Carrie Bradshaw voice]: So I got to thinking, is ghosting actually rubbish?
[Me voice]: I think, yes. None of its proposed benefits exist is my big problem. Does it ever really save time? No. No it doesn't. Is it easy? No, it's very stressful. Does it feel good, better than "doing the rounds"? No. I don't believe it does.
What actually happens when you ghost is that you momentarily get out of a very small, very briefly annoying conversation before leaving for your bed or the next (much better, much more you) thing, before paying for it for the rest of your life. For a mere moment you're feeling free. Cheeky, even. That first breath of fresh air on your visage as you step out onto the street from the pub, the noise from inside dissipates as the door shuts behind you. You did it.
You're alive, you're alone, and the world is your oyster. Life can now continue on its projected path after being derailed by that idiot coworker/ex/family member''s life event. You've done it! Just kidding all you've done is ruin your own night, and possibly even life. This is just the beginning of your eternal imprisonment. I give it less than an hour after leaving for your phone to become a hotbed of softcore passive aggression: Where did you go? Are you still here? You left without saying goodbye?
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Next come the phone calls and voicemails, as people realise you're not coming to the next thing with them, that you ditched them, that you're already gone, that you're a terrible friend who doesn't value the squaddy like they thought you did. All this seeps into your new good time. Encroaching on your new, fun life. Think you're going to enjoy drinking a shot the size of your fist if you're worried about your imminent comeuppance? Yeah, you probably will actually. But it's these interactions here—even if you don't participate in them, which you don't—that are loads more laborious and annoying than any version of saying "goodbye my friend and happy birthday" would've ever been.
Don't even get me started on how much time you're gonna spend over the rest of your life explaining yourself. The next two to three times you see any of these people in passing, you'll have to apologise. You'll have to pathetically steer an otherwise normal conversation to a weird and stagnant place. "So sorry I left without saying goodbye, dude, I..." you'll say, before you trail off into an uncomfortable silence in which you are like a bad dog that knows it will eventually all be over if it just keeps this very sad face going for a few more minutes.
You think that's the end of it? Absolutely fucking not my friend. Fasten your seatbelt because I guarantee you that every time you drink alcohol around this person either they will bring it up, or you will. You think people aren't that sensitive? They are. They really are. Do you think your friend or coworker or family member isn't going to say: "Wow, I gotta say [Your name], we thought you were going to ghost on Laura today! Ha ha! We did! You rascal!" Uproarious laughter from the audience. Even your Mum (traitor) from the back of the room: "You love to ghost! It's so true!"
Before you know it they're bringing it up over your open casket. I wouldn't put it past them. "Well it's just like [your name] to... ghost on us, isn't it?" Not a bad joke, to be fair, but that's not what you want your devastated life partner Laura to remember you for. You want to be remembered for your untouchable seafood paella. You want to be remembered for the time you drunkenly sang "Landslide" at karaoke and moved the room in a way that ought to be illegal.
You want Laura to think of you and instantaneously be transported back to the time you all celebrated with drive thru Maccas on the floor of the kitchen mid-renovation when little Micky got his first goal at the Big Sports Game. But no, you're remembered for leaving semi-crucial events without saying goodbye because you're a selfish prick who doesn't know how to manage their time or nurture their relationships. Nice going.
Here's the other thing: Nobody will invite you anywhere anymore. People don't want a flake coming to their dinner, to their going away, to their birthday at the club. People want ride or dies. People want real friends who don't think one minute of their time is more valuable than the feelings of others. That's right I said it. You're a monster.
It's not all bad news though, is it? The thrill of leaving on your own terms with no explanation necessary doesn't need to be outlawed entirely. I believe that there are a few special instances in which you are not obliged to say goodbye to people.
And this is them: if you are at a club and there are more than 20 people there that you know and saying goodbye to all of them would take an hour because—not only are they on drugs and they cannot grasp the concept of brevity or, for that matter, time itself—but also because losing one of the crew is going to irreparably crush some of them. It's much better for group morale for them to believe you are passed in the toilet, or off pashing someone. Don't do it to them, don't do it to the team, and don't do it to yourself.
It is also acceptable to "ghost" if you are having social anxiety.
It's also entirely appropriate, I think, to leave without saying goodbye if you are too fucked up. Nobody needs to see you for the last time tonight like… that. One eye slightly off kilter, mumbling something or other about wanting to sleep with your boss and get his wife out of the picture, to your friends' horror.
This is when you order an Uber and you just… you just go. You take yourself home and when you message your mates the next morning saying, "Wow sorry I bailed early last night I was so smashed" they will say "do not apologise. In fact, next time please leave earlier. That was not pretty and I won't look at you in a positive light for some time" and you will say "thank you, Senpai."
Here are a few other examples of times where leaving without saying goodbye is an appropriate, respectful, time-saving thing to do: If somebody forces you to leave at gunpoint. If you think you are going to shit your pants. If you are under the Imperius curse (condolences.) And, of course, if you are being carried out on the shoulders of punters in euphoric celebration to the soundtrack of "Tubthumping" because you sunk every single billiard ball in with one, beautiful strike.
And, according to me, that's about it. You're all people who care about each other in some way or another after all. Fish and chips for all!
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