How to Make a French Exit

Eugene Lim
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This is how you leave a party without saying goodbye—also known, with differing connotations, as the Gypsy fade, the Irish leave, or filer à l’anglaise. It’s easy. It’s like Allen Carr’s The Easy Way to Stop Smoking. You can’t give a précis for enchantment, but here’s my paraphrase of Carr’s method: stop smoking. The Talking Heads have a song called “Heaven” in which David Byrne sings, “There is a party. /  Everyone is there. / Everyone will leave at exactly the same time.” David Byrne knows there is no heaven; you can hear it in the song. There’s an equal and opposite force to the French leave; it’s FOMO. More directly, in a purely logical sense, the equal and opposite force is the fear of being rude, of not following etiquette or protocol. But more truthfully if less directly—that is, more via the sense of poetry—it’s the fear of missing out. No one (but you) cares that much if you stay or if you go. You’ve already made eye contact; that’s the important thing. But something within feels that’s too light an imprint, and so you must make your presence confirmed, haloed, by announcing its end, or else… maybe you weren’t there. And then maybe you won’t be invited to the next party. This whole thing might be about Facebook. Sometimes people die without saying goodbye. That is something completely fucking different from what I’m talking about. I’m talking about leaving social occasions, about leaving a party. Life is not a party. There are variants where you say goodbye without saying goodbye. If you’re on the same wavelength as someone, not saying goodbye is the best. It means you’re always connected. Parents of small children usually take a French leave from gatherings at the playground. This is because little children are egotistical monsters, and parents are their servants. This is acceptable because we all began as such monsters. The lesson here is that you, too, can take a French leave, because you, too, are the servant to a monster. Which one? There are also numbers involved. The smaller the party, the more difficult the French exit. It’s not necessarily more difficult to enact, but the key component is not the act of leaving without saying goodbye, but rather making the goodbye meaningless. The hardest part is gathering your stuff. After that, leave directly. That’s all there is to it—oh, but there’s your expression. Don’t look panicked or excited. Certainly not guilty. Emulate your waiting-room resting face as it scans baking recipes in Entertainment Weekly. The general aim of all this is a faint, fading question in the backs of the minds of those who are left behind. If your departure raises a persistent or growing question, then you’ve fucked it up. I take back what I said about it being easy. It’s pretty hard. It’s as hard as Allen Carr’s The Easy Way to Stop Smoking.

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