To leave early, or not to leave early, that is the question…


used to be a night owl. I would stay up late on weekend nights, and then
sleep in the next morning for as long as I physically could, which with my super-sleeping strength
meant until noon or one. To be honest, it’s one of the reasons I put off having kids for so
long.   But now that I have two, including a four-month-old baby, my whole
sleeping-late persona has been seriously challenged. These days, I’m lucky if I
get to sleep until 6:30 a.m.  But in addition to decimating my beloved
sleeping habit, my new early-bird schedule has presented me with an etiquette
problem I never used to have.

when I’m out at a nighttime function, I’ve become the person who leaves first—or rather who wishes I could leave first, knowing how little sleep
awaits me back home. The longer it takes for dessert to come out—or in some
cases, even the appetizers—the more desperate I become to plan my escape. I
find myself doing the math in my head, calculating how long it will take me to
get home, pay the babysitter, pump (because I’m still breastfeeding), and then
get into bed. Obviously, that’s not a recipe for enjoying oneself at a party.   But I now realize that one of my biggest concerns, even more than wanting to
get a good night’s sleep, has been not wanting to appear rude by leaving
before the other guests, or before the natural end to the party. 

For example, recently my husband Ben and
I went to a dinner party at a friend’s apartment. It was fun and delicious and
I really enjoyed the other guests, but the whole meal stretched out over four
hours, even before dessert arrived. Ben
felt it would be rude to leave before dessert, and I have always found that when one couple
leaves, it does change the whole vibe of the group.  Then again, I
sometimes wonder if other guests are simply waiting for someone else to be the first to leave, so that they can say,
“Yeah, we really should get going, too…”

the roles were reversed and I were hosting a dinner party, I would
certainly want people to feel that they could leave when they needed to, rather than
stay out of pure politeness. (There’s also the reverse problem, when your
guests won’t leave no matter how late it gets — but that’s a topic for another
post.) But I also understand how much work it is to prepare a dinner party, with
all the considerations that go into creating just the right mix of people.

I ask you: Is it rude to leave a sit-down dinner party early, let alone any
function that consists of ten or less guests?