When Goodbye Really Means ‘Have a Nice Life’
Parting cues reveal if people don’t care if they never see us again.
If decades of living have taught me anything about the principle of socializing, it’s this: People find a way to do things they really want to do, come hell, high water, or jam-packed schedules. I’ve known this for sure ever since my friend who is an attorney flew thousands of miles from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires in 2009 just to see me for a few days.
Life lessons also have taught me that not everyone will return my phone calls, emails, or text messages. I usually can see the ghosting coming from a week or more away, before I’ve even made the phone call, written the email, or sent the text message. It’s all in the way they said goodbye the last time I talked to them.
We tend to throw out certain stock sentences when we don’t really care if we ever see or hear from someone again. My sister once said if someone really wants you in their life, they’ll always try to make a firm or even tentative plan to see you or speak to you again before parting.
I don’t always do that, not even with people I do want to see again, and it doesn’t bother me when others don’t. I’ve mastered the art of saying “Goodbye” and moving on without offering platitudinous parting words whether or not I know it’s a wrap. Not everyone, though, is as comfortable with the finality of “Have a good life.”
Fair enough. It is apparently easier to ignore future incoming messages from someone than it is to end a conversation without offering a glimmer of hope for future bonding sessions.
My B.S. detector has become infallible over years of awkward conclusions to encounters with casual acquaintances and potential love interests who had no further use for me but were too polite to say so. Yes, I know non-committal and “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” when I hear or read it. Here are eight of the more obvious routines.
“Call me the next time you’re in town.”
As a world traveler who spent most of the 2010s living abroad in temporary and short-term homes in multiple cities and countries and meeting countless new people along the way, I can divide those acquaintances into two groups. Some stayed connected with me without making much ado about it (social media has made that so much easier), and some left future contact up to chance — or my future travel plans.
Emails and texts I sent just to say hello to the latter “some” often went unanswered, and if I ever made it back to their city, they rarely bothered to fit replying to me — much less seeing me — into their schedule. Ghosted … again.
“I hope I see you soon.”
There’s no need to “hope” for something over which we have total control. And then there’s that vague, open-ended word “soon” hanging over the sentence at the end of it. “Soon” to you could be “never” to them. It’s like the kiss-off of death. You can hope for future engagement, but don’t count on it being anytime … soon.
“I’ll be in touch.”
In other words, don’t call us. We’ll call you.
“I’m very busy these days.”
Spare me. If Phil Collins can play two concerts on two different continents for Live Aid 1985, we can all make time to do what we really want to do in 2020.
“Let’s keep in touch.”
So quaint, so pre-Facebook. Nowadays, you don’t even have to try to keep in touch. Social media does most of the work for us. So when someone suggests it, you can be fairly certain they won’t be the one making the effort.
“Text/ Message me.”
The millennial version of “Give me a call.” And in 2020, the implication remains the same as it was in 1990: When someone leaves the ball in your court, it’s there for a reason. Game over.
“I’ll check in later and see what you’re up to.”
Famous last words … before the blow off. Has anyone in the history of casual acquaintances ever actually checked in as promised? The next day? The next week? This is basically the “polite” way of saying, “I’m doing something fun with more important people, and you’re not invited.”
“Take care” — or as they say in Buenos Aires, “Cuidate!”
There’s an unmistakable note of finality there. Translation: So long, farewell … Have a nice life.