early bird special

Early Bird Special

I’m Just Saying” is a column by Suburbs 101 Contributor, Alexis Gold. A funny and brutally honest take on what life is like for a working mom in New York City/turned unexpected stay at home suburban mom.

I received an anonymous gift over Christmas break. It was a party banner that read “Please Leave by 9”, in bright, bold letters. My husband and kids continue to feign ignorance. I still haven’t identified the sender. I wasn’t surprised to receive it. In the ridiculously tiny circle of people in which I might be “known” for anything, I am known for leaving events early. This doesn’t make me the life of the party. I’m surprised I get invited to anything. Around 10:00pm someone is likely to comment on the fact that:

1) I am still out;

2) I am sneaking off to the bathroom;

3) My husband is waiting in the parking lot to pick me up.

If any friends reading this remember sending it during a forgotten pre-holiday Amazon binge, have no fear. I am living its message to the fullest. I didn’t always go home before the clock struck well before midnight. For more than two decades, I worked jobs that had me working around the clock.

In the olden days, I was pulling all-nighters binding my own pitch books for deals that would never see the light of day — a great metaphor for an early banker’s life. Back then, getting in a car and going out downtown at 3:00am was freedom. As a newly minted sell-side analyst, pitching my own ideas at dinners and concerts was independence. Living through distressed cycles where I could negotiate some unexpected outcome as a result of a deftly place comma, was exciting. But eventually, you wake up in your 40’s with three kids. You realize that, the only thing you are is tired. Late nights with clients are filled with the same conversations. Travel is long. 9:00pm negotiations could just as easily take place at noon.

One of my oldest and smartest friends, had an idea for how to handle the nights that seemed to grow longer as we grew older. She suggested I start telling colleagues I would happily join for a drink and head for the hills at 9:00pm. If I need to pinpoint the moment my journey towards the early bird special began, this is it. Thanks, Carroll. She also introduced me to my husband. I’m not sure he would thank her for this particular piece of advice.

Around the same time, my colleague, Joe, taught me how to handle similar exits in group settings. Before I learned of the Irish Goodbye, he introduced the more elegant sounding “Jackie O” — say hello to everyone and goodbye to no one. I did a Google search to see if this is actually a thing. I came up empty handed. I still like it. I am also too lazy to do any more research since my current position doesn’t pay quite as well. Whatever you call it, it works in almost all situations. There are two exceptions: dinner parties and gatherings of less than 12 people. In these cases, you absolutely need to give your gracious host a proper sayonara.

Everyone has their reasons for heading home before it’s dark out. When I was working on a trading floor and traipsing all over the country my 9pm boundary became my security blanket – a way of asserting my place on the trading floor. I left that world a few years ago. Living through a pandemic with everyone home, made me realize how quickly those movie nights are slipping away. If I head home early enough, I can have a glass of champers with my neighbors and Rummikub with the family. I am still a product of the 80’s. I want it all. Even when I get home they are mostly glad they don’t have to take the dog out anymore.

I’m starting to feel like there’s been an evolution of sorts to my low brow/brilliant early-departure quadrant. When the only dinner reservations left are 5:30pm and 10pm, the former seems to have a lot less not-purposely-dyed silver hair. Maybe the 10:00pm quarantine curfews made us realize we all need some time back. I recently found a birthday card that said “Happy Birthday…let’s celebrate before 9:45pm!” If Hallmark is selling it, it’s a thing.

My early-out comes with a qualifier. Despite my desire to be home before SNL starts, I still want to be included in things that might not meet my expiration date. I usually stay in on Friday nights watching Gilmore Girls with my nine-year old, despite the fact that we are on the vilified Season 7. I’ve never had FOMO, or even JOMO. I have FOBE – Fear of Being Excluded. FOBE doesn’t extend to things I should never have been invited to – parties of people with whom I am not friends; a monster truck rally; a skydiving excursion. But Saturday night dinner with friends – I still want the ROFR (right of first refusal) — even if I have anxiety about putting it on the calendar for fear of missing my sofa or getting to bed past my bedtime.

I have really nice friends that know this about me. Fortunately for me, they seem to appreciate it as one of my quirkier quirks. They know I am always good for a daytime walk, coffee, lunch, phone call, nails, chat, or nearly any adventure that doesn’t have a PM in it. They often work around my evening time constraints. And, they do invite me to things that don’t meet my AARP criteria, just because, they don’t want to deal with my complaining. In my defense, I show up more than these comments would indicate. My acceptance just often comes with an a fairly well rehearsed attachment:

· “I will be there early for one drink!”

· “I would love to join, I just need to get home early to get everyone to bed”

· “Yes! I’m in, but am tired and coming for an hour!”

For anyone looking to adopt my squirrelly ways, these are yours for the taking. I’m always looking for people to whom I can send Hallmark’s new cards.

I brought the go-home-early banner to the small New Year’s Eve gathering we attended. I meant it as a joke, since the invitation clearly stated the party would end before January 1. The wonderful host said, “You can stay past 9!” So, we stayed until 10:30 which was the equivalent of midnight to me. It also coincided with my knocking red wine on one of her custom sofa pillows. And, yes, I said good bye properly and made a New Year’s Resolution to be home by 9:00pm next year. And I promptly put Wine Away and the banner on Subscribe & Save.

About Alexis Gold

Alexis Gold holds a BS from Cornell University. She spent more than two decades on Wall Street, where she was a top ranked analyst by Institutional Investor. While on the buy side her creative writing was used to analyze companies, primarily in the retail space. Following the recent closing of her last fund, she decided to stay at home with her three small children. Her writing has been featured in Read650 and offers a funny and brutally honest take on what life is like for a working mom in NYC/turned unexpected stay at home suburban mom. 

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