After years of covering parties–and/or just going to them for fun–I know full well how important timing is. By that I mean one’s timing as to when to arrive at an event and also, just as crucially, when to leave.
Nothing is more tedious than a long, drawn out cocktail “hour” where you stand around making small talk while waiting to sit down and make more small talk. (But at least when you sit down, you get fed.)
And so, “fashionably late” amounts to a concept that’s fabulously sensible in every way.
I long ago learned to time things so I skip the brunt of the cocktail reception and saunter in just as everyone’s getting ready to plop their backsides into the chairs. There’s plenty of time once you’re seated to catch up on what you missed–and if there’s someone fabulous in the room that you want to cover, you can just run to their table, shmooze them, then run back and eat. So it’s easy to remember: Seating time equals eating time, which equals me arriving-and-greeting time. Show up 45 minutes after the invite says to do so!
The other day, I was so pleased with myself because I timed a luncheon with such perfection I felt like a master at the game. I walked in just moments after everyone had sat down (but not too late, where I’d look conspicuous). What’s more, the meal–a nice salad with all kinds of food groups in it–was already sitting on my assigned plate as I parked my derriere! I was in heaven! Not a second wasted–and I was there just in time for the presentations and celebrity speaker too.
As for when to leave? When you feel the party is still good. You have to anticipate things a beat and sense when the event is about to peak, and then split for the hills and never look back. If you wait till the evening is indeed peaked, then it’s too late. You’ll be in excruciating social pain, and besides, people will spot you somewhere where you should never be seen: a peaked party.
Learn it. Enjoy.