Master the Ultimate Midwestern Goodbye For the Holiday Season
We joke about it every single time I'm on the phone with my family - The Midwest Goodbye. It's not as simple as just saying "BYE," and hanging up the phone... it's a process, with multiple steps, and various paths to take, and can seem very strange to people who aren't from here.
So, when your family comes to visit in Michigan this year for the Holidays, it's best to give them the ultimate experience.
Step 1: Say Goodbye... but not really
If you're from New England, or the west coast (or even other countries), this should be the only step you'll need. But Michiganders and Midwesterners are just getting started.
This step usually starts with something like, "Well, it's getting kind of late, and we've got a big meeting tomorrow I should probably be ready for, so I think we're gonna get going."
This moment likely comes in a lull in a continuous string of small talk, typically after someone cracks a bad joke, everyone chuckles, and breathes a sigh as if they're thankful it's over... then a few moment of silence before the declaration.
BONUS POINTS: If you're sitting down, this is where you slap your knees or thighs before standing up. "Whelp... (slap leg)... we should probably get going..."
Step 2: Are You Sure?
If you're in a home where the host is also a Midwesterner, then this is the next logical step. If NOT, jump ahead to Step 3.
At this point, the host will say something to the extent of, "Oh, are you sure? Well, it's been good to see you, glad you were able to come..." and then the dagger.... "Tell (common friend or family member) we say hi!"
At this point, you'll proceed to update the host on everything that's happened in "common friend or family member's" life recently. "Oh, we will. They're (insert life event of common friend or family member.)"
This step should take between 10-15 minutes as you slowly shuffle to the kitchen to put up your glasses, or as you walk to the coat closet and start putting on your coats.
Step 3. The Doorway Goodbye
This might be the most awkward part of the Midwestern Goodbye. At this point, you should have your coats either in hand, or you're putting them on as you're at the front door. You and the host are continuing to talk about (common friend or family member) as you get ready to walk out the door.
"Alright, well we should probably get going..." you say as you grab the door handle to walk out. This is when most of the hugs or handshakes happen, too.
Then, either you, or the host, will mention something about an upcoming event, or gathering, and you'll both loosely make plans to attend together, OR, you'll "check the calendar."
This is another 5-10 minutes of awkwardly standing in the doorway. If it's cold outside, the host will likely walk out in front of the door (probably in their socks), and shut the door to keep the heat in. They'll cross their arms to keep warm, or stick their hands in their pockets, but continue the conversation.
Step 4: The Final Goodbye
FINALLY, the time has come, and you actually get to leave.
"OK, we'll see you next time." followed by a hand wave as you're walking to the car. You're still shouting things back and forth, but it's more in fragments at this point. Then, you finally turn your back to walk straight to the car, but your host is STILL at the front door... watching.
As you back out of the driveway, you wave back to them, and then one more time, as you put the car in drive to drive away, one last glance, and wave at them as they wave back, and turn to walk back inside.
This was explained to me by my grandfather once, as him "making sure we got on our way OK," which, when its described that way, it's actually very sweet.
All told, the Midwestern Goodbye could take anywhere from 10 minutes, to 45 minutes. Masterful Midwesterners can even draw it out to an hour.
To this day, phone conversations with my family will consist of about 45 minutes of actual phone conversation, followed by about 30 minutes of "goodbyes." Sometimes, we expedite the process, but there's still something kind of charming about the long, drawn-out goodbye of Michiganders, and in other parts of the midwest.
Just one last check to make sure we're getting on our way, OK.