It's a Sunday in America, that NFL-owned day of the week that keeps fans up to their eyeballs in snacks and beer. It's also a day when family and friends congregate. But what if they congregate at your house and never seem to want to leave? The average professional football game runs a little over three hours, but pre-game and post-game shows can easily add two more hours to the event, taking up half the day, and your guests might be inclined to linger on even after that. Here are some tips to cut the party short:
• Tell them that you've just read Michael Pollan's book In Defense of Food. When they see the curly fries and onion dip being replaced by carrot and celery sticks, they'll go running for the nearest 7-11.
• Assign a chore. I like to assign chores for guests at parties; it helps them feel involved and lessens the work for me. I write tasks on small pieces of paper and hand them out to everyone. At Thanksgiving, these are known by my family as Turkey Tickets. On a football Sunday, how about a Sunday Slip, A Carolina Card, or A Denver Document? Whatever name you choose, it means guests have to earn their keep, and on Couch-Potato Sunday that might make some people want to head for home.
• Stop pouring. When there is no more alcohol, the party's over.
• Start to clean up. While this is generally considered rude, it's a surefire way to let your guests know it's time to leave.
• Bring out the photo albums. When your guests start seeing pictures of babies and dogs, they will start inching toward the door.
• Talk religion and politics. Both topics are social no-no's. There's nothing like a discussion on either subject to end any type of party.
• Don't turn a simple situation into an awkward one. Most people want an exit strategy, but they may think it's rude to say "We have to go home," so you can do it for them! Just say you have a big day tomorrow, and they'll get the hint.
• If you have kids, you have an auto-out. If it's a Sunday night, all you have to do is remind people that the next day is a school day.
• When all else fails, be frank. Thank your guests for coming and tell them that you had a wonderful time.
Lisa Mirza Grotts is a certified etiquette expert and the author of A Traveler's Passport to Etiquette. She is a former director of protocol for the City and County of San Francisco and the founder of Expert Etiquette, formerly The AML Group (lisagrotts.com). Her clients range from Stanford Hospital and Cornell University to Microsoft and Levi Strauss. She has been quoted by Dear Abby, The New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Condé Nast Traveler. She is an on-air contributor for radio and television, and serves on the board of trustees of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and San Francisco Suicide Prevention. To learn more about Lisa, follow her on Twitter.com/LisaGrotts and Facebook.com/LisaGrotts.