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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Toddling Along

Guest Blogger Dept.: Although the practice of hanging dogs has become enough of a rarity, in my circles at least, that my party-overstaying no longer can be accurately measured along that scale, I find great comfort in Robert Benchley’s explanation as to why he had trouble quitting such gatherings in a timely way.


WHAT IS THE DISEASE which manifests itself in an inability to leave a party—any party at all—until it is all over and the lights are being put out? It must be some form of pernicious inertia.

Robert Benchley (with Joyce Compton)
No matter where I am, if there are more than four people assembled in party formation, I must always be the last to leave. I may not be having a very good time; in fact, I may wish that I had never come at all. But I can't seem to bring myself to say, “Well, I guess I’ll be toddling along.”

Other people are able to guess they’ll be toddling along. One by one, and two by two, and sometimes in great groups, I watch them toddle along, until I am left, with possibly just my host to keep me company. Sometimes even my host asks me if I mind if he toddles along to bed. When this happens, I am pretty quick to take the hint.

I have often thought of hiring a little man to go about with me, just to say to my host:

“Well, old Bob thinks he’ll be toddling along now.” It’s that initial plunge that I can’t seem to negotiate. It isn’t that I can’t toddle. It’s that I can’t guess I’ll toddle.

I suppose that part of this mania for staying is due to a fear that, if I go, something good will happen and I’ll miss it. Somebody might do card tricks, or shoot somebody else. But this doesn’t account for it all. It is much deeper seated than that.

The obvious explanation to an analyst would be that I have an aversion to going home, because I have a sister fixation or am subconsciously in love with my parrot and am seeking an escape.

This, as I am so fond of saying to analysts, is not true. I would much rather be at home than at most parties. In fact, I don’t go to many parties, and for that very reason.

My diagnosis would be that it is a sign of a general break-up. I have difficulty in starting to do anything, but once started, I can’t stop. I find myself at a party and I have to stay at a party until I am put out.

The next step is, I am afraid, that I won’t be able to find myself at all.

Oh, well.

– Robert Benchley, San Francisco Examiner, 12 December 1935

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