# A Mathematical Formula for the Right Time to Show Up at a Party

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Style Pass
2022-05-13 15:30:08

We made an interactive calculator—with help from a mathematician—that bypasses the confusion about what “fashionably late” means and tells you definitively when to arrive.

My role at parties is, unfortunately, to be the one who shows up way before everyone else. Even when I actively try to show up later, to seem more like a normal human, I still somehow end up among the first to walk in the door.

I was generally spared this fate earlier in the pandemic, when many parties became dangerous and I had far fewer to attend. Now that parties are back for many people, so is the timeless question of when you should show up. Because if you arrive at the stated start time, chances are that, like me, you’ll be the first one there.

The optimal arrival time accounts for several different, sometimes competing considerations: If you’re the first one there, it can be a little awkward (trust me), and the host might not be quite ready. If you show up long after everyone else, you might miss the best parts or risk rudeness. Most likely, you want to arrive just as the party’s gaining real momentum, a Goldilocks window of time that’s neither early nor late.

When we go to a party, we all run our own little calculations (consciously or not) to try to identify this golden moment. For instance, my friend Sam Brodey, a political reporter in Washington, D.C., has a “38-minute rule”: For low-key parties with friends and food, he typically likes to show up 38 minutes after the stated start time. “30 minutes would [be] too early, and 45 too late,” he explained. (For a larger, rowdier house party, he shoots for an hour after the start time.)