Jane turned 40 today. To mark the occasion I decided to have a surprise birthday party for her last Saturday. I knew I wanted her to have a nice party; after all, you only turn 40 once. Unless you are Friend of Pipeline ChaiI, who by virtue of a murkey Thai birth certificate somehow celebrates two separate birthdays and claims both are legitimate. But other than him, you only turn 40 once.
Honestly, though, I can’t say how the idea of a surprise party entered my mind. It was just an automatic assumption I made, and I never critically evaluated whether that was a good or bad idea, or whether surprise parties actually are any fun at all for the people giving or receiving the surprise. In fairness to me, several people had to be enlisted in various layers of subterfuge, and any one of them could have told me a surprise party was a bad idea, but none of them did. They all willingly joined in deceptions large and small.
And there were so many deceptions. I missed a day of work to be “sick”, so I could work on Jane’s birthday movie. To get Jane out of the house, her friend Rhonda made up an event for them to do. That theme replayed itself perhaps a dozen times, as I needed Jane to be gone so I could do something related to the party. And that became the first clue that a surprise party was a terrible idea: Deception is exhausting and difficult.
I also learned that planning a party without your go-to planner is exhausting and difficult. And not only was she not available, the plans had to actively be kept from her. Unfortunately, that meant she spent a fair amount of time coming up with her own plans that directly conflicted with the surprise plan. She was working against us and she didn’t even know it.
Or, maybe she did. And that’s the final nail in the coffin of the surprise party, which is that it may not be a surprise at all, and if it’s not it makes everyone involved in the planning of the surprise feel like an ass. In this case, I take responsibilty, as I mailed the invitations from my home email account, and due to Firefox’s multiple tab layout she saw that I was receiving an awful lot of email with the title “Jane at 40”.
She put two and two together…but decided not to tell me or her scrambling, hopeful friends that she knew. Granted, she didn’t know exactly when or where the party would be, but she knew something was going to happen. When that happens, there are three choices. You could tell people that you appreciate what they are doing, but you know all about the party, and let’s just all plan a big party and stop the sneaking around. That’s Option 1.
Option 2 is to simply lie and act surprised. Everybody’s happy, and nobody will blame you for lying because that’s what everybody else just spent their whole week doing.
Option 3 is to wait till everybody yells “Surprise!”, then immediately say, “Oh, I knew about the party because I read the emails by accident. Sorry!”
Jane chose Option 3. But, I can’t blame her. I was the dummy who used the wrong email account, and I was also the dummy who thought a surprise party was a good idea in the first place.
But, bygones. She had a good time, and that’s what I cared most about. And I think she appreciated that her friends and I made the attempt. But hopefully that’s the last party I ever plan without her help.