Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Surprise Surprise

Are surprises all they are cracked up to be? I’m beginning to think not.

Case in point 1: My boyfriend’s 29th birthday, December 2010.

I bought ten tickets to his favourite comedian's gig in London’s swanky wanky Leicester Square, invited all his very best friends and was beside myself with excitement and pride at how very brilliant a girlfriend I was. I booked us into a hotel for the night and had all his friends promise to meet us at a restaurant for dinner before the gig.

As the date neared, I was so excited. Not only because I’d organised something great, but because I was great. He was clearly a lucky man. And we were getting to see Stewart Lee, officially the 41st best stand up comedian ever.

But Gareth wasn’t as excited as me. How could he be? He didn’t know what to be excited about. I tried to warm him up with promises of wonder, I tried teasing him that maybe he’d need his passport or an inoculation.

If anything, I’d say he was put off by the unknown. It turned out Gareth didn’t really like surprises and would have much preferred to be in on the secret so that he too could have spent the preceding weeks looking forward to seeing his friends and Stewart Lee.

Having been brought up with surprises thrown at us left right and centre by our well meaning dad, I thought other people loved to be surprised as much as I do. I don’t even tell Gareth what we’re having for dinner, and he’s been eating my food for three years. Still I get a little joy out of saying ‘You’ll see’ and then presenting him with something wonderful half an hour later. I suppose it comes down to wanting my ego to be stroked. My theory is, if I surprise him with a wonderful Thai green curry, he has to act more impressed than if I plonk it down in front on him and he knew it was coming.

Same goes with the surprise birthday party. I figured he’d love me twice as much if I got kudos not only for organising a party but organising one he had no idea about. Doesn't that make me love him more?

Dad was always surprising us. Be it actual cement in the family’s much loved ‘concrete’ cake (I believe other people call it refrigerator cake. It’s hard to slice), or actual soap suds in our porridge, he just loved surprises.

Most were more pleasant than that, but generally involved Dad telling us he wouldn’t be available for something and surprising us with his presence. We learned through watching that when you surprise someone, it gives recipient and provider a warm glow.

Case in point 2: My beautiful friend Cordelia’s birthday, last weekend.

Her girlfriend had called us all up weeks in advance to tell us a surprise party was in order. So when Cords called a week before her party and asked for my attendance, I had to make up some lame excuse about how she’d left it too late and I was busy.

The words crushed my heart as she sweetly told me she understood, I was a very busy person and she should have thought of organising something before. I wanted to tell her that no, I’d never organise anything on her birthday and I was going to be there all guns blazing. But a surprise is a surprise, I held back.

Feedback I got from Cordy’s housemates was that she was devastated that none of her best mates were available. She was solemn all week long. On the night before her surprise birthday party, she got so wasted that when Gareth and I turned up at her house, cake in one hand, champagne in the other, she was wearing her pyjamas and just about ready for bed.

Although, look at her happy little face here, as she opened her door. Maybe it was all worth it.

I’ve made a pact my sister, my best mate and my boyfriend now – and I think that covers all bases. Let’s not surprise each other. With anything. Ever. Just organise and celebrate. Simple.


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