Jim Duffy breathes a sigh of relief after managing to come up with plausible lies and keep a big surprise a secret.
It seems you either love surprises or you don’t. It is that cut and dry. Opening a door to unexpectedly find 20 people secreted behind curtains, flat screen TVs and sofas, who then jump out and shout “surprise!” strikes godly fear into many. While for others, it is a massive boost that swells the heart. Whether it be a 40th birthday party or big anniversary, the surprise party is love it or leave it.
But, once the initial “boo!” moment is over and everything has settled down, the events usually pass of well with great anecdotes and stories. But, what if you hate surprise parties – and have been told that you have to plan one?
My partner and me are both what psychologists and psychiatrists call introverts. This does not mean we are weird and cannot make eye contact while we wear woollen jumpers and keep cats. No, it stems from a long line of research that pins us as getting our energy not from people, but from within.
Ostensibly this means that we like people, but in small bursts. We enjoy quiet restaurants with quiet people around us. We do not like entering big noisy parties or get togethers and as for surprise parties, well, it is safe to say, we’d rather curl up on the sofa with our favourite Indian takeaway and watch Lucifer on Netflix.
So, when my partner’s best friends told me they were all coming for a surprise weekend, the sweat started to roll down my back.
Yes, you may have noticed the language. Not just a surprise party, but a whole sodding weekend. In short, they would book flights, hire a car and rock up, while I had to organise the weekend, ensuring my partner knew nothing about it.
I had four weeks to get my act together and my head was spinning. These people – er, friends – were coming from Thursday to Sunday. And I had to plan entertainment, food and drink and the house for their arrival. But, as I soon learned, planning a surprise anything is not plain sailing.
“I’ve not seen my brother for a while Jim, I was thinking of inviting him over weekend of the 25th?” My first challenge was my partner, as always, likes to plan ahead. How on earth do I tell her that her wee brother cannot come on a weekend when we have nothing scheduled in?
It is at this point in the surprise visit planing, that the lies and untruths start. But, as I was told when I was younger, there are “wee white lies” and “big bad lies”. So, I immediately categorised my surprise party lies as wee white lies, that Saint Peter will not hold against me at the Pearly Gates.
I suggested that we had been pretty busy as of late and that I wondered if a quiet “us” weekend was needed. She agreed. Phew!
The next cog in the surprise party wheel is making sure the house is tidy. My partner is a little OCD when it comes to cleaning, especially if guests are arriving.
She likes to portray a clean house that demonstrates order and care. So, with no-one supposed to be coming and the spare bedroom not prepared, I had a real problem.
Why would I want the spare bedroom and its en-suite toilet all looking good? She would suspect something as soon as I brought this up. Time for wee white lie number two.
My partner also knows that I have a little OCD issue when it comes to cleaning. For example, I hate to see a dirty sink or a bathroom that needs a good seeing to.
So, while the spare room should not have been on my radar as I would not and should not visit it ordinarily, I quipped that the house did not feel complete as its feng shui energy was being distorted by the spare bedroom being a tip.
I was not sure if she would buy this crap. I went on a bit about it and my blateration obviously worked.
You vacuum it and clean the bathroom and I’ll do the beds, she stated. Bingo, she bought it. Right, no-one in the diary and the guests have a bed. Albeit the sofa would have to do for the others. Ano now problem number three ...
There are always little jobs to be done around the home. And in this case, my partner had been asking me to build a table and clean the porch windows since, well, forever.
But, I knew in my heart that if the porch windows were as they were when the surprise weekend guests arrived, she would be mortified. How would I get away with this one without her overthinking my actions?
So, I quickly suggested that as part of our “us” weekend, we should do something for each other.
This was not a win-win. I got to clean the windows, while she got to clear out my “clothes I always like to wear, but never wear” in my wardrobe.
As for the table, I had lost the will to lie anymore, so went ahead and built it. Big Brownie Points there actually. And then, the surprise guest arrived and all my wee white lies dissolved to become positive actions for another human being.
The stress left my bones and I decompressed. My partner now viewed me as a super hero and her chums felt I had done a decent job.
However, I did suggest – no more surprises.
So, spare a thought for the poor soul left to pull the surprise party together. Even if he does get the spare bedroom cleaned.