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Let's Talk Surprises

Surprise! Do people really want a surprise party? Alison divulges a deep secret.

My husband is quickly approaching the big, round number 60 and I'm plagued as to what to do to mark this event with happiness, fun and laughter. He says he doesn’t want a party, but should I believe him?

Surprise party.

My question is, do people really enjoy being on the receiving end of a surprise party? From that first moment the birthday person walks thru the door and the masses jump out from behind curtains, tables and closets, is there any real tangible way to know for sure if the recipient of this surprise is happy? Did they truly feel at ease with the unexpected? Is the birthday belle of the ball actually enjoying the embarrassment of the moment?

I have a confession. I once planned and plotted my own surprise party. 

When I was on the precipice of 18 years young I was living in Paris going to University. I was far from home but had lots of friends. I wanted to have a grand celebration but my new community didn’t possess the savoir faire to put on such an affair. So I did.

Looking back now I can laugh about it with a tad of remorse in my giggle. But come on, there was nothing malicious; it was just ever so slightly devious. Have you never done anything a little “off centre”?

The most delicious part of my clandestine party planning activities was listening to my friends accepting the invitation. No, I didn’t ask my friends, of course, I had my dear friend Paula help me out on that one. She, too, was American, from my home town, and she understood me. There was no arm-pulling there...

I gave Paula a petit script on what to say and then away we went! Ami after ami she called and I listened on the ecouteur, which was a little device for just such a purpose—no, not scheming your own surprise birthday party, but to listen.  All my French friends were thrilled with this very American idea of a “surprise party.” Of course, they would come! Avec Plasir.

Suddenly the party was a reality. I had 30 people on the guest list. I had a lot to do! I dove into party preparations. I had to buy my cake, my decorations laughing every step of the way. I fantasized and practiced my grand entrance.

The big day came, Sept. 24 (I’m not giving you the year). But there was still more scheming. Paula had to rope my boyfriend into the mix, but we couldn’t tell him the truth, it had to be the total element of surprise. He had no clue that I knew. He knew of the party but not my involvement. He had no clue I was at the helm of this crazy party’s creation.

Long story short, I didn’t want to arrive too early and by over plotting, I arrived way too late. Everyone had too much of everything by the time we arrived, but in the end I walked through the door with a perfectly surprised look of amazement on my face! I don’t remember much more about the evening, but I think the French thought I was a really crazy American! How I wish FACEBOOK existed back then. Or maybe not. Definitely NOT.

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