The invitation was otherwise lovely. It was a baby shower for a dear friend who is having her first child in about two months. I remember quickly scanning the details and smiling, as the date was a good one for me. Then I reached the bottom of the page.

Shhhhh…it’s a surprise.

I wanted to scream. I had been burdened yet again with the social equivalent of Chinese water torture for all involved – an endless series of mediocre deceptions, unnecessary intricacies and downright bewilderments.

Alas, I did not scream. I listened to the directive of silence, quietly RSVP’d in the affirmative, and stood ready with my camera this weekend to catch my friend’s face as she entered the room. I didn’t want to be a surprise party pooper. But after years of begrudgingly attending these events, it is time to confess:

I really hate surprise parties.

Somehow the surprise party is ingrained into the American culture. Between baby and bridal showers, birthdays, anniversaries, retirements and other events, everyone I know has either thrown, been thrown or attended one of these bombshells. So I ask myself: In an age when we are trying to simplify our lives, be more practical, and bestow more thoughtfulness on those around us, why does this dreadful ritual still exist?

I put forth for consideration the possibility that the surprise party is not truly intended for the person being celebrated, whom I shall refer to hereon out as “the victim” – although this is the guise under which all of these events are thrown. I have always believed that the surprise party is, in fact, thrown for the people giving the party. At best it is a voyeuristic vice in which we try to catch the victim off guard and delight in their faux realization that people actually care about them. At worst, it is a shameless attempt to redirect the focus from the pregnant woman to the party hostess who can not help herself but gush about how hard it was to keep the secret.

I am not suggesting that a great deal of credit isn’t due to the hostess. Throwing a party for a sizable group usually comprised of women is stressful enough. These hostesses up the ante for themselves considerably. Consider the following:

Surprise Party To Do List

  • Find trusted co-conspirators
  • Approach all potential “weak links” and threaten appropriately
  • Accidentally discuss party in front of toddler and fret for weeks whether they will spill the beans
  • Make educated guesses as to who should be invited; unintentionally omit important co-worker, college roommate, or distant cousin
  • Discuss decoy party with victim
  • Develop elaborate ruse to get victim to party venue
  • Establish hidden parking plan for recognizable guest cars
  • On day of party, communicate at least a dozen times by cell phone with companions of victim
  • Stand watch to make sure no one parks too close
  • Find small child to be on lookout for victim and yell “THEYRE HERE!!”
  • Calm guests after several false alarms
  • Position oneself with camera to capture bewilderment permanently

If you are a Type A like me, these steps create a perilous line that you walk for weeks. But perhaps my biggest peeve with surprise parties is that they rob the victim of one of the greatest gifts a celebration brings – anticipation. What date works best? Who do I want there the most? What shall we eat? What shall I wear? Each question brings with it an exciting array of possibilities which are never enjoyed by the victim of a surprise party.

It is interesting that no one ever asks for a surprise party. Presumably this is because by doing so, it would ruin the surprise. But perhaps it is really because no one wants one. Maybe I am not the only surprise party pooper. Am I?? There are enough happy surprises already baked into a good old fashioned planned party. That is why we wrap presents, don’t rehearse the toast, and invite the crazy cousins.

Let’s stop the silence, park wherever we want, and tell our loved ones with heartfelt enthusiasm, “I can’t wait to come to your party!”

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • email
  • Facebook
  • Twitter