Sunday, May 2, 2010
So your boyfriend's got a milestone birthday coming up and you want to do something spectacular. Not only because you're a true girl and you want to guilt him into doing something spectacular for YOUR birthday in return, but also because you love him somewhere beneath all that self-servitude. Welcome, one and all, to the girlfriend's guide to surprise parties. I have a gem of wisdom to share with anyone out there planning to plan a party for anyone else- Don't.
You will thank me later.
Should you still feel the need to ignore my well-meant advice and proceed to go ahead and do it anyway, here are some golden rules to abide by:
Rule No.1 - Choose your Wingman Wisely.
Because your boss just might deliver you with the news that he's sending you abroad on the same day that your man turns a year older, and because you just might not be able to pull off that awesome spectacle you're planning in your head all by yourself, you will need assistance and representation. Someone to man the do in your absence. Make sure you go through the list of possible servants - there are his closest friends and there is his family. His friends are all men without a clue, whose idea of a good party is a crate of beer and a cheap stripper. This makes the choice of delegating party responsibility seem all the more easier, whereby you will be moved to choose his Sister-in-law.
Please note, excited sisters-in-law (S.I.L for ease's sake) have a knack for calling you at the most inopportune moments in the day. And because it is a revered member of his family, you will be under obligation to be nice and listen to it all, despite your Board of Directors coughing politely in front of you, waiting for you to finish your presentation. Yes, you want enthusiasm and proactive contribution, but a S.I.L can have too much of both, lovely as she is. Be prepared to occassionally see merit in that crate of beers and stripper at times like this.
Rule No.2 - Don't Guess the Guestlist
Try to be good about remembering who this party is meant for when inviting people. You will toy with the idea of having all your own homies there, mainly to show off what a cool girlfriend you are and thereafter guilt your man into showing you his gratitude and making you look good. It's all about you, you see. But do pause for a second in between fantasy and realize that you are not dating Chandler from Friends and your other half will not love a party full of intellectual girls and closeted gay men, much as you wish he would. Besides, you're not rich enough to call everyone over. Once this revelation has hit you, you will then proceed to sort, sift and carefully pinch out only his closest compadres and very immediate family. You will nicely work out your budget, cast the guest list in stone and then, BAM... S.I.L will invite others. Rest assured, you will thereafter gnash your teeth to a pulp as she calls you the very next day to solemnly inform you that she sat up all night calling someone ELSE in the family, extended and otherwise, because really, you just CAN'T have a party without inviting them. You'd hurt their feelings, you see. SO now you have Aunty A, Aunty B, C, D and Cousins E- L being added onto the guest list.
At this point, it is your prerogative to tell nicety and obligation to go and take a hike where the sun don't shine and put your foot down. Eager as she is, the lovely S.I.L. must be told to IMMEDIATELY retract the invitations, because you cannot afford to pay or have to explain it to your dearly beloved. Be warned - she will be hurt. There will be moments of accusatory silence on the other end of the phone. Stay the course. Tell her you will NOT include anyone he isn't intoxicated by, and that is a decision you are taking as executive planner and owner of the idea. Eventually, she will understand, or at the very least Brother-in-law will step in and make her understand. Yes, ladies... some men do have their strong points.
When inviting his closest friends for the party, you will suddenly discover that in the last 5 years of your relationship, you've never even met some of them. Don't bother wondering why this is and questioning his interest in seriously making you a part of his life. The simple truth is that had he introduced you to them, he'd have lost them.
Rule no.3 - Go Lean
Once you've settled on the invitees and the date, your next step would be to think of decor. How does one come up with a suitable theme for an adult male's birthday? Check your list of ideas. Reconsider the 'fairyland' idea sprouting in your oestrogen-filled mind. Consider that he just might not like to wear that tutu with wings, cute as you think he'd look in it. If you are still keen on creating wonderland, call his best friend and ask him what he thinks of a purple butterfly cake with pink fairy lights and listen to what he has to say. You may not understand some of the words he uses because your mother raised you proper, but that's alright. You'll get his drift. Feel free to spend a few moments questioning men in general and wondering WHY they don't like fluffy bunny rabbits dressed in ribbons. It would have looked AWESOME. Take some time to sigh to yourself and try thinking like a man. You will become very bored very fast, but at least this will help you settle on the fact that men have no sense of art or imagination and therefore the best theme would be no theme. Decide to keep it simple and no nonsense, because that's what your Cosmo magazine says men like. I agree... the tutu would have really been a nice touch, but you might be single afterward.
Now that you've decided on minimal decoration, call your assistant and let her know. Remember that at this juncture, she needs you. She'd been harboring all sorts of magic hopes and dreams about the most fabulous extravaganza ever, and you just dashed her hopes. Give each other solace and move on. Pat yourself on the back for understanding your boyfriend's needs and be satisfied that you are doing the right thing. Don't dwell on your high too much though, because S.I.L WILL call you within the day in a state of glee because she's 'bought the balloons'. There's no point in wondering if she heard your point about no decor at all... she didn't.
Rule No. 4 - Be sure of your Venue & Menu
By now you have begun to think leaving it all to S.I.L could end badly. This is why, despite her best efforts to convince you of the way to go, YOU must be the sole decider of where the hallowed event should take place and what you will serve. A winner would be the boyfriend's favourite haunt, you think. Like the seedy beach cafe he frequents with his buddies, to guzzle down beer and think of strippers. Fight S.I.L tooth and nail until she gives in to your location and informs her friend at a five-star hotel that you will not be having the party there after all. More pouts will ensue. Ignore them. You will THINK you won the battle this time, until the place you chose screws you over big time when the party's over, and you end up eating humble pie. Lots of it. You should have listened to S.I.L.
Speaking of eating, selecting a menu for a boy's birthday ain't that hot either. You will be torn over whether to choose the asparagus rolls or the teacakes. That is, until you remind yourself once more about whom this party is for and end up going for something as crude as a Kottu. You will snarl to yourself that this party is not turning out to your liking at all, so he had better appreciate it and treat you big time afterwards.
Rule No. 5 - Forget the Surprise
Understand that men just have a knack for ruining your plans. So do Sisters-in-law. There is absolutely no point in spending hours at drawing up conniving schemes to get him to the venue without a clue, because your assistant who is meant to casually invite him to dinner so that he comes unawares, will make that dinner into such a huge deal and call him at LEAST three times, WEEKS before the 'casual' dinner to make sure he comes on 'time' and not before. So much so that he will smell not only a rat but what that rat's eaten for breakfast too. On the big day, feel proud that you, on the other hand, managed to keep the secret this long and not look like you were sucking lemons in an attempt to keep a nonchalant face every time you met him. We're girls, dahling. Everyone know that us keeping a secret for more than 2 minutes is a feat worthy of a Nobel prize. Feel free to take the whole covert operation overboard by doing things to conivnce him that you AREN'T throwing him a surprise party, even though he hasn't asked. Park outside his house and set up camp till the clock strikes 12 so that you can wish him. That way, whatever S.I.L has done to give the game away, he'll never know you were in on it. To further disguise that you're cooking up something grand, gift him something as gross as socks and be apologetic about it. Be prepared to feel perplexed for a while as he claims in absolute sincere delight when he sees said socks and tells you he's really needed them. After 5 years you still do not know this man. The socks actually excite him. Perhaps you should have thought of socks as your party theme.
Pretend to know nothing about S.I.L's casual dinner invitation and hmm and haw enough to fool him into thinking that perhaps there's nothing going on after all.
All this effort to cover things up, you will soon find out, is a complete waste of your time. Remember to take your heart medication along with you for the party, because you will receive calls on your way to the venue from your boyfriend's friends, who will ask you 'why there are f***ing balloons eveywhere'. Don't bother explaining things to them or to yourself. You will also discreetly sms S.I.L (who is at the location) and ask her to kindly request everyone to hide their cars, lest the birthday boy sees them. Of course this means that when you DO get to the venue, the most conspicuous of family vehicles will be parked RIGHT in the center of the car park because that's the best hiding place they could think of. Also, when you step out of the vehicle trying hard to keep boyfriend from questioning it too much, the security guard will come up and tell him there's a birthday party going on.
Just be glad that he's sweet enough to act surprised when they all jump out an scream. At this point, also wonder why you jumped when they shouted, and peed a little in your pants from the shock.
Rule No. 6 - Prepare to be wrong.
So it didn't turn out as planned. At all. But once you're at the party, you'll be surprised yourself at how much work S.I.L has put into making the place look nice. You'll need some serious repenting at this point... while you had put her down as a nightmare, she turned out something rather decent and ended up being your saviour for the night. The balloons actually look quite good. So do the creative little table pieces she's whipped up. And really, when you think about it, she's actually been a total sweetheart throughout the process. Here's where you eat your first slice of humble pie and thank the gods for S.I.L. Your second slice is swallowed whole when the seedy beach bar hands you a bill twice as much as what you previously agreed on, and you spend the rest of the night arguing loudly over who ate what.
Ah well... at least you had the party.
Rule. No. 7 - Try not to throw a party ever again.
That is, unless it's to celebrate how cool a person YOU are.