Tracy Lee Curtis

Friend’s surprise party needs a reality check

So my friend, Wells, decides to throw a surprise birthday party for his wife, Alison, on a Saturday, three days before her actual birthday on Tuesday. But as her birthday draws near, Alison asks him to plan a cocktail party for her on her actual birthday.

Let me just say, the only thing harder than planning a surprise party is planning a fake party to keep the birthday girl’s husband out of the dog house. Starting with calling the woman Alison has asked to host the cocktail party, knowing full well it’s not going to happen:

“So we’re not having a party, right?” the so-called host asks.

“No,” I say. “What time do you want it to start?”

“So we are having a party,” she confirms.

“No. Should the caterer pass hors d’oeuvres?”

“There’s a caterer?”

Better tell Alison she doesn’t need to know the details. She just needs to show up. But I’ve got a bigger problem, Alison’s going to start asking her friends if they’re coming to her birthday party.

So I send out a ridiculous email – first time I’ve ever used the word “critical” in a subject line – explaining that if Alison mentions her party, she’s talking about a cocktail party that’s not happening, not the surprise party that is happening. And that we must act like the fake party is real and that the real party doesn’t exist.

I get responses from folks who can’t come to the surprise party, but could come to the fake party, should it become a reality. So now I’ve got a list of potential attendees for a real party, the night of the fake party, three nights after the surprise party.

It only gets more confusing when Alison wants to invite a friend to the fake party that we hadn’t invited to the real party. This should be fun …

“Hi, I’m Tracy Curtis, calling about Alison’s birthday. Would you be able to come to a cocktail party Tuesday night? Yes? Unfortunately, we aren’t actually having that party. Did you get invited to the surprise party Saturday night? No? Would you be able to attend that? No? Well, I’m sorry you won’t be able to celebrate Alison’s birthday. But if you see her, tell her I invited you to her cocktail party and that you’re attending. Only, please make sure you don’t come. OK, bye!”

That went well.

So the real party happens and Alison is completely surprised. But nobody is as surprised as I am that a hundred people were able to keep all this straight. And I tell Alison that if she wants to have a real party on the night of the fake party for the folks who couldn’t come to the surprise party, that can be arranged.

“Thanks,” she says. “But that’s just too confusing.”

I hear ya.