October 2, 2005

Whoever came up with the idea of a surprise party was obviously wanting to punish someone.

Growing up, my friends loved surprises. Not me. Surprises in my life were never a reason to celebrate. Surprise! The nanny died while you were at school. Or surprise! Daddy lost custody - you're heading back to New York.

Surprises were disappointments waiting to happen. When it comes to gifts, I've never understood the thrill of opening something without knowing what it is first. You're likely to be disappointed and how do you hide that?

The only good thing about a surprise gift is that it's over in a matter of seconds. With a surprise party, the torture goes on for hours.

Whoever came up with the idea of a surprise party was obviously wanting to punish someone. Who doesn't want to know ahead of time that they're about to walk into a room filled with friends who are all decked out? There you are in your sweat pants while everyone else looks fantastic. How is that fun?

No good can come of a surprise. For instance, I had a boyfriend who used to meet me at the airport. I got used to it and looked forward to it. Of course, it wasn't technically a surprise because I knew he'd be there, but I was still always astonished when I saw him because I couldn't believe he cared enough to have made the effort.

Then it stopped. I got off the plane one day and he wasn't there. He told me he tried, but it wasn't possible. Why wasn't I surprised?

The riskiest surprise has to be a blind date. My best friend, Liza, went on one recently. Her first thought on seeing him? Okay-looking, tall (which is good) but a little dorky, with screwed-up teeth. Or, as she put it, "He didn't make me sick." I wondered at what point did the standards drop so low that not being made sick is a good thing?

He told her the date itself was a surprise. He said to meet on the corner of 79th and Fifth Avenue at 6pm. Then he informed her that they were going for cocktails at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and dinner reservations were at 10pm. Ten? She called me from the toilet.

"I'm not sure I want to spend one hour with him, much less four," she said.

They had drinks, got a cab and headed downtown to a restaurant she never would have chosen in a million years. Too fancy, too many courses. Then back uptown and - surprise! More drinks. By the time they got back to her house it was 2.30am. He could have taken her to Italy.

When I asked her how she finally got out of it, she said she had realised that if she didn't kiss him, it would never have ended. It turned out he was a great kisser. Really great. Surprisingly great.

He still has screwed up teeth, she's still totally annoyed by him, and he doesn't make her laugh - but now she's worried he won't call. Maybe he'll surprise her.