How can I unlearn this toxic lesson when it’s so deeply embedded in our everyday lives?
So my birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks. The other day, my boyfriend Jeff sent me an email from work to let me know that he had made out-of-town hotel and dinner arrangements for my birthday weekend. So nice, right? I'll keep him.
I mean, it was a surprise because I didn’t know he was going to take me out of town for my birthday, and he didn’t ask me first -- he just made the reservations. And then he was kind enough to let me know well in advance so that I have time to make sure Oliver is spending that weekend at his dad’s, and make sure my car is serviced (because I have the more reliable car, so I know we’ll be taking mine instead of his).
This is the kind of surprise I can get behind -- the kind where I have some measure of notice that it is happening.
Because here’s the thing: I love surprises in theory, but not so much in practice. Impromptu vacation? Sure! As long as I know where I’m going and can pack my own bags, thanks. I think two days’ notice is my minimum, just so I have enough time to make sure I have clean underwear for the trip, and little bottles of shampoo or whatever.
Maybe it’s just my inner control freak coming to the surface, but I would not be happy to be whisked away suddenly to some locale, no matter where it is. I never want to arrive someplace and realize that my significant other forgot to pack shoes for me, so I’m stuck wearing Converse sneakers or flip-flops or whatever out to a fancy restaurant. Or worse, that none of the separates packed in my bag actually go with each other.
Also, because in my early 20s, I used to fully wax off my eyebrows and paint them back in. I now have some very sparse brows that require daily filling-in. I doubt Jeff would think to pack my brow pencil and powder, let alone any other makeup that I normally wear.
I mean, I could be in some tropical paradise where hot cabana boys bring me a steady supply of refreshing/boozy/coconut-y concoctions, while I have a foot AND neck massage, and I would still want to draw on my fracking eyebrows, okay? I am just that vain.
I know. It’s not as if I couldn’t just buy a pair of shoes or an eyebrow pencil, if necessary. But again, it’s sort of a control thing. Not being in control of this type of thing causes me great anxiety.
And my anti-surprise thing isn’t exclusive to out-of-town jaunts, either. Like, I don’t know if I’d want to come home after a lousy day, eager to get into a pair of stretchy pants, only to find a house full of people shouting “surprise!” at me.*
I’m the kind of person who thinks in “what ifs” almost constantly. Like, what if I really had to poop or something, only to come home to a surprise party? That wouldn’t be a very fun party, waiting for everyone to clear out so I can do my business (our bathroom is positioned in such a way as to not afford much privacy from the rest of the house). You guys, I realize this is all totally preposterous.
Ugh, I am such a drag sometimes. Hey self, stop being such a downer and just learn to let go and let the people you love surprise you.
This reminds me of the most creative insult ever directed at me, from the girlfriend of a friend of my ex-husband’s. She said Seth and I were “black holes” and told her boyfriend he wasn’t allowed to be friends with us anymore. (Not true by the way. Seth and I are both delightful people and she was a hateful bitch who disliked all of her boyfriend’s friends -- probably because we all knew she was a hateful bitch.)
Anyway. Even though I’m a black hole and a total spontaneity-hating drag, I am not the only one. In fact, according to a study by British Airways, 60% of women hate surprises and spontaneity.
"In a recent survey, 60 per cent of women confessed they hate surprises, with a third admitting they would be annoyed if their partner sprang a holiday on them -- because they would have no time to prepare for it."
See? There are lots of us out there. But I’m willing to bet that some of you would love to be whisked away on a surprise weekend, even if the only garment that has been packed for you is a pair of jean shorts.
So, hypothetical situation: What if your significant other took you on a surprise vacation, but you get there and the only stuff he or she has packed for you is a pair of jeans that is two sizes too small or too big, the T-shirt you wear when you clean the house, and your running shoes? And that one pair of underpants that you hate, the ones that bunch up all weird under your clothes, so you only wear them in laundry emergencies. Does this cause you any sort of anxiety? Or do you just go with it?
*One exception: if anyone wants to nominate me for “What Not to Wear,” I am totally down with a surprise visit from Stacy and Clinton. Because really, who’s gonna turn down $5,000 for a new wardrobe? Not this gal.
Somer is on Twitter, planning her own surprise party, @somersherwood