I know about my upcoming surprise birthday party - how should I handle this?
June 10, 2009 11:11 PM   Subscribe

I know about my upcoming surprise birthday party - how should I handle this?

My girlfriend left her laptop open to a gmail message sent out to people. I was just walking by and casually glanced at the screen and saw my name. I immediately turned away after realizing what was going on, but the damage has been done.

Of course I'm appreciative, but I feel stuck knowing the secret, especially because no one knows they slipped up and can at least talk to me about it.

From a conversation that happened later in the day, it seems like it'll actually happen on my birthday. I was hoping to at least be surprised by the day or time but it seems like I'll know when and where now.

Some details: 27th birthday, about 2.5 weeks away. Doesn't seem like it'd be a huge group (maybe 10 max).

I think my options are one of these three:

1.) Come right out and say that I know, before any web of (white) lies gets spun and just say that I'm appreciate and would like to be in on planing the party.
2.) Go along with it and feign surprise (not sure how well I could do this, but I understand why this would need to be done).
3.) Partially go along with it but try to somehow move the date or circumstances so it's at least partially a surprise to me.

I guess I feel like I'd want to know if the surprisee were in on it if I were the surpriser, and I feel burdened by this secret. On the other hand, I know this is obviously something my girlfriend wanted to do for me.

Any thoughts? Posting anonymously in case the secret needs to die with me.
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (31 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm all for pretending you don't know. If it comes up later and she asks/wonders if you knew about it, you can say "yes but it was still a wonderful idea, thanks so much!" etc.
posted by Happydaz at 11:15 PM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Please pretend you don't know. She's trying to do something nice for you - don't spoil it. Also - don't worry about "feigning surprise"... it'll be natural to laugh and smile, right? No one's expecting you to scream or faint or anything, especially since you *expect* nice things to happen on your birthday.
posted by moxiedoll at 11:21 PM on June 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

Pretend you don't know. Instead of feigning surprise when it happens, smile widely, express "wow, guys, thank you so much, this is fabulous!" type of sentiments and generally look absolutely delighted. Hopefully they'll all be satisfied enough with your response and your happiness at their thoughtfulness that they won't ask or even wonder whether you knew.

If anyone does ask, you can always say something like "Yeah, I did have an inkling something was going on, but I had no idea there would be so many of you/that my old friend Jill would be there/that you were getting me this wonderful cake/you were going to so much trouble".
posted by andraste at 11:29 PM on June 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

Q: "how should I handle this?"

A: Gracefully.

If you're super-clever, and you think your girlfriend or the party-goers would be OK with it, figure out some way to get the jump on them. (e.g., if you know the guest list, bring a little present for each person, or invite other people that weren't on the list and have them show up for the surprise, acting confused).
posted by Jon_Evil at 11:35 PM on June 10, 2009 [5 favorites]

Don't overthink it, just go with the flow and have fun. Chances are this "foreshadowing" will make you have a better, more enjoyable reaction than if you were completely in the dark. At least you won't get caught needing to wash your hair or change socks!
posted by aquafortis at 11:36 PM on June 10, 2009

I'd play it up. Rig yourself so that you pull a string and blood comes spouting out everywhere as you wriggle and writhe in surprise. Either that, or see how badly you can mess up and complicate The Ruse they use for you while still making it to the party. Have you ever seen the movie, "After Hours?"
posted by rhizome at 11:37 PM on June 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

Umm...act surprised. Play along. It's all the more fun for knowning. Surprise parties often go horribly wrong because it's hard to predict the willingness of an unwitting subject. It's actually pretty stressful for conspirators. Yours won't be because you'll be a willing participant. Chide the complicitors with sudden needs to go to the other side of town at the last minute then allow your self to be talked out of it. Have fun with it.
posted by Muirwylde at 11:45 PM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

If I were planning a surprise party, I might very well try to plant false clues about the event for the surprisee. People planning surprises tend to be very careful. Leaving a laptop open seems too textbook to be unintentional. So don't assume you know what your girlfriend is up to. There may yet be a very unexpected surprise in store for you! And if not, definitely just go along with it. Don't try to "get the drop" on the folks doing this for you.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 12:02 AM on June 11, 2009

With a forget-me-shot, obviously. Just make sure there's a moon bounce at the party.
posted by knowles at 12:05 AM on June 11, 2009

Um, act surprised. Also, your girlfriend may be cleverer than you give her credit for, so you may well be surprised.

There. Now no matter what happens, you will be surprised, which is the point. Problem solved. Happy birthday!
posted by trip and a half at 12:08 AM on June 11, 2009

In fact, you could enlist one or two of your friends and come up with a Counter-Ruse. It could be truly epic. Have you seen the movie, "After Hours?"
posted by rhizome at 12:40 AM on June 11, 2009

Is there any chance you could tell one trusted friend to subtly get your girlfriend to change the date? If so, it'd still be a surprise... but then, you'd still know it was coming, and your girlfriend would know that you knew.

I say just not let on that you're in on it. Go along. Don't 'fake' anything, just be happy that your friends are all giving you a party!
posted by twirlypen at 3:21 AM on June 11, 2009

Nthing feign surprise and adding: count yourself lucky you have friends cool enough to throw you a surprise party.

As for not being sure if you could feign surprise: seriously? Is someone going to call you on this? HE WASN'T SURPRISED HE MUST HAVE KNOWN OMG IT WAS ALL FOR NAUGHT
posted by ostranenie at 3:35 AM on June 11, 2009

Surprise parties are pretty hard to pull off in the first place, with all the coordination required and the number of mouths that have to stay shut, so it's not going to be a big deal that you found out. However, a surprise party should be just as much fun for the ones throwing it as for the person being surprised. Don't spoil it. Act surprised. And if they ask, later, it's okay to say you knew all along.

But when your girlfriend's birthday comes along, show her how it's really done. :)

Happy birthday, you lucky devil.
posted by sambosambo at 3:56 AM on June 11, 2009

Instead of feigning surprise when it happens, smile widely, express "wow, guys, thank you so much, this is fabulous!" type of sentiments and generally look absolutely delighted.

Yes. You don't have to act surprised, you can be grateful. Just go along with any silliness that may come up in the next couple of weeks and at the big moment, reflect on all the trouble these people went to for you and let that be your reaction.
posted by wallaby at 5:01 AM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Act surprised. Trying to get the party rescheduled would be a huge inconvenience to everyone who's planning and attending, and telling people you know about it would ruin the surprise for everyone. Chances are that when you walk into a room and a group of your friends should "Happy Birthday!" or "Surprise!" or whatever, you'll still be pleased and slightly surprised, so it shouldn't be too hard to look the part. Should anyone ask why you didn't seem more surprised, you can just say you thought something might be up when [you and your girlfriend went to such-and-such place at a time/date you don't usually go there]/[someone asked you if you had any plans for a specific time/date]/etc.
Speaking as someone who found out ahead of time about her surprise wedding shower by reading an e-mail she shouldn't have read...
posted by LolaGeek at 5:05 AM on June 11, 2009

Oh that would be - when you walk into a room and a group of your friends shout "Happy Birthday!" or "Surprise!" ...
posted by LolaGeek at 5:06 AM on June 11, 2009

Go along with it and feign surprise (not sure how well I could do this, but I understand why this would need to be done).

This is the absolute certain and correct Miss Manners-approved way to handle this situation. All other suggestions, however cute, are not correct. :)

Whether you pull it off or not is irrelevant, too. That's not the point of manners. Nobody really believes you didn't smell that horrible fart in the elevator, either, but the only correct response is to ignore it and act like you don't notice, right?
posted by rokusan at 5:53 AM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

You could be really sneaky and plan counter-surprises that you unleash on the unsuspecting guests. Like a magician or a professional cocktail maker or a mobile petting zoo or any other party fare. You could even play along and praise everyone for the counter-surprises ("I can't believe you paid for all this!") while they get a little uncomfortable and uneasy. It'd be an awesome story!
posted by cowbellemoo at 6:55 AM on June 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

Oh, god, please don't get clever. As the kind of person who would plan a surprise party, let me just say how stressful I think that would be. And you want your girlfriend to feel good about doing this really nice thing for you, right? So do your best to forget what you know, and when party time comes, smile and go "wow!" and be appreciative. You don't have to play it up with "OMG I am soooo surprised!" or anything like that, and if someone asks you directly you can say "well, I had an inkling something was up," but just play along as best you can. It's the gracious thing to do.
posted by marginaliana at 8:03 AM on June 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

Yeah, you need to fake it. It ruins the fun if you don't, sorry.

Note: the last surprise party I got invited to was for my uncle, who figured it out weeks in advance as you did. When they arrived at the house, he took a long, sweet time making noise with the knob before he came in...
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:11 AM on June 11, 2009

Pretend you don't know, and when you see everyone jump out at you to surprise you, shout, "HOLY CRAP! IT'S EVERYBODY!" It's unlikely that anyone's going to flat-out ask you, "Was this a surprise?" They just want to dig on some cake now that you're there.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:44 AM on June 11, 2009

Arrange a stripper (or few) to arrive one hour into the affair. Then REALLY act surprised!
posted by spoons at 9:08 AM on June 11, 2009

Act super surprised, then enjoy your cool party.
posted by shino-boy at 9:46 AM on June 11, 2009


Carry around a birthday hat and a noisemaker so when they yell "Surpise!" you can pull them out and join in instantly. Alternate answer: show up drunk enough that you actually are surprised.
posted by chairface at 10:36 AM on June 11, 2009

Maybe she left the message open for you to see on purpose. You could counter by opening up this thread on her laptop and leaving it up for her to see on purpose. This could then escalate over the next few weeks and end in a wonderful surprise!
posted by judith at 10:50 AM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Act surprised, duh.

Even if you didn't know anything, your girlfriend will probably be acting so weird the day of the party making sure everything is in line to get you to the right place at the right time that you will have figured something is up before the actual party eventually.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:20 AM on June 11, 2009

My husband guessed what I got him for his birthday last year about three days in advance and then had the nerve to come right out and ask me. Now, he claims he didn't know, he just asked spur of the moment, but either way it sucked. I had been planning and saving for months and it was ruined because he surprised me and it was obvious what the answer was. Well, the surprise part was ruined, not the gift I guess. I really wish he hadn't said anything and just went along with it.
posted by Kimberly at 11:30 AM on June 11, 2009

Act surprised and enjoy your party. The surprise part isn't actually about the surprise anyway, it's about your GF doing something nice for you without you asking or being in on any of the planning. Let her do that and then, again, just enjoy your party.
posted by Sophie1 at 3:30 PM on June 11, 2009

Don't do what my mom did for her "surprise" 50th birthday party. She dragged my poor brother(who was supposed to be bringing her to the party) all around town for hours. She knew we were all at the house waiting for her, but she thought she was being so clever. People had to leave before she got there because she was three hours late, but she had a great laugh at our plans going to crap. I'm not bitter or anything though.

I'd keep it to myself and let the crowd enjoy giving you birthday congrats.
posted by Jazz Hands at 4:42 PM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think its possible that this was left on purpose for you to see, and the real surprise is on a different day, or a totally different surprise. Don't believe everything you read :)
posted by Admira at 8:59 PM on June 11, 2009

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