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OT: Surprise party

futurobrillante99's picture

I need some advice.

I have a sweet friend who turns 60 this coming weekend. Her sometimes a-hole boyfriend (who has shown a very selfish and, sometimes, mean streak) has decided to throw her a surprise party.

My sweet friend is VERY insecure despite being a cute, outdoorsy looking lady. She always calls her self fat, old and wrinkly, but she's dead cute - very attractive. Apparently, this birthday is messing with her head, big time. I can't even take pictures of us out without her approving them before I share them because of her insecurity.

She shares a birthday with DD25, so I remember it clearly. I asked if we could go for a drink on Friday to toast her day. She confided that she's having a REALLY tough time and doesn't want to acknowledge it in ANY WAY.

The boyfriend with the mean streak (background info: friend is separated from her alcoholic husband who lives across the country and BF still lives with his wife although they have an "understanding." He has had women on the side the whole marriage, but has remained discreet for his wife's sake) is not really the kind of person to put a lot of effort into something like this and I have a gut feeling he knows she's struggling and might be planning to get her out of the house without being dolled up and feeling presentable only to surprise her with a party.

My gut tells me to warn her, but that could backfire on me if she wigs out and tells the BF that she found out and he is NOT to throw the party. Alternately, I don't feel right going to this party and being part of something she doesn't want.

And no, I don't think she's faking this and really wants the attention. I think she's 100% sincere that she doesn't even want her birthday mentioned.

What would you?


ProbablyAlreadyInsane's picture

Idk that you can stop the party, BUT, is there any way you could volunteer to get her to the party and take her to get makeup and hair done as kind of a spa day beforehand? Then at least she’ll hopefully be feeling AMAZING when she gets there?

futurobrillante99's picture

We are supposed to go kayaking Friday evening. I asked her to go for a drink afterwards, but now it turns out the BF is going to ask her to go out for a drink. I don't trust him to not walk her into a party with no makeup and wearing kayaking clothes. She will be PISSED.

The only think I could think of doing is telling her Friday when we start kayak that she needs to go home and get spruced up without telling her why.


advice.only2's picture

This is a tough one, I would probably vaguely allude to the possibility of a party and that she might want to take some time to dress up before going out for drinks.

notarelative's picture

Your friend and I have a lot in common. I wouldn't want  a party. I hate having my picture taken. I don't want my picture posted on Facebook and I don't care how cute you think I look in it.

If you definitely knew the date and time of the party I'd want you to tell me. However, if it's I think he might throw a party, I've heard him mention it, but I don't know any details, and I haven't received an invitation, I'd keep quiet. 

ETA.  If I were pretty sure the guy was having a together for her after the kayaking, I might find an excuse to cancel it so that my friend would be appropriately dressed and groomed for the surprise.

futurobrillante99's picture

Judging by the people he has involved (basically, he's enlisted other women in the kayaking community - friends of hers - to pull it off FOR him), it will happen Friday night.

The thing is, I think he's a narcissist like my XH2 and he will do this in a way that makes him look like a great guy and her look unreasonable if she's upset to be dropped into a surprise party unprepared. She'll have to smile to save face but I know she will feel embarrassed and very much hurt.

My XH2 threw me a surprise party, but I knew ahead of time because I used his computer one day and it was open to his email where there was a save the date message open.

I never breathed a word about knowing but I made sure I was prepared. It was a party that I would NOT have wanted as there were too many people and people I did NOT want there.

No one would ever doubt he did it "for me." But that is NOT the kind of party I would have wanted: crowded, noisy, no time to talk to my favorite people. As it happened, I spent most of the time out back by the fire pit as the house felt claustrophobic.

And there was no point in saying a word about it as I would have been branded "ungrateful" and "impossible to please."

My ideal birthday party would have been 6-10 of MY friends doing a murder mystery dinner or going to a nice restaurant.


notarelative's picture

If I were her, I'd want to know. If I knew I'd cancel my kayaking (without telling him as, if he can try to surprise me, I can surprise him) and head off to the hairdresser and change into an outfit I felt wonderful in.

Then after the party I'd reevaluate my relationship with him. I'm not sure being in a relationship where someone disregards my express wishes is a good thong.

futurobrillante99's picture

Welp, if he was a normal guy, he would think she was just being dramatic or playing coy, and convince himself she REALLY wants a party.

But I don't think he's normal. I think he's a narcissist. For instance, her BF is a big kayaking instructor in the area. When they go on trips where he teaches kayaking weekends, she brings her bike, but she sends it with a friend instead of putting it on his car because one time he yanked her bike off the car in a really irritated way and bent something. He has also cheated on her.....but he's a cheater, as we already know.


Livingoutloud's picture

So married guy throws surprise parties for his mistress. Oh of course they have an “understanding” Omg. I think her being so insecure about herself contributes to having a relationship with married cheating a....holes who don’t even bother to separate. She needs therapy big time 

Why is he planning a party on the day when she does outdoor activity? Omg Why oh why women settle for these jerks???

I’d absolutely tell her that he plans a party. Normally I would not. Not in the case with this a$$

futurobrillante99's picture

I think I may let her know as we're wrapping up our kayaking outing that she should go home and get cleaned up. That we aren't going out for drinks and if she's seeing her BF, to make sure she gets spruced up. If she argues, I'm going to look her in the eye and tell her, "Don't ask me why, but trust me that you WANT to go home and get dressed to go out." If she presses me, I will tell her.

BUT, I am still torn. She has confided in me that she's struggling and feel rather certain this is the LAST thing she wants.

Merry's picture

I think I’d lean toward telling her. She’s your friend, you know how she’d react, and I think it would be a kindness to prevent her from being embarrassed. My DH, while seemingly outgoing and the life of a party, is insecure and hates any surprises. I couldn’t let him walk into a situation like that. 

Even better would be to convince her to dump the loser. 

futurobrillante99's picture

Dumping him would likely cause her to be blacklisted from the kayaking weekends our friends participate in. Kayaking is a big part of her life and this guy leads the trips that most of our circle goes on. These people like her better than they like him, but I doubt they'd change to another trip leader to follow her, so she'd be cutting herself off from a big part of her life.

We've all been telling her she can do better, but I get that she's weighed how much it will cost her to end things with him.


susanm's picture

You said that he has enlisted other friends of hers that are in the kayaking community to arrange the party for him.  That would mean they are in control of it.  Not him.  Why not approach them and let them know, without breaking confidences, that she really is "not a birthday person and you know how much she would hate something fancy!"  Chances are that most of them are more outdoorsy casual people than dress and high heels people also.  Why not plan something relaxed in someone's backyard where everyone can show up in shorts and t-shirts, have a burger and a beer and some good conversation, and just chill?  Or better yet, have them set up somewhere along where you will be kayaking?  The two of you can paddle into her party for a lovely surprise afternoon picnic and group kayak.  

He turned it over to her friends.  Her friends can give her a party that fits who she is.

futurobrillante99's picture

All of us adore this lady and all of the others have been with her on trips where they ALL look like drowned rats. They all love her and all of us know she's way cuter than she thinks she is. She is VERY harsh about her looks, which is troubling to all of us.

I could encourage everyone to show up wearing kayaking gear and not dressing up, but she would STILL think she looked like a drowned rat. I don't understand why she judges herself so cruelly - it makes no sense to any of us. That's just how she is.

I'm not in charge of it, but I will talk to one of the women organizing it to let her know how against this our friend will be and have her figure out a way to make it more palatable. But, I know her well enough to know it's imperative that SHE feels like she looks presentable regardless of how anyone else looks.

lieutenant_dad's picture

So, this may not be a popular opinion, but here it is:

It's not yours or her BF's responsibility to make her feel pretty. That's on her, and if she is THAT self-conscious that she hates social gatherings because of her perception of her appearance, then SHE needs to work on herself. She likely stays with the d-bag BF because he is willing to either cheat on his wife with her, or because he makes her feel pretty because he established an understanding with his wife to be with her. 

Telling her about the party Will only cause her anxiety and piss off the BF. Not telling her about the party runs the risk of her still hating it, but at least she won't be dreading it all day. Ultimately, you aren't going to get the party cancelled and you put yourself in the crosshairs of any backlash from BF or friend if you ruin his surprise.

And, it's his surprise, not yours. I was very upset when an ex-friend ruined a surprise party for a mutual friend (another big birthday that he was feeling pretty down about). I put a lot of time into making it a surprise, making sure friend showed up, etc just to have someone else ruin it because they thought he already knew/wanted to forewarn him/did it out of malice against me.

If you don't agree with the party then don't go. But your friend knows the kind of guy she is with, and she's not going to appreciate you ruining his gift (even if she hates it) to "protect her". My guess is that it will end about as well as telling someone that their spouse is cheating on them.

So, feel free to not go so that she has an out if she needs it. However, don't ruin someone else's gift, even if you don't agree with it, just because you think you should. That's not your call.

tog redux's picture

You should always tell a friend their spouse is cheating on them.  I'd be furious if one of my friends knew DH was cheating and didn't tell me.  It's cowardly not to do that. 

OP, tell her about the party.  Surprise parties are very stressful under the best of circumstances (I've had two thrown for me) - and under unhappy circumstances, it could be devastating for her.  

futurobrillante99's picture

She's not going to appreciate me "ruining his gift"? I know her well enough that she won't appreciate that a bunch of her friends conspired on this party that she does NOT want. She has confided that she does NOT want to celebrate this birthday. I am sure BF knows this. I am certain she cares more about her wishes being honored than HIS feelings. I honestly think it would be a huge blow to her if none of us cared enough to make sure she had a heads up.

And, honestly, I am so uncomfortable with the idea of this, I will likely bow out.


tog redux's picture

Yes, that's where I fall. I'd be furious if I told my friends I didn't want my birthday celebrated and they all said NOTHING about a surprise party they knew was planned. 

At the very least, she will still have dinner at a nice restaurant with all of her friends, but be prepared for it. That's not "ruining" someone's gift.  

Aniki's picture

Reading what you wrote about your friend and her insecurities and her BF and his craptasticness... I get the feeling he has a dual reason for throwing her a surprise party.... 1) to make himself look good, and 2) to NOT give her time to do herself up for the soul reason that she will NOT be prepared and NOT look her best and he can, at some point, use that 110% to HIS advantage. 

I recently attended a (I predicted it) disaterous surprise 60th birthday party. The birthday "boy" sat in his favorite chair the entire time with ZERO expression on his face and said very little. He is an over-the-road trucker, is only home Sat-Sun and was EXHAUSTED. Saturday is his day to recouperate from the week. It was terribly awkward and I felt bad for him.

IMO, surprise parties are for kids. I do not know a single adult who thinks they are fun and wants one (everyone I queried gave a resounding, "NO!!!"). Someone either needs to let it slip to your friend OR make sure she is coiffed and dressed appropriately, using whatever means necessary to "somewhat" prepare her for a night out.

futurobrillante99's picture

I couldn't agree more, Aniki!! From the things she's told me, he's a LOT like XH2. I smell shenanigans and I don't like it one bit.

I just found out that the party is going to be at the nicest restaurant in town. It's not 5 star by any stretch, but you'd wear your Sunday best. She is going to be MORTIFIED if he takes her there in her post-kayaking crummy clothes. I guess I could show up in my cruddy kayaking clothes if we do end up kayaking together. I don't know what to do.

But I think this guy is a sh@t and trying to embarrass her.

Livingoutloud's picture

So she should stay with am a$$hole so she could kayak. It makes zero sense. Ton of people do ton of activities but aren’t in a bad relationship. There is no reason to stay with jerks. You yourself stayed with an a$$ too long for number of reasons (like once it was some kind of marathons etc) but now when you are dating a nice man with nice social life  you see that there is really no reason to be with jerks. She’ll find another kayaking group. I understand it’s not your job to make her leave him but I’d encourage her to dump him. Especially since he is someone else’s DH. Yikes 

PS of course he cheated on her. He cheats on his wife with her so that’s what she signed up for. What a mess. Looking unkempt at surprise party is the least of her issues. After thinking some more I think I’d not interfere in whatever party plans these people have.  

futurobrillante99's picture

Living, we can't make decisions for other people and ALL OF US have told her relentlessly that she can do MUCH better.

There isn't really another kayaking group, at the moment. And ALL of her friends take trips with him. Yes, there are places to go in other cities for instruction, but in our area, in our circle, he's the top dog. And, she is sure he'd be spiteful and it might make it awkward for her to go elsewhere. She fears being "blacklisted."

Well, she's married as well. Her husband suffers from alcoholism and a mental health issue. She doesn't want to divorce him because she is afraid he'll feel abandoned and it will cause him to spiral downward. Howevever, they are separated by an entire country (though, not legally separated). You can say she is as bad as he is, except the BF is a serial philanderer.

It's not my job to manage her relationships. On some level, this one works for her.

Thanks for your input. Really. But I'm only asking what to do about the surprise party since I know her relationship is none of my business.

Livingoutloud's picture

I think still living together with your spouse is different than your spouse living far away which is obviously mutually agreed upon. But I see what you saying. I guess I misinterpreted what you were saying. It sounded to me that you think she should stay with a guy in the name of kayaking as kayaking trumps everything else in life. Lol 

I’d say then if their relationship is their business, then so are the ways to celebrate birthdays. If she really is against parties it’s her job to tell him. If she wants to be with this man no matter what,  then everything else including unwanted parties is part of being with this man. If it works for her, maybe surprise party will work for her too.  

Livingoutloud's picture

To answer why she judges herself: because she has low self esteem. Otherwise she’d never go from alcoholic husband  to a cheater boyfriend. Her poor choice of men coincides with her lack of beliefs in her own value. 

Letti.R's picture

Best birthday present you can give your friend is to tell her to find some dignity and dump this A-class loser.
Why does she put up with him when it is clear he enjoys tearing her down or embarrasing her?
This "we are married but to other people" (and he cheats) is soul destroying - but her choice.

You obviously value your friend: please tell her what he is planning.
She can decide to spruce herself up or not go near the party venue.
Leaving her to walk into a party - she doesn't want - unprepared, is not something a friend would do.

If BF is pissed at you for telling her, let him be, because he doesn't sound worth your friendship (at her expense).
If she is pissed at you for telling, let her be, because it is another example of her poor choices.

As to be held to ransom by the whims and banning orders of the King of Kayaking, LOLOLOLOL!!
Find a different group or start your own: you state  people know he is a lowlife, you can't be the only person / people who want to be rid of him.
Not unless his type is tolerated for expediency - makes me think birds of a feather....

Livingoutloud's picture

I totally agree. People put up with this jerk and his bad treatment of women because he knows how to kayak. Please. Kayaking is very popular everywhere I’ve been in the states. It’s not something so exotic that one can never find again. People put up with this low class because he’d ban them from kayaking. Yeah ok now.

Makes me wonder about the whole group. Are these mostly women? Putting this a$$ on a pedestal and watching him treating other women bad. And now they are the ones getting a party ready for her. Party she doesn’t even want. Why? Thoughful women wouldn’t plan a party for other woman after kayaking, they’d know she’d not look good and be unprepared. So why are they agreeing to prepare a party, makes me wonder if these women want to embarrass her?

There is more to life than kayaking. What about integrity. The whole thing is mind boggling 

futurobrillante99's picture

It’s more than just kayaking. He’s an instructor that can certify his students at every level of kayaking. Yes, there are certifications: L1-L5. And he can also certify other instructors.

It might sound trivial but it’s actually a big deal. 

Hes not put on a throne but if you burn a bridge with him, you’ll have to travel pretty far for the same kind of training. 

I hope to take some of his training next year. He’s not after all the females but has had relationships outside of his marriage.

Most if the women are NICE women and they don’t know our friend is struggling with turning 60. She confided it to me recently. 

Her relationship is her business but I have been invited to the party so the party is my business because my dear friend could end up very embarrassed.

Livingoutloud's picture

In my books sucking up to someone because he can certify me in something just isn’t right thing to do. He can certify me to be queen of kayaking planet and I’d not choose to be loyal to him. A jerk is a jerk.

If she is truly a dear friend, not just kayaking partner  then why are you even asking who you should honor, your loyalty should be to her. Not him, especially if he isn’t even the one preparing a party.

Too much drama for my taste. I am also involved in a very serious hobby, which is actually semi professional thing for me and it means the world to me, certainly not trivial. But nothing is worth such drama plus jeopardizing my morals and integrity. If you have talents and ambition, you’ll thrive without relying on a$$holes to lead the way. You are choosing an a$$hole again, not romantically this time but still same premise, you submit to a jerk. But of course you can do things your way. Good luck 

I am bowing out. 

futurobrillante99's picture

You really don't know crap about me. I'm not choosing him over anything. A lot of MY friends are involved in this and I know how narcissists operate. If I spoil "his surprise" a lot of people will be upset with me.

At the end of the day, my loyalty to her trumps all. I've already decided that I'm happy to not take kayaking classes if this guy is going to be THAT upset about it. I'm not like her and I'm not going to cow tow to this jerk to stay in his good graces.

I just have to choose the right time.


notsurehowtodeal's picture

I am very much like your friend and I would want to know about the party. I would be upset if one of my friends knew about it and didn't tell me. It is clear he is doing this to make himself feel good and to make her feel bad. For her sake, tell her about the party.