Last Laugh

The younger man helps Lisa dis­cover that the un­ex­pected can some­times be a very good thing in­deed

NEXT (New Zealand) - - At A Glance - by Lisa Scott

N‘No sur­prises’ has al­ways been a rule of mine, that and ‘Please do not in­tro­duce facts into the con­ver­sa­tion’. Long have I loathed Can­did Cam­era-style prank­ing (my pelvic floor can’t take a fright); ‘popins’ (when peo­ple come to your house with­out call­ing first and catch you be­ing hu­man); find­ing out your dad is a for­mer Mor­ris-danc­ing cham­pion (I won­dered what those bells were for); and worst of all, sur­prise par­ties. “Never throw me a sur­prise party,” I said to ev­ery boyfriend ever, ex­cept I must have for­got­ten to tell the younger man. Too busy de­flect­ing his con­stant ad­vances, or some­thing.

I hate be­ing the cen­tre of at­ten­tion. No re­ally. I’m a writer, we pre­fer to lurk, lis­ten­ing to your con­ver­sa­tions and jot­ting the best bits down on a servi­ette.

There were savouries and tomato sauce,

and I loved it all so much I cried

Be­ing taken un­awares does not suit me and I have the pho­tos to prove it (look­ing like I just pooped a Lego Death­star). I need to com­pose my­self, know the an­gles, the ex­its. But some­thing hap­pened re­cently that turned my pre­con­cep­tions on their head, leav­ing me sur­prised and de­lighted in­stead of tipped over on the grass stiff-legged like one of those goats that faint when you clap your hands. More on that later.

Be­fore you think me a neg­a­tive Nelly, may I point out that sur­prise par­ties can be per­ilous, and some­times have un­in­tended con­se­quences. A friend of mine threw a lav­ish sur­prise party for her hus­band, who ab­so­lutely loved it but for months af­ter­wards was very sus­pi­cious, con­stantly ask­ing her where she was go­ing and who she was call­ing – to­tally un­nerved by the fact his wife had pulled off some­thing so mas­sive with­out him even know­ing.

A girl­friend of mine had a panic attack at her own sur­prise party when peo­ple leaped out from be­hind the fur­ni­ture, go­ing into full ‘bur­glars with knives’ mode. It took 15 min­utes of breath­ing into a pa­per bag for her to stop freak­ing out. Call me old-fash­ioned, but cry­ing hys­ter­i­cally isn’t my idea of a good time.

Sur­prises suck be­cause they take the con­sent out of things. You can’t say no, or back out of the room; peo­ple will no­tice. And some of us au­to­mat­i­cally as­sume a sur­prise will be bad, like the sur­prise you get when you’re be­ing evicted, or when your par­ents call a fam­ily meet­ing to tell you Barkly McBark has died. Dogs hate sur­prises too, by the way. And dogs hate hardly anything.

So, back to faint­ing hap­pened was, I was a fi­nal­ist for a big award but be­cause I’m a writer (lurk­ing doesn’t pay, un­less you’re a pri­vate de­tec­tive), I couldn’t af­ford the plane ticket. Know­ing I was bummed, the younger man – in-be­tween sharp­en­ing his ice axes and eat­ing potato chip sand­wiches while watch­ing moun­taineer­ing movies with porn-y names: Deeper, Higher, Longer – se­cretly or­gan­ised my very own awards night party as a sur­prise. Telling me to dress up, he took me out for wedges at the Gal­ley in Oa­maru. Drink­ing cham­pagne by the fire in what is also the pok­ies room, it was cer­tainly a bit of a treat and I felt quite flash, es­pe­cially be­cause the younger man wears shorts ev­ery day and for once he wasn’t.

“You make me want to be a bet­ter per­son,” he said. “You make me want to wear pants.”

Ar­riv­ing back at his house I opened the front door to find the hall­way fes­tooned with stream­ers and bal­loons. Small chil­dren be­long­ing to new friends burst out from be­hind the fur­ni­ture yelling “Sur­prise!!!” Pop­pers popped and so did bal­loons (briefly scar­ing one of the smaller ki­dlets), there were savouries and tomato sauce, and I loved it all so much I cried.

Long story short, I didn’t win. The younger man pre­sented me with a bou­quet, a glass of bub­bles and a home­made cer­tifi­cate which read: ‘You was feck­ing robbed.’ But I wasn’t. I felt, in that mo­ment, the luck­i­est, most-blessed wo­man alive. Who knew not-win­ning could be al­most bet­ter than win­ning? It is though, if you’re happy and loved and sur­rounded by kind­ness. And af­ter a year of ‘in­ter­est­ing times’ in the fullest sense of the Chi­nese curse, that was the best sur­prise of all.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.