Guilt Trips are the Key to a Lasting Marriage
And now fine readers we begin the coup-de-grace of this rambling opus. To the virtuous, I ask your forgiveness in advance, for what you are about to read is both shocking and lewd. This type of subject matter I typically refrain from sharing in my letters which, by and large, are meant to be suitable for the broadest possible audience. Perhaps this self-censorship erroneously portrays me in an angelic light? A wholesome soul with nary a nasty or taboo thought crossing my mind, let alone my keyboard. Today, I shatter some of that façade; remove the fig leave from the David of my true nature. I will share with you a tale both bizarre and unsettling yet darkly humorous that will leave you thinking it could only happen to me.
This February 1st just passed was my lovely wife’s [whisper] fortieth birthday. March 1st two years prior was my [whisper] fortieth birthday. You may or may not recall [I do] that there was no party to celebrate my passage into pre-elderhood. Thus, it should come as no surprise that I set about unleashing the mother of all guilt trips on my beloved by hosting a great big surprise fortieth birthday party for her. A daunting task, certainly, but not beyond my abilities considering I was focused on a goal [guilt trip] and had ample spare time [no job]. Besides, it seemed like many organizational spreadsheets would be needed and that won me over.
I decided to host a three part party involving skating and tobogganing at the lake followed by cake/dinner/drinks at the house and finishing with an evening of billiards at a local pool hall; a little something for the kids, a little something for everyone, and a little something for the adults. I surmised that my biggest challenge would be keeping this party a secret since I was inviting most of Steph’s coworkers and they would have eight hours every workday for two months to blow it. Also, the kids were thrilled with the idea of a birthday party and that kind of excitement often leads to accidental leaks of information. They also tend to think that keeping a secret involves telling the person from which the secret is being kept that they have a secret they can’t tell them. While technically they haven’t told the person the secret they’ve nonetheless set off alarm bells like an air raid is imminent.
The first minor snag to my plan became evident as RSVPs started returning. It quickly became obvious that the billiards outing would not happen. I anticipated this could pose a problem considering I had an afternoon of kid-friendly events scheduled so most of our guests would be coming with children. Let’s face it, 40 year old parents are quite lame, myself included. Early nights are not only the norm, they’re needed. And the fear of revealing our true nature to impressionable offspring once the alcohol starts flowing is a strong motivator. So, with minimal regret, I took the billiards outing off the party menu and focused on having a great little house party after a couple hours of outdoor fun at the lake.
A Party Needs a Theme.
Things were coming together but I still found myself in need of a theme. I’m happy as a clam to have a birthday party for aging milestones [ha, you probably thought I meant to say aging millstones] but I’m not so much a fan of embarrassing the crap out of people for it. Furthermore, with other people’s kids present the risqué factor must be kept to a minimum or at least covertly disguised. For example, there were a surprising number of birthday cake ideas I found on the internet that just wouldn’t be appropriate for children. Adults, it seems, are quite fond of pornographic birthday cakes when they hit middle age. A frosted reminder of what you no longer look like and can no longer “get”. Party time was fast approaching and I had to make a cake decision soon when a non-cake idea struck me like a dragonfly on a windshield and would provide me with the perfect theme; I should get a singing telegram impersonator to show up at the house party! Okay a little embarrassment is allowed.
A quick, desperate search of the internet led me to several such service providers one of whom performed for me, actually, as a surprise farewell from a previous job a few years back. I contacted this fellow first but he was already booked up. He did, however, put me in touch with a recommended talent agent who would hopefully be able to help me out despite the short notice. This talent agent had a wonderful little form to fill out asking a bunch of questions about the telegram target to help the performer tailor his/her routine. This was a tremendous help for me since it triggered a second eureka moment. The questionnaire asked what is the target’s favourite movie and movie star. BINGO! My wife is a huge James Bond fan and loves Sean Connery. I could have the telegram dude show up as a Connery vintage James Bond. Not only that, but I could get a James Bond cake and put up some gag James Bond decorations. Perfect! My party had a theme! I was now on a roll and everything was coming up sevens … double oh sevens.
On the Monday preceding the party, the hired entertainer contacted me directly to get more details and figure out a plan for Saturday night. As we conversed I started to get a little lot worried. For a professional actor, which he reminded me of several times as a means to assure me that this would be good, he had the imagination of a clump of dirt. First, he thought it would be great if he came in as “James Bond” and put a gun [fake….I hope] to my wife’s head. I haven’t the foggiest clue how that is “James Bond”, never mind child friendly. And besides, everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, knows that James Bond’s gig with the ladies involves a much different weapon in a much different location. I politely suggested that this might not be the best idea. His well of ideas had run dry and my imagination, though typically vivid, is not exactly quick to respond so we agreed that I’d think about it for awhile and if/when I had a good alternative I could email it to him.
The Things You Can Learn About Someone Using the Internet
Unfortunately, I forgot to get his email address, a fact I realized once I’d thought of a wonderful little Octopussy gag that would be fun and child friendly but also racy enough that the adults would get a chuckle. I had his phone number in caller ID so I thought I could text my idea to him if that number was indeed a cell phone number. Being the nervous-nelly that I am, I decided to do a quick search of his phone number on the internet to see if it was indeed a cell number, not a land line. This, folks, is when it got weird. FAST!
The Google search of his phone number, which was indeed a cell, turned up a half dozen links to some local, alternative lifestyle advertising websites. That was unexpected. I clicked a link [now number one on my “wish I could do life over again” list] and was directed to something I can never unsee. It was an advertisement for a, brace yourself, transgendered prostitute replete with several pictures of the fellow wearing a silky blouse, nylons, tawdry cosmetics painting his face and his very non-James Bondian arse thrust straight out at the camera. This was the person I’d just hired to entertain my wife on her fortieth birthday in the presence of my children, my in-laws, my friends, my wife’s coworkers, and their children. Accompanying the pictures was a request for one hundred red roses and straight men interested in, brace yourself, exploring ass pussy a juxtaposition of the slang for a donkey and a cat.
I quickly checked the other links to determine if this was a fluke; it wasn’t. I suddenly found myself in a rather tricky predicament. What do I do? I like to think I’m fairly open-minded and I genuinely don’t much care what people do in the privacy of their own home. I’m no bible-thumping homophobe. Yet this left me perplexed and, frankly, concerned. This was a side profession I most definitely didn’t expect from a reputable talent agency hire. After a sleepless night I decided to contact the talent agency and at least find out if they have some references for this fellow, show them what I found and tell them it has me a bit concerned, and finally ask if they’ve used him often. A little investigation seemed warranted. Besides, all weirdness aside, this guy didn’t look any more like James Bond than I look like Jaws.
The talent agency responded promptly and was more than shocked by my discovery. Not only did they extend their sincerest apology and offer to find me another entertainer, they fired the guy. Wonderful! The guilt trip I was so deviously cultivating for my wife was now squarely on me. Karma, you dastardly wench! Not only did I feel like a jerk for getting this guy fired, but now I ran the risk of having a livid transvestite hell-bent on revenge crashing my party. That would make for a memorable birthday, grant you. Unfortunately, no other entertainer capable of doing James Bond could be found on such short notice. Apparently reasonably handsome men in a tuxedo are hard to find. Hell, I probably could have pulled it off myself. Crap! I could have pulled it off myself!
Not sure if I dodged a bullet or not but it felt that way. And at least the surprise was still intact as far as I knew. I also had arranged a few other secrets to wow my wife. My in-laws were coming to the party from Ontario as a surprise for both my wife and kids and nobody but I knew that was happening. Yet more evidence of my cunning genius. Not only was I going to wow my wife with this party but I would do so in full view of her parents as well. Talk about win. And talk about another reason that the singing telegram could have been a disaster. As far as I could tell, my wife was unaware that anything was up or was being a good sport about not letting on that she knew. Everything seemed to be falling into place. I was anxious, but pleased, with fingers crossed that the last couple days would play out as planned and we’d throw such a great surprise party that my wife would have no choice but to reward me with pleasures even James Bond could only dream of.
Even Best Intentions Can Mess Up A Good Thing
Then work happened. My wife is employed at a wonderful place; wonderful if you like easy work and ungodly pay. The company has a core philosophy of work-life balance that strikes me as significantly tilted towards life. They go to great lengths to make work fun. This involves an array of company sanctioned social events the likes of which would have steam shooting out of your ears each time you filled up your gas tank. On a smaller scale, it also involves coworkers celebrating team member’s birthdays with surprise birthday cakes and well wishes. Therefore, on the Thursday afternoon before her 40th birthday, a mere two days before my big bash, my wife received a cake from her coworkers at the weekly team meeting.
Ah, but this time, this time, that was not all. In a moment of exceptional generosity, my wife’s boss told her to stay home Friday. It was a special gift for someone reaching an age milestone. Even I didn’t anticipate that and I’ve grown accustomed to out of the blue perks at this company. When my wife arrived home that evening and discovered her parents were here, why a Friday off seemed an even more wonderful gift. Except that I had planned to cook food for 40 guests and to finish making party decorations all day Friday. The inlaws were here to entertain the kids giving me an entire day of freedom to cook and finish prep work for a terrific party. That, of course, could not happen if my wife was at the house all day and I couldn’t think of any sensible excuse to suggest she go to work instead. Had only I been around she very well might have volunteered to go in to work but her parents were in visiting. This, THIS, this was impossible to avert.
And so it was, after months of brainstorming exhaustion, covert preparation, sleepless nights, eureka moments and shocking twists, the day before the momentous guilt-trip-inducing surprise party, I was forced to tell my wife about the surprise birthday party we were having for her. All thanks to a boss who ruined everything with kindness. A fitting end if there ever was.