AdviceHey, Bonita!

Surprise Parties and Small-Town Lovin’


One of my BFFs is turning 40 next month, and her husband contacted me about a surprise birthday party for her where they live now. Thing is, I hate surprise parties, and I’m pretty sure she does too. I expressed this concern to her husband, and his reply was, “She’ll just be happy to see all her friends.”

There’s some background I won’t get into about why him keeping any secrets from her is just a plain ol’ BAD IDEA, but aside from that, I’m not comfortable being part of a scenario that involves potentially lying to one of my dearest friends. My family threw me a surprise party when I finished grad school, and it was traumatizing. I hated it. This friend was there for that, and I distinctly recall talking about it afterward and her saying she would also be horrified if such a thing happened to her. Granted, that was 10 years ago, but…

I don’t want to miss her party or reuniting with our old crew for a weekend, but I don’t see how I can do it without hating myself. Ideas?

No Surprises Here

No Surprises,

I’m one of those incredibly festive types in the “no one hates surprise parties!” camp, but I wouldn’t dare foist that perspective on you or your BFF. Some people have anxiety around large groups of people, friendly or not. Even worse, the party planner could invite someone to this shindig that your friend absolutely does not want to see.

It’s funny because it’s true: Friends typically know people much better than their partners or spouses (up to a certain point, I suppose). You know that your friend is not going to be into this, and I trust your judgment on that. Hubby is too wrapped up in the joy of throwing your BFF a party to even consider that she might be negatively affected by it. Planning a surprise party seems like an altruistic act to most of us, but I think your friend’s husband is being quite selfish. This could play out horribly, and he’s choosing to ignore that fact.

At the end of the day, though, your friend has never had a surprise party, and she was speaking to you in support all those years ago, so who knows—she might have said she’d hate a party like that just to help you feel better. She might love it. I say that you should definitely go to the party. No one knows how she’ll react, but you should definitely be there for your friend in case shit goes left and she needs some support.

Not a specific situation, just curious about your opinion on the subject in general: Given the small pond we fish in here in Athens, what’s your take on dating and/or hooking up with a friend’s former significant other and/or friend-with-benefits? Is there a best way?

I really do try to avoid crossing streams with my friends, but in a town this small it’s pretty much impossible. I used to be pretty hard-line about it, but I also spent my first two years in this town getting no action at all. I also used to FLIP THE HELL OUT when friends of mine got involved with my crushes. Then I noticed all of the incredibly chill partner-swapping happening around me, and I realized I was being self-righteous and silly.

I moved here from a really big city—one of the largest on the East Coast—where I didn’t fool around with any of my buddies’ exes while still managing to slam ass all over town. I tried to keep to that principle in Athens until the loneliness got to me, and I broke down. I really do try to go for new people without dating histories within my circle of friends (maybe I’m tired of the same old faces), but sometimes it happens.

Honestly, I believe the best practice for dating your friends’ exes is to avoid their most recent paramours or anyone over whom they are experiencing emotional turmoil. That includes hook-ups and FWBs. If you wanna cause real drama in a friendship, bang the person your friend is still in love with.

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