Surprises are hostile things. They come loaded with expectation and they rarely elicit the reaction that’s expected from them. From me.
They’re actually just rude, really, if you think about it.
I’m not completely adverse to liking surprises, don’t get me wrong. I don’t go out of my way to not like them. In fact, I’ve enjoyed several gifts throughout my life that were complete surprises. I remember getting Mouse Trap when I was 7 years old as a surprise and it’s still one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten. I’d seen the ads for it, longing after the satisfaction of setting up the simple Rube Goldberg machine and watching it unfold. I didn’t even ask for it, even though I desperately wanted it. It was awesome. I like Kinder Surprise, too. I even sometimes enjoy running into an old friend I haven’t seen in an age randomly on the streets of Dublin and deciding to go for a quick coffee or a pint to catch up. What I don’t enjoy are the ones that put me on the back foot, scrambling to react the way that’s expected of me. That’s where me and surprises start to fall out.
Look, I’m a very organised person, okay? I make lists. I clean methodically. I put washing onto the clothes horse in a regimented way. I have a system. I make plans. And I’d much rather everything stay as I planned, thanks.
I don’t like things to change. It makes me anxious and I panic, and then I don’t want to do it at all. I’d rather everything go as was originally planned, or just cancel it altogether. Not doing something is the easier option for me. Not doing something means I’m in my normal routine. Not doing something means there’s no surprises. It’s the safe option.
A lot of people see this as me throwing my toys out of the pram like a bold child because I’m not getting my own way, but really it’s nothing to do with that. I can follow other people’s plans with no issue at all. The problems start when the plan changes suddenly, even a small bit. Then we’re just hurtling into the unknown. The whole thing is pregnant with surprise and I don’t know what to expect, so I can’t be prepared and I panic.
I panic and then I cancel everything, like a spoiled child. Wait, what was I saying about not being a child again?
Children are supposed to love surprises because children are emotional messes. They’re pretty much always a hair’s breadth away from either hysterical laughing or crying. They’re unstable. I was not one of those types of children, however. I didn’t wear my emotions on my sleeve. No, I bottled them up inside and crushed them smaller and smaller until they were practically non-existent like a goddamn normal person. I still do this. I mean, I get it, I’m stunted or whatever, but it’s just how I cope. I’ve gotten better, but even now I barely talk about things that upset or annoy me. Emotions have no place in my plans, because emotions are basically an open window for surprises to blow through.
This is what actual hell looks like. Why is he smiling?
Surprise gifts. Now they’re a whole other ballgame altogether. Apart from the obvious, another big problem I have with surprise gifts is that I don’t really like stuff. I don’t collect anything, I don’t really have any hobbies that need things, and anything I do need I buy myself. I just don’t want things. I’ve no room for them and I hate clutter. So surprise gifts generally end up being stuff I don’t actually want, and I find it hard to hide that.
I was the child who, on Christmas morning, woke earlier than anyone else in order to sneak downstairs to see what Santa had left. I mean I made Christmas lists like everyone else, I ballpark knew what to expect. But because I didn’t buy them myself or see them being wrapped, I didn’t know exactly what was coming. Anything could be down there. Santa’s judgemental as fuck and he’s always watching. Was I good enough for the bike? Did he see me that time I stuck my middle finger up at my mam behind her back? Did he know I didn’t do my homework? Could it be coal? I hear he gives coal to crappy kids like me. Sneaking downstairs wasn’t because I was so excited to see what I got from my list, it wasn’t that I couldn’t wait for everyone else to wake. No, it was to prepare myself. Prepare myself to be really excited no matter the outcome. If I knew what to expect, I could be prepared. Even if I didn’t get what I wanted and the bastard really had left me coal, I could at least pretend to make a happy reaction in front of my family.
Maybe I hate joy. Maybe I’m too controlling. Maybe I’m too organised and that’s really why I hate it when plans change too much. But maybe also shut up and leave me alone in my surpriseless misery. Look, let’s be honest I’m a serial flake and I probably wasn’t really planning on doing that thing in the first place and I just said I would do it to make you happy. So, I’m basically the worst.
We’ll go for that coffee sometime, yeah?
Socks and underwear on the bottom, followed by t-shirts, then jumpers, spaced out depending on thickness of fabric. In case you were wondering.