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I consider my housemates from college some of my oldest and dearest friends, even though we rarely see each other anymore due to kids, living far apart, the usual. We’ve been in touch more over Zoom, during the coronavirus lockdown, than we have been for years. That’s how I learned that one friend–call her Susie–is planning a surprise visit to another friend, Gwen, for her 50th birthday.
This all goes back to something touching that Gwen did for Susie 20 years ago. Susie was depressed after breaking up with a fiancee and feeling like turning 30 alone in New York City was the end of the world. Gwen flew from North Carolina and surprised Susie with a birthday weekend of shows, clubs, presents, the works.
Now Gwen is turning 50, and she’s depressed. She’s divorced and sheltering with her mother in Michigan, and her birthday is looming while she’s far from friends and in lockdown.
Susie wants to return the birthday surprise. She told me (after swearing me to secrecy) that she’s already bought the tickets.
I see so many problems with this plan! Susie hasn’t taken social distancing very seriously, and Gwen has. Susie doesn’t have a lot of money, and part of the surprise is, “Surprise, I’m staying at your house!” Further: Gwen’s mother is old, and still holds against Susie that she was Gwen’s source for marijuana in college.
I’ve told Susie in no uncertain terms that she has to coordinate with Gwen and not make the trip a surprise. But Susie refuses, saying that more than any of the New York shows or food, it was the unexpectedness of Gwen visiting that popped her out of her depression. She also pointed out that I’ve always been the hypochondriac of the group, and I’ve certainly maintained a much stricter quarantine than either of them.
Should I tell Gwen, and ruin both the surprise and the trip? For all I know, Gwen would be thrilled to have Susie visit, and I’m guessing her mother has plenty of spare room.
The Coronavirus Spoil Sport
Durban, South Africa
Dear Spoil Sport,
As I have lived many years from dark hair to white, on the Eastern seaboard of South Africa, I hope you will listen to my advice, which is to share this advice with Susie: