Example: [Collected by Jansen, 1970]
There was this Baptist couple who were real important people in the church. It was the woman's birthday and her husband had planned a surprise party for her. While she was upstairs taking her shower that night, the minister and the rest of the church people were led in by the husband and hidden behind chairs in the living room. His wife, upon finishing her shower, walked down the stairs and stood naked at the bottom and hollered to her husband, "Come and get it while it's clean!"
Origins: Anecdotal reports date this legend back to 1956, when one of our correspondents recalls hearing it from an elderly chemicals salesman who claimed to have been one of the guests present twenty or so years earlier when the wife made her offer. In the salesman's version, the husband told his wife they would go to a nice restaurant to celebrate her birthday. While she was getting ready, the surprise guests (members of a local church young adults group) quietly slipped into the living room, which had an upstairs landing overlooking it. The unsuspecting wife came out onto it in her slip, and said, "Honey, we have time for a quickie before we go if you're interested."
The "playful wife" tale is another variation of a common legend type in which some form of sexual misbehavior is inadvertently revealed to a group during a surprise party. (As with most of the similar forms of this legend, the group of surprisers includes important community and church
This variant differs from the two main "Surprise Party" legends in that the person surprised is a woman; in this case the "misbehavior" for which she is punished is an overeagerness for sex. The presence of other church members and their minister in the surprise party group emphasizes the religious condemnation of women's expressing sexual desire. Still later versions of this tale replace the minister and church members with a common household figure (such as a plumber or a mechanic), removing the moral overtones and producing a story much more a joke or an embarrassing anecdote than a legend.
Last updated: 5 March 2006
Brunvand, Jan Harold. Too Good To Be True. New York: W. W. Norton, 1999. ISBN 0-393-04734-2 (pp. 149-150). Brunvand, Jan Harold. The Vanishing Hitchhiker. New York: W. W. Norton, 1981. ISBN 0-393-95169-3 (pp. 146-147). Jansen, William Hugh. "The Surpriser Surprised: A Modern Legend." Folklore Forum. Vol. 6; 1973 (pp. 1-24).
Also told in:
The Big Book of Urban Legends. New York: Paradox Press, 1994. ISBN 1-56389-165-4 (p. 117).