You are cordially invited…

(This extra-cranky post brought to you by the frustration of terrible DNC coverage and a broken toe.)

So, let’s talk showers! Specifically, baby and bridal showers and how much I haaaaaaaaate them. I hate them so much… I— I— flames! Flames on the side of my face!

This is truly unfortunate, because I like the idea of showers. Absolutely, people should have gatherings to celebrate with loved ones when they enter a new stage of life. Great! Awesome! Excellent! And even the gift thing, I like. It says, “These two alone don’t have the means to prepare themselves for this new phase in their lives, but perhaps, all together, we can get them everything they need.” What a fabulous expression of collectivism, of community! Beautiful! Love it!

But then it all goes horribly, horribly wrong with the public opening of the gifts. Who came up with this idea? “To come to my party, you must bring me a gift, which I will then open in front of the assembled crowd in order that we may all judge affection for me as demonstrated by your economic investment in my life.” Was Miss Manners asleep on the job the day the shower was invented?

And then—and you knew I was getting there—there’s the gender roles on ‘roids. First, the showers are gender-segregated, because, obv., only women could be interested in babies and household appliances. (By the way, gender-segregated, gift-mandatory parties are, like makeup and pocketless pants, among the many fines levied for the crime of being female.) Then there’s the gifts themselves. At baby showers, everything must be PINK or BLUE, and there are no other acceptable colors. Even when the mother-to-be insists that she’d rather get gender-neutral stuff, at least half the guest list doesn’t listen. And bridal showers are worse, because brides-to-be are actually old enough to remember and be scarred by what people think they need. Bridal shower gifts are all blenders and tame sex toys. Nobody actually needs this shit by the time they’re getting married. The sole point of the whole pathetic ceremony is to reinforce to the bride-to-be that her purpose in the marriage is to keep house and put out, in that order. Where else can people so openly embrace a ’50s view of womanhood and still be praised for it nowadays?

And the “party” is structured so as to prevent any meaningful social interaction, thus effectively eliminating any possibility of anyone accidentally having fun. Guests arrive, exclaim over the food and decorations, exclaim over the guest of honor, eat aforementioned tiny foods, and then play a dainty, covert game of musical chairs for one of the eight actual seats or armrests, with losers relegated to patches of carpet. After that, the only talking anyone’s allowed to do is about the amazingness of the presents.

Then there’s the type of theater attendees are expected to perform. The guest of honor plays completely helpless—she’s so busy incubating her baby/primping for her wedding that her friends must do everything! And don’t give me that “It’s a nice thing friends do to relieve stress on the mother-/bride-to-be” line, because you know it’s not true. If it were, then it might be traditional for friends to throw the party, but no one would grumble about tackiness and inpropriety (as if the initial conecpt weren’t tacky and inappropriate enough) if the whatever-to-be held the party herself.

And the guests play hyper-feminine, coy little Victorian-era throwbacks. They dress in their girliest clothes, they eat tiny foods, they titter appreciatively, and, above all, they never express their true feelings. Thirty women in sundresses trying to sit on someone’s living room floor without flashing undies and sipping, like, half a glass of champagne all afternoon coo in unison, “Oooooh, a Diaper Genie. Aaaaaah, a fondue set. Aaaaaww, tiny baby socks! Teehee, crotchless panties!” How demeaning is this little piece of theater? And for whose benefit is it performed? The whatever-to-be? Fellow guests? The patriarchy?

I keep hearing, from everyone from my parents to advice columnists, that I’m a grownup now and this is one of those things grownups are obligated to do. Buy you know what? Fucking no. I love my friends; I’d do nearly anything for them. But as long as showers are set up like this, I’ll send a present along with my apologies for my non-attendance.

The kind of shower I will attend looks like this: Men and women are invited. Gifts are expected (and can we just be up-front about this, people? Don’t solicit gifts, but if we all know they’re expected, just send me the link to your registry already instead of making me play this game of calling, like, a friend of a friend’s mother, who I’ve never met, to get this information.) Gifts are, just like wedding gifts, opened after the party, in private. Then, there’s a party. Board games, wild drinking, I don’t care as long as people actually have fun.

And as long as it’s not a bridal shower. Couples get gifts at their weddings, and if they really need more appliances (or sex toys), they’ll put them on their registries. Instead, we should start having First Real Apartment showers. People aren’t moving out of their parents’ houses when they marry anymore. Most people I know have too much stuff when they get married and wind up throwing shit out and asking for cash. Fresh-out-of-college students, however, have no savings, terrible incomes, and no furniture of their own. Rather than forcing everyone to work their way up from milk-crates-and-boards to Ikea to real furniture, why not start everyone off with Ikea and hand-me-downs? Parents can’t always afford (or might not be willing) to outfit their kids’ apartment on their own, but their friends probably have some old stuff they want to get rid of and kids are grateful to take, and if everyone chips in, 20-somethings could have a studio full of mismatched faux-wood furniture in no time.

If you have one of these parties, send me an invite. I’ll totally come, with a present. I might even wear a skirt.

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10 Responses

  1. I hate baby showers. I even hated my own. i used to bring my child with me so that I had an excuse to leave them early. I swear if I play one more game of toilet paper bride I am going to be sick.

  2. I finally got my Phd! showers! That’s what I want!

  3. Congrats, Redstar! And I totally think you should get a shower. All gifts will be hard liquor and resume paper.

  4. Oh no, there’s like a year or so before my shower!! But thanks in advance!!! 🙂 🙂

  5. 20-somethings could have a studio full of mismatched faux-wood furniture in no time.

    LOL. I completely agree with the sentiments in your post, but the phrasing here cracked me up (I have a studio full of vaguely almost matched faux-wood furniture :D).

    I’m a grownup now and this is one of those things grownups are obligated to do.

    And one nice thing about being a grownup is that you don’t always have to do things you don’t want to do!

  6. PizzaDiavola, I speak from experience. My room looks like I was attempting to make sure every single variety of crappy wood veneer was represented. I think I’m pretty close.

    And I’ve finally started to realize that “Don’t wanna; can’t make me” is a totally acceptable response to bullshit social obligations. Most of the time, I don’t even feel guilty about it. Plus, it does wonders for my overall mood and frees up so much time!

  7. Hee! We’ve decided that things made of wood match other things made of wood (regardless of the type/realness of said wood) and thus our whole living room *totally* matches it’s “wood” floor.

    Hmm, I rather enjoyed my bridal shower (lots of wine and a big lunch) and my sister’s baby shower (lots of wine and a big lunch). Perhaps there’s a theme there… I’ve never had to go to a “dress-up and tiny food) one, doesn’t sound super fun.

  8. Mimi, I thoroughly approve of this approach to the problem. And showers totally CAN be fun, it’s just that apparently when it comes to babies and weddings, most people don’t have the good sense of you and your sister.

  9. I ❤ you and this post. I love my friends, but when i see an invite for a baby shower it’s like, shit, I have to go cause my friend will be sad but fuck, I don’t even LIKE babies. IF I ever get married, there’ll be none of this bridal-shower/bachelorette cutesy stuff. No. Party, drinking, Twister (strip Twister?), Monty Python, and some non-tiny foods. Hell if you’re in my area, you’re welcome to come. Sundresses will be banned; lip gloss will not be mandatory.

  10. Lemur, I own all of Flying Circus and no sundresses, so that sounds like my kind of party. 😉

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