Sunday, May 6, 2012

Barbaric rituals 1: the baby shower

“Are you a boy, or are you a girl?...”—The Barbarians, 1965

Last week ago, in a show of support for a young friend, I went to a baby shower—my first in 20 years. I had no idea what I was in for.

Fourteen of us were gathered for a feminist circle jerk: women of three generations trading way too much information about his and her morning rituals, pumping breast milk and episiotomies. And the games.

The silliest game was a Stasi-style race to accumulate points for catching others uttering any of 23 forbidden words—23 in honor of the 23-year-old mother-to-be. 

Come on, guess!
The most objectionable, a guessing game in which 10 different chocolate bars were wrapped in disposable diapers and heated in the microwave, then passed around the room so each of could guess which was the Milky Way, which the Three Musketeers and so on.

It's a boy!
The baby’s sex had been determined by ultrasound days before the gathering and put on display: blue balloons, blue lemonade (food coloring!), blue denim paper plates and bandana-print paper napkins, blue M&Ms and more—all of which had to be cleared from the premises before the arrival of the father-to-be, a sweet and quiet boy, who we were told didn’t want to know the baby’s sex ahead of time.

Let him be.
Good for him, I thought. Watching him edge into the gathering and clumsily accept a flurry of high-pitched congratulations, I imagined his decision to wait to learn the baby’s sex until the baby was ready to declare himself was an attempt to claim for his son a brief moment, entirely his own, when who he might become is blissfully unencumbered, all about possibilities.

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