Why are baby showers such utter hell? Is it the preciousness? Is it the ooh-ing? Is it the painstaking unwrapping of every single gift, including a rectal thermometer? What exactly is it that makes it such utter torture, and how can something that only lasts an hour be so awful? More importantly, why the hell haven't we been making men do this for centuries already?
I'm not sure there's a way to solve the problem of the boredom and oddly insufferable chatter of the baby shower. I loved getting the baby stuff when I was pregnant, but it was hard for me to have a shower, because I'm just not a shower person. I think the solution is to make everyone suffer together, or make it more fun for everyone and less hey, look, another onesie. Adding men helps. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and when you make that weak link a man, well, you at least have something to laugh at (JOKE).
Gender segregation has always been weird to me. As an adult female in the South, I discovered that people often seemed not only more than willing to separate by gender at get-togethers, but that it was simply What You Do, even enjoyable to "get away" from the opposite sex for a while and just be yourself again. The idea here is that the opposite sex requires us to act a part, and when they aren't around we can finally be us. But, having grown up with all women, I had never gotten away from my own sex in the first place, so this escape theory never sat right.
When my friends and I got old enough to host adult-style dinners, dudes might sit on a porch yapping and being handed things, while the ladyfolk whipped up food and often cleaned up, too. I don't know that it was a conscious decision so much as an inevitable continuation of everything we'd ever seen growing up. It was hard to get people to unpack it because it just seemed "right." And it bugged the shit out of me. For one, the women were literally doing more work. For two, the women were doing literally more work. For three, hell, I wanted to sit around and shoot the shit and not scrub a fucking pan, too.
And, sorry to keep going on and on about it, but what's with how women cook all the other food at get-togethers but men always get to cook the meat? Outside? On a grill? Because dicks and balls? I never figured that one out.
Then there's the more subconscious way it perpetuates rigid gender roles: It makes it seem like there isn't a natural interplay between men and women that isn't sexual or romantic, as if our natural resting state is with our own kind, where we will be better understood. I'm not saying men and women can't pair off however they want, or host gendered parties all damn day if that feels fun to everyone. I'm saying it's worth looking at why we still do it in areas that we ostensibly claim should be equal.
And this conundrum is never more true than at the baby shower. In a piece I was reading about "My New Rules for Attending Bridal and Baby Showers," the author laments the obligatory pressures of gift giving for every event a person can dream up, which I second, but she really hits the nail on the head with this sentiment:
What I find incredibly irksome is if it is a shower for a heterosexual couple, men never have to attend, but their female family members do. We live in a time when we want men to be equal parents and partners, but we leave them out of opportunities where they might gain understanding of everything they'll need to know as parents or partners. We princess-erize the bride, mom, or baby. We reinforce gender stereotypes down to ensuring the party reflects the gender of the baby, or the design theme of the baby's room.
It's a salient point. If we are really talking about parents throwing all in as equals, why, in heterosexual couples, isn't the father just as much a presence at the shower? In showers for gay men who've adopted or have a surrogate, aren't both men present?
How could any aspect of celebrating new life be the domain of the woman alone? Isn't the guy happy about the baby? Doesn't he want the stuff too? Won't he be changing clothes and diapers? Doesn't he have a free hour on a Saturday to guess gross baby food flavors blindfolded while by being stuck with diaper pins or whatever?
Furthermore, don't dudes want to get gifts and gear they will be using, too? There's a whole industry of bags, backpacks and baby gear specifically for men, in hues like camouflage and other guy-approved dark tones that make it crystal clear that you're a father who just happens to be ready to jump into a special-ops mission at any moment.
Over the years, I've really only heard one excuse for why dudes shouldn't have to go to these things: They're "boring." Ohhhh, why didn't you just say so in the first place? I thought you were implying that women are totally fine with — and even like — trivial, frivolous, stupid shit that matters more to them, so they should be cool with going, but you actually have standards for how you'll spend your time, so you shouldn't have to. Cool idea.
Furthermore, what if the expectant mother is friends with dudes? I mean, most women are good friends with dudes. Why do they get a pass on this huge monumental event? And moreover, why don't they have to fuckin' buy you anything?
Anecdotally, I know that more men than ever are involved in showers. I can find trend pieces from 2001 talking up the new makeover for the man-attended baby shower. I can't nail down a specific industry wide percentage of their numbers, other than the general sentiment that "more men than ever" are attending.
This is great. Really. Keep doing this. I will be happy when it is the new normal. Because when you look up internet ideas for co-ed showers that cater to men, there's still this idea you have to entice them to something that is a shitball way to spend an hour. Don't get me wrong. It IS a shitball way to spend an hour, but either let's make it fun for all of us or call the whole damn thing off.
Host games men like, like Diaper Hoops, where you shoot rolled up diapers into a basket.
Booze. The presence of booze.
Then there's this list of tips:
- Make sure plenty of men will be there in addition to the expectant father.
- Make the invitations guy-friendly: Don't call it a Jack and Jill baby shower. And go easy on the pink.
- Invite the couple to register for baby gifts at their favorite store.
- If you plan to hand out party favors, realize that most men don't find the jellybeans in a baby bottle all that adorable.
- Games? If you do have them, choose ones that the dad-to-be and his friends will enjoy. (For inspiration, see our readers' ideas below.)
- When it's time to open gifts, make sure the couple opens them together or takes turns.
- Bring on the food!
- Don't leave that dude alone with only other women. That's WEIRD!
GO EASY ON THE PINK, because you know, men. And pink. All women love it. But men? Little more discerning than we are.
Give them something a man would like as a gift, because men don't eat jelly beans. What do men find adorable anyway?
Cater the party to him! And his friends! Not you!
FOOOD MEN LIKE FOOD DID YOU KNOW THAT.
So uh, yeah, long way to go folks.