I pulled into the parking lot of the cafe at 11:15, grateful to be free of driving my girlfriend’s entire family around for the next few hours but unsure of just how stereotypical my first attendance to a baby shower was going to be. As her aunt (the mother of the father-to-be) parked the car and began unloading enough boxes of pink decorations to supply all the Mother/Daughter teas in the SEC, none of the fears I’d been harboring for two days were the tiniest bit assuaged. While everyone turned the unsuspecting restaurant into a fetal fantasy land, I made sure to look just busy enough to get credit for helping but not do so much as to share any blame should someone decide to gossip about how awful the decorations looked.
Slowly, everyone from childhood friends to obligatory invitees started showing up and doing the family seating shuffle, trying to figure out just where their place at the table was according not only to hierarchy of importance but proximity to people they could or could not tolerate. After about thirty minutes of finalizing decorations and settling into superficial conversation, the expectant parents arrived and an incredibly pregnant woman walked around to each guest, greeting and thanking them with the same sincere disinterest of a local politician.
For the next several hours I watched virtually no interaction take place between the parents and any of their guests. Everyone mingled as they would a Thanksgiving or a family reunion, slowly removing their interest from the event at hand to their own individual goals for the day. Distant relatives sought to have their presence well acknowledged, not so much by the expectant parents but by the expectant grandparents, the coordinators and true overseers of the affair. They repeatedly checked in with the grandmothers to be, knowing these would be the women to remark the loudest and longest on the day’s events.
The obligatory invitees’ behavior ranged from desperately trying to find a clique to fit in with, hoping to move up a couple notches on the family totem pole by the end of the afternoon, to tossing conduct aside so as to achieve a successful drunk by the end of the party. The luckiest guests in attendance were friends of the expectant parents. They moved freely from conversations, unhindered by preexisting familial feuds that might keep them from daring to speak to someone. They sat as close by and talked to the mother to be as much as they wished, knowing their seat had the defense of the guests of honor of the day; and they acted as they pleased because they knew there was no danger of not getting invited to the next family gathering.
As lunch entered its third hour and everyone got over the excitement of ordering food and alcohol on someone else’s dime, I, having long finished the one mimosa I (my girlfriend’s mom) allowed myself to have, in the hopes that some brave soul would break the seal and head out and allow the rest of us to leave the party guilt-free. Such would not be the case for another hour and a half as everyone lined up to have their picture taken with the parents to be like kids at a mall Santa and offer one more insincere, “You’re going to be SUCH good parents!” before heading out with bellies full of wine and finger foods.
Despite my girlfriend’s repeated and insistent use of the word “coed,” I have to conclude that not only was there nothing coed about this shower, there really wasn’t anything baby about it either. Two sets of expecting grandparents threw this giant party for a kid that won’t realize the world exists for another four or five years. This was all just a chance for them to flex a little and maybe bribe the freeloaders they invited into tossing the mom and dad some diapers and bibs out of guilt. Baby showers are weird, illogical things that I want no part of. If I ever have a kid, just send me some checks made out to cash and I’ll hit you with a thank you note in one to ten months. .