There is no feeling worse than the fear and dread that overcomes me when I find a baby shower invitation in my mailbox. I'd rather clean the rhino cage at the zoo with my toothbrush than go to a baby shower. For those of you men who don't know what goes on at these colossal bore-fests, they're pretty much all exactly the same, and they go like this:
10 to 50 ladies arrive in skirts and sandals, wearing Brighton jewelry and bearing gift bags. They sit around making stiff and uncomfortable small talk with one another, fake smiles plastered on their faces, for a good 45 minutes while waiting for God-knows-what...more guests to arrive, the food to be arranged in a pretty semi-circle on the table, whatever. The aforementioned small talk always involves labor and delivery stories. Anyone attempting to strike up a conversation that's not related to the pain of pushing a human head out of one's hoo-ha is swiftly punished, as the other ladies close in on her and pummel her about the head and neck with their handbags. The guest of honor and her mother work the crowd, appearing unspeakably thrilled to see each guest. Hair and shoes are complimented even in cases where a person would have to be high on glue to really like the hair and shoes in question. Finger food and some kind of non-alcoholic punch is available on a table nearby, but no one goes near it until the hosts physically shove a few people toward the table to get the ball rolling. Meanwhile, a couple of the expectant mommy's friends scuttle around handing out whatever accoutrements are necessary for the 45 tedious, insipid games that will be played throughout the affair. These games appear to have been created by grade-schoolers for grade-schoolers, so it's no problem to use only a couple of brain cells to play them while you use the rest of your brain formulating your escape plan. "How much time do I have to put in here before I can leave without looking like a dick?" The comedy is that every single smiling skirt-wearer there is thinking the exact same thing, and when one person finally does bow out politely with a made-up excuse, the rest of the attendees practically trample each other following suit. It's like a stampede of well-dressed cattle, mooing, "Congratulations!" as they body-block each other trying to get to the door first.
The truth is, I've been to a couple that weren't so bad. In fact, the one I went to in December for my neighbor was downright nice. The good showers all have one thing in common: Booze. I know, it sounds just plain wrong to have booze at a baby shower, but I'll argue that there's no situation where it's more necessary. My own shower had plenty of it, even though I couldn't drink any. (I didn't mind, though; I was high on coke at the time.) How else but half drunk can a person be expected to listen to a throng of women shriek in perfect union, "Oh my God, so CUUUTTE!!" each and every time a gift is unwrapped? The unwrapping of the gifts takes forever, and is mind-numbing to everyone but the guest of honor and her mom. After the 26th chorus of "It's darling!!" I always feel like jumping up and yelling, "Okay, we all agree! Itty bitty dresses are goddamn adorable! Let's move this thing along!"
So let this be a public service announcement to all you women. A baby shower doesn't have to be torture. Follow these few simple rules to prevent a trampling death at your shower:
1) No games. None. Okay, I understand this suggestion might just break the heart of your mother, who, for some inexplicable reason, has her heart set on some baby shower games. Fine--two games max, then, and let them be along the lines of "Guess how many diaper pins are in this bowl" rather than, "See who can diaper a baby doll fastest." Under no circumstances should a game be incorporated that takes more than 4 seconds to play.
2. Provide booze, I beg you. Make it clear on the invitation that booze will be provided; this will greatly increase the number of attendees, and therefore, gifts. You can try to keep it classy if you must, with white wine or some kind of froofy champagne spritzer hell, just as long as there's alcohol involved. No one should be expected to buy you a gift and put on a skirt without at least getting a glass of wine in return. Hopefully several. And a handful of pills.
3. Have it at your own house. I realize others are probably throwing this shower for you, rather than you throwing it for yourself, but they can just as easily throw it for you in your own house. Your mumsy and girlfriends can do all the setup and cleanup for you, just as they would if the shindig were thrown in some other location. This is important because a good half the reason these affairs are so uncomfortable is most of the attendees have never been to the house of the aunt or girlfriend who is hosting your shower, which adds to the oddness factor. And it's odd enough without trying to cram in extra oddness where it's not absolutely necessary.
4. Open your gifts quickly. You can still coo and squeal over each hat and each stuffed bunny, but coo quickly, for Christ's sake. I know it seems like everyone is thrilled to see each gift, judging by how loudly they're screeching at every pair of tiny booties you hold up, but trust me, they're only doing this to mask how incredibly uncomfortable they are, or to keep from nodding off. Possibly both. Plus, it's a sociological fact that any time you throw a crowd of total strangers in a room and deprive them of alcohol, they tend to get nervous, eventually turning shrill and bird-like. If you don't want one of your coworkers pecking one of your cousins to death, pick up the pace a little.
5. This is an option for girls who, like me, have mostly male friends: Don't make it a "ladies only" affair. If you're thinking there's no man alive who would attend a baby shower, then you're underestimating the draw of free booze. Probably 50 people attended mine, about half of them men. Besides, no one wants to go to a baby shower alone because they're expecting it to be so godawful boring, so lots of couples will attend in cases where, had it been ladies only, the lady might have sawed off her own foot just to have a valid excuse not to attend. As in, "Oh Cindy, I'm sorry I couldn't be at your baby shower--I was so mad that I had to miss it! I was at the hospital getting fitted for my prosthetic foot, and couldn't hobble away. But I know your mother took photos of you holding up each and every single bib and box of diapers that was given to you, so make sure I get to look at those sometime soon! I'm dying to see!"
That pretty much sums it up. Please, pass this advice on to any expectant mothers you know. Especially the ones you and I both know, so that the next time I get invited to a baby shower I don't have to resort to self-mutilation to get out of attending.