Baby showers bum me out. I get bummed out because as I sit there I know that, more than likely, that will never be me.
I have that thought not for the reasons you might think. I actually don’t want kids. At least not now and not in the foreseeable future. I’ve been told that might change, but I’m thirty-thousand years old, and I have yet to hear a peep out of the biological clock that has allegedly been taking up space in my abdomen. In fact, rumor has it that when I was little I bragged to my mother that when I grew up, I was going to be like my Aunt Marge and not have kids and not get married and just live with my boyfriend forever and ever. In the East Village, of course.
That being said, I feel the same way at bridal showers, and again, it’s not for the reasons most people would assume. I am realistic enough to understand that I might never get married. But here’s the truth as I now know it: there are a lot of things on my Life’s To Do List that if I don’t accomplish before I die, I will be very sad and truly disappointed. But, turns out, marriage isn’t one of them. If it happens, cool. Of course, I would like to find my person. But if I live life being happy and having fun and I accomplish the goals and dreams I have but never did find that person, I’m GOOD. I will die happy.
So that we are crystal clear, it’s not idea that I will never be the mom-to-be or the fear that I may never be the bride-to-be that is such a buzz kill. What bums me out is the fact that, if I don’t do either of those things, get married and/or have a baby, there will never be a good enough reason for my friends and family to circle up and celebrate the shit out of me and my accomplishment, complete with fun signature cocktails, Pinterest-y party decorations, and, let’s get down to brass tacks here, presents.
This isn’t the self-defeating talk of, “Oh, sad face. I’m never getting married. Sadder face, I’m never having babies.” That’s just the reality of being a lady in America. That sadly as a woman, seemingly nothing you do in this life garners quite as much fanfare as getting married and having babies. I know that no one wants to hear that, and it’s tempting to just write me off as a Bitter Betty. But, come on. Really. Prove me wrong. I want you to. Ladies, when was the last time you threw a friend a “Way to Work Your Ass for that Major Promotion” Shower or “Girl, You Just Bought a Home on a Single Income” Shower? I think we all know, that if I became the CEO of Apple tomorrow, yes, there may be congratulatory calls and emails, a dinner and drinks here or there, but I highly doubt there will be a shower in the traditional sense.
And as I write this, I KNOW there are ladies out there (and I’d wager to guess they’d be the same ladies who’ve been on the receiving end of a shower or two) who will have a million and one arguments as to why showers are specifically for marriage and babies, that they are getting things they need, and blee blah blah. I challenge that notion and will point out that these days just about no one is leaving their parents’ house and going directly to their new married home. It’s not like the old days where you literally owned nothing so you very literally NEEDED the gifts and money. You were just starting out. No, now it’s just an opportunity to upgrade the shit you already have. So we can dismiss the idea that they are completely necessary. We do it because they are a part of the celebratory tradition. And they are (supposed to be) fun. And by your 20th bridal shower/wedding/baby shower, you start to get frustrated. Why do I have to give you a gift because you are getting married? You found eternal and everlasting love. Isn’t that enough? You need a KitchenAid mixer too? I’m the one, who statistically, may die alone. Where’s my gift?
I know what you are thinking, that I sound like Carrie Bradshaw right now, and you’re not wrong. That was one of the few episodes of Sex and the City that I actually related to (all the expensive shoe talk, condo buying, and dating successful men was beyond my frame of reference). If you don’t know the episode I’m talking about, look into it. Carrie poses the question that I guess single woman are not supposed to ask (because so few women do), “So what, if I never get married or never have a baby, I get bupkis?” She also points out the obvious: “Think about it, if you are single, after graduation, there are no occasions were people celebrate you. And don’t give me birthdays, everyone has a birthday so that’s a wash.”
It was with all of these social injustices churning in my head, paired with the fact that I was coming up on a big birthday with neither a husband nor children on the horizon, that I decided to take a stand. I got up on my sassy soapbox, and I decided that I was going to throw myself a birthday party and that every step of the way, I was going to treat the whole thing like some kind of wedding or shower in a grand, tongue-in-cheek manner (and by “grand,” I mean on a modest, single-income budget). My birthday is exactly two months after Christmas, so right after New Years, I mailed out save the dates, informing my friends that the “formal invite” would follow. And I did not use the phrase “formal invite” loosely. Never one to be afraid of getting crafty, I put my design school degree to work on making formal, handmade invitiations.
At the bottom of the invite, I let my guests know about my registry. OH yeah. I “registered” for gifts. Why should the engaged and “with child” have all the fun of telling people exactly what gifts people should buy them? I registered at Facebook and Pinterest, which really was just a collection of photos and links to stuff I’d like to have, e.g. a pair of Converse sneakers I saw at Target, $6 lip balm from Body Shop that I’m too cheap to buy for myself, a mini food processor because I didn’t have one at the time and seemed like a grown up thing to ask for. I started a whole Pinterest board for the event, complete with paper decorations fitting the black, white, and pink theme, and super adorable and totally labor intensive finger foods. To be honest, there were times when my inner mean girl would rear her bitchy head with thoughts like, “Oh, this is stupid. You can’t make a big deal out of yourself. Who do you think you are? Just stop before you embarrass yourself.” But lucky for me, I am above all else principled and was stubborn about making my point and didn’t back down (from myself). I just leaned into the ridiculousness and took it over the top at every opportunity.
And something really unexpected and wonderful happened; my friends leaned into the ridiculous just as hard. I’ll tell you what, my friends are THE GREATEST PEOPLE EVER because they were 100% down with the whole thing. They played along every step of the way, to the point that almost everyone showed up with a gift from the registry. I genuinely did not expect that. I was just trying to be funny. They even went as far as to push for the whole gift opening ceremony that we’ve all had to suffer sit through at no less than 20 showers. Complete with the designated indentured servant/best friend taking notes on who gave what gift, you know, for the thank you cards. They all just went with it and it made for one of the best nights of my life. It was so much fun; I felt so much love and support that night. It was amazing, and I mean that in the truest sense of the word. I was amazed at how these people got behind something I wanted to do and knocked it out of the park. It was so, so great.
The reality is that, some women, whether by choice or by circumstance, will never get married or have babies. And how sad that, because of that fact, they may never have the experience of having the people nearest and dearest to them come together to celebrate them. That’s what bums me out. Not the idea of never having children or never running into the love of my life. But the idea of never doing something worthy enough of a big party and special attention. Lucky for me, I’m just ballsy enough to have pushed the envelope. And extra lucky for me, I have the kinds of friends who jumped on the bandwagon of my self-imposed “Birthday Shower.”
Ms. Bradshaw summed up my feeling on the subject perfectly in just a couple of sentences.
“I’m thrilled to give you gifts to celebrate your life. I just think it stinks that single people get left out of it.” So, come on, ladies (and gents, if you’re the kind of gent that likes to throw showers), let’s be better. Better to ourselves and better to each other.
Everyone needs a shower.