This classic column originally published July 25, 2010.
A baby shower is where people gather together around chocolate to give presents to a tiny stranger.
It is also an excuse to make the men who couldn't get out of going feel uncomfortable.
When a room full of women are squealing and giggling every six seconds men's' "fight or flight" reflex gets triggered. It's the same behavior you see with cats when the doorbell rings: our eyes get wide, we tense up and look for the first exit we come by, even if it's under a table.
This particular "shower" was for "us", meaning my wife and unborn baby. If it was for me, I have some choice words about the clothing people think looks good on me. I'd also have some words for the people who gave me a book with four giant pages. I could finish that in a weekend.
At these showers all women gush and coo in surprisingly the same tone, pitch and volume; which makes me think they rehearse frequently during some secret lady class. Men shift uncomfortably in their seats and eat cheese.
Afterwards, the women called the shower a "success" despite the fact that there wasn't a drop of beer. This goes to show you how differently men and women are programmed. If men were to gather for a party and there wasn't beer, we'd all be standing around with pained expressions on our faces as we looked for a ball game and someone to blame. I suppose this is why women are the ones who actually HAVE the baby: they have a higher pain tolerance.
The amount of gear required to sustain a baby these days is astounding. You need less equipment to build a '56 Ford Thunderbird by hand.
One thing I was unprepared for during the shower was the never-ending avalanche of pastel tissue paper, which erupted out of gift bags like an angry springtime volcano. There was enough tissue paper at this shower to wrap an adult whale (probably not an appropriate shower gift). I've never understood the point of tissue paper. It's too coarse to wipe your face with, yet too wispy to write on. It seems the only function is to make a crinkly noise while hiding an item beneath it, which is essentially a cat's dream scenario. One time I didn't have any tissue paper, and instead filled a paper bag with slightly crinkled 8?" x 11" printer paper, which I suppose in retrospect isn't the best way to wrap a vase (though it is quite resourceful). It's also likely why I'm no longer in charge of wrapping presents for grandparents.
I was disheartened to find that many of the gifts I placed on the registry without my wife knowing were ignored. I expressed my displeasure to my wife in hopes of gaining sympathy and authorization to purchase said items myself.
Me: "I don't know think it's fair we didn't get anything I put on the registry," I announced.
Wife: "Why would you even put a five-pound bag of powdered protein on the list?" she asked, demonstrating her lack of baby comprehension from the get-go.
Me: "Babies need protein in order to grow," I said, scientifically. "Every day for the first year or whatever he/she is going to be consuming milk. I would imagine that's going to get old real quick. You don't even like eating leftover tacos the next day."
Wife: "And a bottle of rum?"
Me: "Wait, you had 'bottles' on the list too. Talk about your double standard."
Wife (rolling eyes so dramatically they were in danger of falling out her ears): "Golf balls?"
Me: "I have it on good authority that babies love balls."
As you can see, I won that argument.
I didn't even know how to pronounce some of the items we received, much less have a clue what they are to be used for; however according to all the women (and baby product companies) they are essential items that you will be chastised for should you not own every single one. We received something called a "boppy," which looks like an oversized airplane pillow or a medical device for someone suffering from hemorrhoids. If I understand the box correctly, it's like a baby bean bag chair used when "eating." I suppose I can see the appeal. If there was an adult version I know I wouldn't want to eat meals any other way.
All the clothing items could be divided into two categories: "cute" and "ohmygod cuuuuuute!" Some had flowers while others sported ducks. Everyone is presuming an awful lot about what this baby finds fashionable. I mean, what if he/she would prefer the t-shirt-and-jeans look or is a big Aerosmith fan?
I certainly hope the baby likes all of the gifts people bought that he/she won't remember. In the end, though, it's not about the gifts. It's about the love and support. Of that, we had more than we could ask for. Thankfully, it wasn't hiding beneath tissue paper.
Kelly Van De Walle is the senior creative & marketing writer for Briscoe14 Communications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via shadow puppet. Follow Kelly on Twitter @pancake_bunny