Thursday, March 12, 2009

Shower rant and rave

I don't really understand "bridal showers." (By the way, as I write that I can perfectly imagine my mom and sister reading that sentence and rolling their eyes.)

Here's the deal - there is a shower where presumably folks bring you things from your wedding registry, right? So then, what do they bring to the wedding? And since no one I knowlike subscribes to the theory that it's necessary to have a gathering where women can talk appliances and congratulate the bride-to-be on getting a ring out of some hapless shmuck so that in a few months' time, she can proudly proclaim herself "Mrs. John Doe" and not die of humiliation that she's not going to be single at 25, well... no thanks. That's not me at all. Also, it goes without saying, I really dislike wedding-related shower games.

Now, if we interpret the bridal shower to be purely symbolic, as a tradition of women gathering to support one another in the way that only women can, that's another thing entirely. If the goal of a shower is to, literally, shower love and support and wisdom upon a fellow woman, well why not do just that? A shower where women bring their own advice, lessons, blessings, and funny stories based entirely on their experiences... now that sounds like a true community-building kind of celebration. No toilet paper games necessary. Nothing more than the shared experience of people you care about surrounding you.

This brings to me baby showers, for a couple of reasons.

First, I think baby showers are a fantastic idea for all the reasons I dislike traditional bridal showers. Back in the day, it was a lot more necessary to give basic household goods to someone getting married, as she was likely moving straight out of her parents' house into a house with her husband. And back in the day, now-antiquated gender stereotypes were very much the norm. But these days, we've lived alone and accumulated our own things already. Even more, most of us are already living with the person we'll marry. But having a baby is something else entirely. There are things you need that you never even knew existed. There are tips needed for how to use these things you didn't know existed. Babies are expensive, and getting gifts to help ease that expense is fantastic.

Also, the gender disparity of baby showers is less troubling to me. Women give birth, men do not, simple as that. Although women and men (thankfully) parent equally, gender-specific knowledge has real value in the birthing of the child. With a marriage, women and men enter into marriage equally, as partners. The antiquated setup of "Bride, let us congratulate you!" and "Sorry man, guess it's your time to step up" is why a traditional bridal shower isn't modern or helpful. But with a baby, "here's what you need to feed your baby from your own body" is woman-to-woman advice that is priceless. (I've been to co-ed baby showers, by the way, and love them... I'm merely speculating on why women-only baby showers don't bother me like 1950s-era bridal showers do.)

Baby showers are on my brain because I recently returned from one and am about to attend another. My sister's shower on Saturday will be great fun, will have games (and I'll play them happily just for you, sis!), and will be a fantastic way to spend the afternoon. My friend Mikaela's baby shower a few weeks ago in New Mexico was, very easily, the best shower I've ever attended. Why? In New Mexico, more than any other place I know, there is an openness of expression that enables folks to translate symbolism into active expressions in a way that is completely real and graceful.

Sitting in a circle, we each brought blessings for Mikaela and her baby, and shared them together. These blessings were read or sung by each of us in turn, all women who are a part of Mikaela's life, and the experience was beautiful. There was so much laughter, more than a few happy tears, and lots of hugging. Mikaela opted to have general baby gifts at another setting, so on this night, we each brought baby shoes instead. Is there anything cuter than baby shoes, after all? The significance of that circle will be represented in her baby's birth, too. At the end of the month when Mikaela goes into labor, we're each going to light a candle that we won't blow out until her little one is born.

What was special about that night was the literal blessings that we brought with us. They weren't represented in the shoes, they were represented by our voices, in our words that we read and then presented to be bound into a book. It only took us each doing that in turn, as part of a group, to turn those individual thoughts into a collective moment and a truly meaningful night. Here we are, surrounding our baby shoes:

And back to bridal showers... they're simply not me. My brain gets fuzzy at the incongruities; that's just who I am. But I love parties honoring the couple together (dinners, cookouts, any excuse for a party) or themed showers, like books (I know, nerd alert) or booze ("stock the bar" etc.).

This turned into a long and rambling one... thanks for hanging in there! Tell me, what are your thoughts on showers?


Krista said...

I have to say, I like shower games. (Sorry! I do, though.) But I appreciate most people don't and I definitely respect your view about showers - both bridal and baby.

I have heard of "advice" bridal showers, and "recipe" bridal showers, but I've never been to one. The hostess usually distributes cards with the invitations, asking participants not to bring gifts, but to write wedding advice or recipes (depending on the theme) on the card. That type of shower becomes a love-and-support shower!

e2thez said...

Maggie - I am in the post matrimonial, still reading wedding blogs phase, and I just have to say that I love your blog! Not only did you write a post raving about the Jcrew dress I wore, but this post on showers is awesome! I could not agree more!