Ever open a door, see a flash of something you wish you hadn't, and slam it shut faster than you can squawk "color-coded cupcakes"?
Then you can imagine my reaction when I moseyed around a corner online and found myself staring at an article about a “Gender Reveal Party.”
The Gender Reveal Party is not a new phenomenon. It is, however, new to me. Apparently, I missed this addition to the reproduction protocol because in the past few years I have failed to notice a slew of web features with titles like "Top 10 Pregnancy Trends Right This Second!" and "Super Hot Ideas for Your Pink/Blue Shindig!"
Careless, indeed, to overlook a giganta-craze bubbling up from the gates of hell.
I was distracted, perhaps, by the election... the economy... climate change... the drawbacks of cheap Greek yogurt.
But hoo boy, am I ever focused now. Like, watching a train wreck focused. As much as I wish I could forget I ever saw this, I can't.
This generation throws more look-at-me parties than there are spellings of Caitlin.
Gushing how-to articles abound. And even naysayers in the target demographic are complacent. My human sources on this topic — the 20- and 30-somethings who would still answer questions after I grabbed their shoulders and screamed, "What is the MATTER with your COHORT?!" — tell me that it appears the Gender Reveal Party is here to stay.
They say it has become just another part of the big production package — the all-inclusive engagement/wedding/procreation deal, also known as are-we-all-paying-enough-attention-to-MY-STORY? This generation throws more look-at-me parties than there are spellings of Caitlin. Gender Reveal Parties, I am told, are as routine as posting the flotsam and jetsam of your existence on every social media platform extant, never mind who might care or who might wish they could go wash their eyeballs afterwards.
Yes, anthropologists of the future, we are as problematic as you suspect.
The Gender Reveal Party is just what it sounds like.
The expectant couple throws a party. The point of the party: "clever and adorable" ways for the parents and party guests to discover — together! — whether the impending little tax deduction will be an heir or an heiress.
That whole discover-together component is what makes it all so devilishly fun. For, um, somebody. Allegedly.
Because, you understand, the Only People in the World to Ever Have a Baby — we'll call them the Opwehb family — can't just ask the ultrasound technician, "Are we scheduling a bris?" That would spoil everything. I mean, not much point having a baby if you don't get to occupy center stage at a mid-pregnancy xx-vs-xy mystery theme party.
The Opwehbs order the ultrasound tech to write down, all secret-like, whether they are having a girl or a boy, and then place that ultra-secret information in a sealed envelope. The Opwehbs then deliver this sealed envelope to, say, a bakery, or a balloonery, where the baker or balloonerist gets to read the Opwehbs’ secret info and then either create cakes with secret interior pink or blue crème filling or — since crème filling is less appetizing inside Mylar — secretly stuff a bunch of pink or blue balloons into a box.
And then, party time. The moment of the big reveal, with the attendant tweeting and video streaming and...
I think you get where I'm going with this.
The Gender Reveal Party lives at the intersection of All About Me Avenue and Oversharing Boulevard.
And while I'm in the neighborhood, the party also lives next door to Sloppy Vocabulary Lane. Because what we actually are revealing here is sex. Not gender, but sex. Biological and physiological characteristics, not a social construct. Sorry, but some of us are picky that way even if you are too squeamish to have a Sex Party. Hey, it wasn't me deciding to make a big public event out of a sweet private joy and then slapping a misnomer on the whole shebang.
Some might argue that if I don't have anything nice to say about the customs and rituals of others, then I should say nothing at all. Some might be correct.
But what fun would that be?
Sometimes the kid is 2 or 3 and the parents orchestrating the perfect theme birthday bash finally notice that the guest of honor is ignoring the production values and has toddled off to a quiet corner to play with an empty box.
Of course, one person’s idea of the end of civilization as we know it is another person’s idea of a lark and happy excuse for a party. And I’m not trying to, for example, ban the Gender Reveal industry because it offends my sensibilities. Although... no. It’s tempting, but no.
I suppose it just seems the focus is askew. Having never attended, I’m clearly a prominent expert, and I say these parties reek of Parent-Zilla. And yet the first thing every mom and dad learns, or should: It isn’t about me. It is never about me, and it never will be about me. I matter, but this newborn is an individual — finding pathways independent of my notions. This is my chance to sit back and watch the beauty of an emerging unique personality.
True, sometimes that concept takes a while to sink in. Sometimes the kid is 2 or 3 and the parents orchestrating the perfect theme birthday bash finally notice that the guest of honor is ignoring the production values and has toddled off to a quiet corner to play with an empty box.
Then again, I've flubbed more than my share of parenting decisions, starting in utero and persisting in college. And we have all lived to tell the tale. So despite the celebratory abominations around every corner on the internet, I could learn to, you know, chill. There are worse developments than the Gender Reveal Party, right? Right. So, I’ll leave you to your own misguided devices. Go, enjoy your little trend. No harm, no foul. And bring me back a cupcake.
This program aired on March 20, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.