Showers (#250)

Ah, the baby shower.

Traditionally, these all-women events involved opening boxes of baby clothes and cooing over them. Many showers had guessing games. I’ve played everything from “What chocolate bar has been melted in this diaper?” to “Is this white powder baking soda, cornstarch, or flour?” 

Since I’m a chocoholic, an amateur baker, and competitive as fuck, I won all the traditional baby showers (even when the hostess tried to trick me by throwing in cream of tartar). 

Despite winning, baby showers were my least favorite kind of parties. There’s no dancing. The focus is all on babies. Babies are not my thing, not after spending my teen years taking care of multiple baby siblings. Traditional showers also reinforce traditional gender roles and stereotypes. While it’s nice for women to bond over pregnancy horror stories and share advice on newborns and nursing, you know who really needs an education on everything from perineal tearing to colic?

Men.

Something like 50% of all men don’t know where the vagina is. Kinda sad for women. Occasionally these numpties will double down on their mistake–even when when a gynecologist tells them off. Most men are pretty self-centered bastards; if it doesn’t impact them, they don’t bother learning about it. We women often enable this behavior, becoming uber competent, shoving “useless” men aside, and rolling our eyes over male befuddlement on everything from bottle warmers to umbilical cords. 

So-called progressive men become Beto O’Rourkes, merely “sometimes” helping with childrearing. They get kudos for babysitting their own children.

Not in my house. My husband was the driving force behind our decision to have a baby. Yet I was the one who had already suffered through 8 months of misery, with (spoiler alert!) the worst part still to come. No way was everything else gonna be on me, too.

Yeah, I made those.

Starting with our baby shower. We planned a coed afternoon tea party and invited seventy of our friends, neighbors, and relatives. Andy was in charge of the little tea sandwiches (smoked salmon, cucumber, and curried egg salad). I baked for days, creating petits fours in multiple flavors, plus iced cookies and scones. 

Our house is small, but our patio and yard are large (for Los Angeles). We planned an outdoor event during what is usually a not very wet month. About a week in advance, I checked the weather. 

I discovered that of course Los Angeles was going to do its best impression of Seattle for an entire week. The heaviest rainfall was expected on the day of Baby D’s shower. Because that’s the kind of relationship I have with precipitation

I checked the weather every hour for 48 hours. The raindrops in on the weather icon grew more numerous.

We would never fit seventy people in our house. I called around and got the last marquee tent in Los Angeles for our patio. Andy was so relieved he didn’t even complain about the cost. 

Since this atmospheric river was swooping down from the north, it was unseasonably cold. We begged, borrowed, and bought multiple space heaters.

Once the tent was up, our rescue dogs thought their new patio cover was the bomb. They ran in and out, wrestling. An hour before the shower, they wiped out one of the supporting legs. The tent listed. The decorative swags we’d hung were in jeopardy. I held up the tent while Andy corralled the dogs. Rain dripped into my hair.

Fey and Woofie were banished to the garage to contemplate their sins (i.e., howl in protest until they got bully sticks). 

Boyfriend Stealing Baby Sister and her California Boyfriend arrived just in time to help Andy repair the tent. Then they were drafted to make sandwiches while I dried my hair (again). They were were still cutting off crusts when our first guests arrived.

Mike and Enid were original homeowners in our neighborhood. He was a big man who’d lived through combat in World War II, yet was scared of coming to a baby shower for the first time. “I don’t know about this,” he boomed as his tiny wife pushed him into our house. “Enid said everyone’s invited, that it’s the modern thing, but men at a baby shower? Maybe I should go to the VFW instead.”

Tea party

I steered Mike over to a chair on the patio with a plate of goodies. Another elderly neighbor joined him. They admired the food and the cozy tent before reminiscing about all the babies born on the block in the fifties.

My Japanese volleyball comrades arrived next. They also exclaimed over the tent and the decorations. Next came Andy’s cousins. The cousins brought their husbands and wine. Multiple bottles, in fact.

As I waddled around delivering wineglasses, I overheard cousin-in-law Bubba telling Andy about filming his daughter’s delivery via C-section: “They put up this sheet, so my wife couldn’t see what was going on, but I’m standing, so I film over it. But man, they’re not just cutting her open, they are literally pulling out organs. And next thing you know, I’m starting to sway and they get a chair and I sit. So whatever you do, if there’s a C-section, man, do not look.”

Other husbands nodded in agreement. One mentioned how he freaked out when his baby was born yellow. He got some wicked side-eye from a few of the Asian Dads until he clarified that he meant jaundice and showed them a picture of his newborn wearing goggles under a lamp. 

Showers are usually a socially acceptable way to collect baby loot, but not for us. Andy and I had gotten a ton of baby hand-me-downs from my older siblings. We had two infant car seats already, a slightly gnawed regular crib, a portable crib, and a ton of gender neutral clothes ranging from newborn to age two (thanks to Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister, who refused to allow dresses or the color pink near her two daughters). Our tiny house couldn’t house much more baby paraphernalia. There was no registry on our invitation.

Despite this, my friend JK brought Baby D his own soft blanket. Andy’s aunt and uncle staggered in under the weight of an enormous jogging stroller (which had to go into the garage immediately). A few other guests brought cute outfits or toys, but many just showed up to eat and swap stories. Just like a regular party.

And no, we didn’t play any games, though we sent our guests home with mugs bearing a snowflake and the warning message: “Baby D, Arriving This Winter.”

On their way out, we encouraged folks to fill their snowflake mug with baked goods and candy. Most of them didn’t need much urging.

Our neighbor Mike was the last to leave. “Enid!” he boomed, waving a mug full of cookies. “I got a party favor, see?! How about that? I can’t believe you and the girls have been holding out on me all this time, having baby showers like a secret club. Those sandwiches were good. And cakes! The VFW is small potatoes compared to this.”

I gave Mike an extra mug with some petits fours and said, “See, Mike?Showers aren’t all bad.”

And that C-section advice from Bubba? Yeah, that came in real handy. But that’s another post.

Belly Up (#249)

I used to play volleyball with a big group of women. About half these women were Japanese Nationals, living in the Los Angeles area while they or their husbands were working for Toyota, Honda, or other Japanese corporations.

These Japanese women never played volleyball professionally. Many hadn’t played since their school days. And yet they were amazing. They could run down and set a ball like pros. They never gave up on a play, wearing down and demoralizing the strongest, biggest, hardest hitting white women (like me). 

Continue reading Belly Up (#249)

The Itch (#248)

I didn’t have an easy pregnancy.  There were six months of puking. There was weight loss, weight gain, anemia, and cankles

Pregnancy was miserable, but I didn’t think you could actually become allergic to being pregnant.

Turns out, you can.

My arms started to itch. I looked for bug bites. Nothing.  Just light redness.

Continue reading The Itch (#248)

To Coddle, or Not to Coddle? (#246)

I’ve never been fragile. Born into a large family of semi-feral children, I learned to guard my food and my stuffed animals early. I mowed lawns, lifted weights, and fought dirty with siblings when necessary (also when unnecessary).

Sympathy and coddling were in short supply. Like most young women, I powered through feeling like crap when I had cramps, headaches, and nausea.

The “I can endure misery” mindset was helpful when I was pregnant. I continued working out and playing volleyball, since the endorphins helped me not puke all the time. I still walked my rescue dogs for miles. My only concession to pregnancy was lighter weights and no squats.

This astounded people.

Continue reading To Coddle, or Not to Coddle? (#246)

Amen, Girlfriend (#244)

When I was seven months pregnant, my Chinese-American father-in-law insisted on coming to visit. Jay insulted me personally and women in general. His ceaseless efforts at home improvement culminated in disasters and emergency home improvements for my husband and me. Jay refused to desist. I lost my temper and yelled some mean things at him (all the meaner for being true).

A good hostess never yells at a guest, no matter how trying. A smart wife sucks it up and stays on speaking terms with her in-laws, no matter how insane they are. And a decent mom-to-be will put the needs of her future child ahead of her desire to throttle her maddening father-in-law until he drops the screwdriver of doom forever.

Continue reading Amen, Girlfriend (#244)

Snapped (#241)

My ex-debutante mother trained my siblings and me to be good hosts. She also trained us to be good guests. We brought bread and butter gifts. We found something to compliment in every home. We ate whatever food was placed in front of us without complaint and insisted on helping with the dishes. 

We were groomed to make social occasions run smoothly, with nary a scene. White Anglo Saxon Protestants (i.e., WASPs) with social pretensions avoid conflict and HATE scenes. They are a symbol of ugliness and failure. 

And so common.

Continue reading Snapped (#241)

Houseguest vs. Hostess (#240)

A woman’s home is her castle. Until her father-in-law shows up.

I’m white woman raised by a former debutante. My racist Southern grandma ran a charm school. As liberated as my mother tried to be, she was still stuck on Rules of Acceptable Female Behavior.

One such rule was “Be an Exemplary Hostess.” When friends came over, they got first pick of snacks, toys, and sleeping bags. They chose the games we played.

When my parents entertained, we children took coats. We handed around hors d’ oeuvres. We got adults drinks. If there was a shortage of chairs, we offered our seats to adults and took the floor. We cleared the table and did the dishes, too. My mother took immense pride in the praise guests heaped upon her for her adorable little helpers.

She shared their praise with us. And since we were many, and desperate for attention, we got a little warped.

Continue reading Houseguest vs. Hostess (#240)

Sex, Sorrow, and Costco (#239)

I was raised by a liberated woman and a man who believed his daughters should mow lawns, change tires, and have the same curfew as their older brother.

My sisters and I crushed in academics no less than my brother. We were better singers, better dancers, and better athletes. Also more popular. (Sorry, Big Bro!)

NASA came to my schools seeking women astronauts. They told us women had better reflexes than men, handled G-forces better than men, and coped better in close quarters better than men and please could we girls consider being astronauts?

I never understood why a person should be more valued because they were born with a penis. I mean, having a penis means you’re kind of fragile and likely to die earlier than a woman.

Continue reading Sex, Sorrow, and Costco (#239)

They’re Coming (#238)

When my white family reunites, we plan. A year in advance, a cascade of emails about wedding beach houses, Christmas in New Hampshire, or running a 10K at Thanksgiving begin.

And then there’s my husband’s Chinese-American family. Near the end of October, Andy said, “So we haven’t seen my parents in a while.”

“Yes,” I agreed, smiling. And then stopped smiling. “Wait. Are you saying to want to go see them? Before your brother’s wedding next summer?” (Yes, Denny was finally getting married! But that’s another post.)

“Well…” Continue reading They’re Coming (#238)

Weary of Boys (#235)

I always knew my husband and I would have a boy. An ultrasound at 21 weeks proved I was right.

Usually I love being right.

Not this time. Continue reading Weary of Boys (#235)