I’m not sure how many friends I’m going to have after this, but for my own psychological wellbeing and hopefully yours if you can empathize, I’m going to scratch the surface of what it’s like to experience* wedding and baby shower season.
A shower can occur at any number of venues – a restaurant, a hall, a hotel, some weird aunt’s house. You never know which end of the earth you may travel to watch someone open a bunch of gifts they already know they’re getting. Hell everyone in the room already knows what they’re getting. Because we all opened up our invitations and six little cards flew out telling us exactly where to buy them: Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel, Target, Macy’s, Babies ‘R Us, Buy Buy Baby, Williams Sonoma (you’re an asshole), and tons more. Stores you’ll probably never step your broke-ass-foot into. My kitchen is filled with canisters from the Christmas Tree Shops and old dishware from relatives who pity me. Honestly, I’m fine with it. I have everything I need and when I don’t have something, guess what? I go out and buy it.
Let’s take a step back for a minute. In the days of yore, or so I am told, people registered for things because they were (at least a large percentage) moving out of their parents’ houses. They were starting a new life with someone and their clean slate meant no dishware. No candlesticks. No crock pots. So people had showers to acquire these items. My mother tells me some people even brought these items as wedding gifts. Can you imagine that? One gift for a married couple to congratulate them on their milestone? Perish that thought, people. Bury it far, far away. Now people get a whole year of presents and pictures and felicidades to celebrate the vows they have a 50% chance of making good on. They get to witness you staggering into brunch, wielding a massive box of mixing bowls and then, once the deed is done, they get to open up a birdcage full of personal checks and hundred dollar bills. I always picture them rolling in cash and cutlery. Raking it all into their suitcases and taking off for Aruba cackling.
But don’t you worry; they’ll be the first ones to complain to you about how all of that money didn’t even cover the cost of everyone’s plates! Gasp! Do you need a handkerchief? I’m sure you registered for one. Also, whose fault is this again? Were you expecting to make money off of your nuptials? Should I fill out my W-4 at the church door? Was a closet full of Williams Sonoma’s 2012 collection not enough for you? Why don’t you return it for cash now that we’ve watched you unwrap it for two hours on a Sunday we’ll never get back.
Now listen, I don’t mind giving my friends and the people I love presents. I think that getting engaged and married and having babies are all major life landmarks that deserve to be celebrated. And I like to think I give generously for my means. But I’m pretty sure you’ve already lived with this person for five years. I’ve been over to your house for dinner. I’ve seen all of the nicer, newer, jointly-purchased shit you have. And yet I’m buying you a blender?
“Well LeeMarie when it’s your turn you’ll do the same thing.” Nope. I won’t. For starters, what if I don’t get married? It’s not entirely outside of the realm of possibility. Secondly, what if I’m barren? People don’t say this aloud but hey –you never know. What if I’ve spent a decade of my life trying not to get pregnant and it was all in vain? Can’t exactly throw myself a big ol’ Barren-But-Give-Me-Gifts-Anyway party now can I? I mean, I am assuming I’ll get married and have kids at some point. But if I don’t, that’s it? I don’t get a party? I don’t get to register for wine racks? I’ll need them more than anyone!
And then there’s the entirely shallow and self-important issue of “getting back what I give out.” My father taught me how to bleed a stone, let me tell you that. The man drove a 1989 Ford Escort whose sides were rusting off. He had that car from the time I was six until the year I left for college. In high school I used to plead with my mother through tearful eyes not to let him pick me up from dances. Well guess which clunker-loving-fool is spending two weeks on a beach in Panama right now? Padre Cheapo. Since my parents retired at the ripe young age of 55, they’ve pretty much done nothing but travel. Past frugality is paying off very well for them. Probably because they didn’t drop a G-Note every time one of their friends got engaged.
In light of that fact, you can bet your ass I’ll be registering for a pepper grinder. For a room full of diapers. For a vacuum cleaner. For plates I’ll keep in my basement. For crystal champagne flutes I’ll use once a year. For everything. And I’ll have it all delivered to my house. I won’t make my friends watch me open it over a plate of eggs and yawns and mimosas. Everyone gets so excited about the mimosas. You know why? Because people need a drink to get through these things. I always befriend the cocktail waitresses immediately. I’m no fool. I was at a shower a few years ago next to some old lady who turned to me and said “I hope she finishes up opening the gifts by 4. I don’t like driving in the dark.” I’m with you, lady. We’ve been at it since 11:00AM.
And in case you’re not familiar with what goes down during those few blissful hours of time –we’re doing exactly what you think we’re doing. You know the last hour of work on a Friday when every minute is a year and every second is marked by the tapping of your own foot beneath your desk? Picture that feeling combined with a lot of forced smiling, picture taking, flowers and ribbons, trays of finger foods, fruit salads, cupcakes, chocolate covered strawberries, streamers, balloons, brightly packaged boxes, themes, games, weird favors you’ll never use like candles with the date on them or soaps shaped like fetuses. All of it.
Then we sit around playing reindeer games. And no one thinks they’re fun. No one. Grandma Ethel and her Alzheimer’s don’t even think they’re amusing. She’s asking to go to the casino. But we all sit there, nonetheless, playing “Fill In the Blank Vows,” “Pin the Baby in the Mommy,” “Wedding Word Search,” “Bridal Bingo,” “Guess the Baby Food,” “TINKLE IN THE POT.” There are entire websites dedicated to these “games.” Pinterest practically exists for shit like this. We are all forced to sit around with golf pencils and sheets of paper, glugging our alcohol and bargaining with Jesus for our cell phones to ring with some kind of emergency soon. Please, Lord let it be before “Bridal Pictionary.”
Shower fatigue is something no one openly admits but secretly bitches to their close friends about. And it’s infecting us all. “UGH I got invited to another shower. The whole registry is already picked over. I’m just gonna give her a gift card and call it a day. I hope it’s open bar.” Yet we’re all going to them. We’re showing up. We’re afraid if we don’t play nice no one will give us our presents when the time comes. Well, thanks a lot everyone, because now we’re all trapped. We’ve showered too many others. We showed up. We clapped and smiled. And we’ll be goddamed if we don’t get the same thing in return. It’s only fair. We all created this monster together. It’s exhausting, cyclical and mind-numbing. I can’t think of one close friend who hasn’t vented to me about how little free time or money they have during wedding season. You’re flying here, you’re showering there, you’re booking this room, you’re renting this car, you’re buying this dress, you’re riding this plane, you’re purchasing this Keurig. You’re broke. You’re tired. You’re hungover. You’re angry. Just admit it out loud to someone or you’ll go nuts. Maybe don’t admit it to cyberspace—you can leave that to me.
It’s all we ever do anymore— struggle to keep up with each other. We aren’t rock bottom friends we’re fluffer friends. Filler friends. People who only show our shiniest faces to each other. Our smiling, charming, look-at-all-my-stuff faces. And all I can really hope in posting this is that my truest friends understand where I’m coming from. If I went to your shower or wedding, if I traveled, if I smiled, if I clapped, if I danced, if I wrote you a heart-felt note, I meant it. Was I bored sometimes? Oh probably. You were too and you know it. But I know that my real deal friends will be there to support me and my future endeavors. They will read this and laugh. They will continue to listen to me bitch about the travesties of society as we know it. And then they’ll buy me my well-deserved breast pump. And ship it to my house.