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Thursday, 12 December 2002

Miss Manners on Baby Showers

Showering a Relative

Dear Miss Manners:
My Daughter-in-law is expecting her first child. I have a shower planned for her, because her only sister, her mother and her best friend live in California. My son is an only child so I am not able to put a daughter's name on the invitations as many of my releatives and friends have done in the past for showers both bridal and baby. Will it be in bad taste is I put my name on the invitations? My husband feels we should do this if that's what we'd like to do. I feel a bit uncertain.

Gentle Reader:
Showers are tricky, and a lot of people get caught up in them. The word "shower" is used here as in "to shower with presents," making this the only form of gorwn-up entertainment at which a present is mandatory. Therefore, such an event is not properly given by any member of the guest of honor's immediate family - daughter, sister, mother, or mother-in-law. However, since your relatives and friends have been making mistakes about this right and left, Miss Manners suggests you do not worry about it and go ahead and give your party. If you want to be perfectly correct, call it a tea, not a shower, thus establishing that you wish to bring joy but not bounty to the family.

Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior 1979. p.22

Sexist Showers

Dear Miss Manners:
You seem intolerant - and justifiably so - of nonsense masquerading as corectness. But what about sexism and opression disguised as polite tradition? I'm referring to wedding and baby showers. Do these traditions not have considerable sexist and oppressive components? Are they not designed to reinforce women who accept the roles society deems most acceptable for women, rewarding them with vacuum cleaners, kitchen utensils, and baby paraphernalia when they assume their rightful roles as wives and mothers?

Are you sympathetic to such thinking? How should a person with such views respond to an invitation to attend a shower? A simple "No, thank you" seems too unfriendly, or, worse, cheap. A political discusion is probably counter-productive.

Gentle Reader:
Few of our social institutions can bear severe philosophical scrutiny. Neither can using an invitation to participate in other people's pleasures as an opportunity for dampening them with one's disapproval. It is not impolite simply to decline an invitation that goes against your principles, provided you do not explain the fact.

In the matter of showers, things are changing. Miss Manners can't help but noticing that your signature indicates that you are a man, and pointing out that a few years ago, you would not have been invited to showers. Presumably, the bridegroom or father will also be a guest of honor at such a shower, and your presents should be given to both husband and wife. Vacuum cleaners and baby clothes are not, in themselves, sexist objects. They become so when it i presumed that only the woman should put them on the rug or the baby

Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior 1979. p.23-24

Miss Manners on other showers

For the Bridal Couple

Dear Miss Manners:
In recent years, the prospective bridegroom has been present at all bridal showers that I have attended. Lavish as these affairs have become, am I wrong in assuming that they still should be considered "girl parties," with all the appropriate gushing, giggling and gossiping? The man must be bored to tears. Is it an omen of things to come? Will the bride-to-be soon be expected to pop out of a cake at the stag party and have to listen to raunchy jokes told over a few steins of beer? If one, why not the other? Do I sense a double-standard here, and if so, why? Are all the traditional bastions of ettiquette crumbling like a house of cards?

Gentle Reader:
Cards don't crumble. However, Miss Manners does not mind if some customs do. The gender-seperated wedding party, based on the idea that the bride and the bridegroom have opposite notions of social fun and are bored senseless by each other's friends, is not a tradition that Miss Manners is going to go to a lot of trouble to rescue from oblivion.

Not that she objects to it. giggliness and raunchiness are all right in their place, and sharing a session of one or the other with compatible souls of one's own gender is al very well. The specific bridal customs you mention often overdo things, with an unpleasant emphasis on materialism for the ladies and unacceptable forms of entertainment (such as ones that end in the bridegroom's being arrested) for the gentlemen. For this reason, and because of the increasing tendency for friendships to be formed on the basis of common interests regardless of gender, the sort of divided party you mention is becoming less and less popular. So be it.

Miss Manners' Guide for the Turn of the Millennium 1989. p 573-573

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