Here in the UK we don’t have a tradition of ‘showers’, although of course we’ve heard of such things from American TV and movies. So, given that no long established and widely recognized code of etiquette surrounding such occasions exists here, it is probably not fair to the hosts to expect exact American protocol to be followed. That said, greedy and rude is greedy and rude in any culture, and the fact that no real gifting tradition exists here – and no strong social obligation to gift even among close friends and family – could also be viewed as an exacerbating factor in a situation where a mother-to-be decides to make unreasonable demands on her not-so-close acquaintances.
Which brings me to my one and only experience of the ‘baby shower’. The mother-to-be was a fellow employee at my place of work. We could hardly be called close; we had never seen each other outside of work and although we had worked side by side for a few months we had switched to working alternating shift patterns for several months before she went on her maternity leave, so in fact I don’t think I’d even seen or heard from her for the best part of a year prior to the event. However, when she came into work on her day off just to invite people face-to-face she did genuinely seem to want us all included. I actually felt quite touched by how sweet she was being, and willing to overlook a few aspects of the arrangement. Hosting her own shower? Well… if you’ve got your heart set on a party to celebrate junior’s imminent arrival you’re probably not going to get one over here unless you start the ball rolling yourself, and if you want to call it a baby shower’ after the ones you’ve seen on TV, well… OK. Not the first child, but the third? Well… any child is worth celebrating, and if it’s an informal party rather than a formal gift-giving session does it really matter that the mother and her husband have two other small children already?
I also found it sweet that she wanted to include my partner, who she had never met (men were to be allowed after a certain time), telling me that it would be so nice to finally meet him and seeming genuinely disappointed when I told her he was working out of the country. I watched as she went round asking anyone else she could find, always being sweetly insistent in her exuberantly friendly manner that they should come along and definitely bring their husbands and boyfriends too, refusing to take no for an answer and only moving on when she had convinced a ‘yes’ out of each of them. No mention had been made at any point about gifts being required, but as I accepted the invitation I decided to myself that although I was on a tight budget and couldn’t really afford to spend any money I would hand make her something instead, thinking that would surely be appreciated as much as any store-bought gift. When she finally left she assured me that a text message with all the details would be sent out some time before the date. I assumed that this would contain such information as how to get to her house, as I had never been there before.
Not so. The message (from her own private number) arrived a few days later, and contained only the following:
The name of the shop she wanted gift certificates to come from.
That each guest was ‘required’ (her word) to bring her a pack of pampers and a pack of wipes, in addition to their regular gift.
And to top it all: that each of the husbands and boyfriends she had been so keen to “kindly include” was to be charged a £5 entrance fee just to get into her house!
It probably doesn’t need adding that I decided not attend after all. 1004-09