So I've always been interested in situations where there is the prescribed way to act which has to be balanced with other factors.
I was invited to a shower of a woman who I didn't know. I am friends with her mother. The mother-to-be (MTB) is in her early 20s and left her job, friends and life while eight months pregnant to get out of an abusive relationship. She moved in with her parents and they will be supporting her until she has given birth, recovered and finds a job. (MTB has been a very functional and self-reliant adult to this point so don't take this as if she's a mooch or trying to trawl for presents or anything.)
A friend of the mother threw a shower for the MTB. She invited some friends of the mother including some younger friends who will be closer in age to the MTB. The intent was that we might hit it off with the mother and she could start a new support system.
My feelings on this was that I if I could do something for the MTB to feel special, it wasn't a whole lot of skin off of my nose. A couple hours of time, some diapers and other necessities, free cake and goodies, no biggie. Plus, the shower was as much for the MTB's mother since she was going to be taking on the financial support of an infant that she wasn't expecting (at nearly 60.) BUT, I'd totally understand why some other friends chose not to attend the shower. None of us were pressured to show up.
What happened is that I got there and there were lots of people who knew each other but not the MTB. They were all talking to each other past the MTB while she sat in the chair of honor looking lonely.
So...is this a serious breach of etiquette?
On one hand, yes the whole situation was odd and awkward so they were only doing what felt easiest for them. I think if you were going to stick to rigorous etiquette than the shower wouldn't exist at all.
On the other hand, they knew that coming into it. They decided to show up anyways.
I ended up talking to the MTB most of the night. She's really sweet but I don't know if we're going to be close friends or anything. I sort of felt bad because she does need friends but we don't have much in common.